Are you ever plagued by unwanted thoughts? Do suggestions, temptations, fears and worries come to your head even though in your heart you don’t believe them? It’s happened to me, and I recently found a way to repel them, which I want to share with you.
It’s just a very simplistic picture but it’s also true, and has the backing of scripture, so I share it in the hope it will help somebody.
It Happens to Everyone
Even though we are genuinely the Lord’s, we still live in this world and the devil is active in trying to unsettle us. There seems to be an increasing amount of pressure nowadays to accept lies or get into worry and fear.
Although our spirits are saved and filled and united with with the Holy Spirit, thus radiating out and sanctifying the rest of us insofar as we are willing, it’s also true that our natural earthly life continues to exist. The mind, the emotional life, the feelings and desires, these things can either be the servants of the spirit, or their master – depending on our choices.
Galatians 5:16-18 “But I say, walk by the spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
Romans 8:5 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit”.
Do we “die to the flesh” and relegate those things to a subservient role merely as natural abilities in the service of God, or do we “walk according to the flesh” even though as a believer? (1 Corinthians 3:3)
So you see the problem.
Our thoughts can be led by God, or prompted by self, OR sometimes pick up static interference from the demonic realm. We CAN be tempted even as believers. We CAN suffer the onslaught of unwelcome feelings and thoughts, things we abhor but somehow feel are coming into play in our minds and emotions.
How to deal with them effectively?
Despite being honestly committed, steadfast in your belief, truly trusting in God, there are times those thoughts come knocking. You know the ones. “You’ll never be able to keep this up; whatever makes you think that prayer will be answered; you know you won’t have the money for that; what if the roof leaks?” – and so on and so forth. Until you want to shout.
It’s like your mind and your inner being are living in two different countries with different rules! Well, yes they are – because when you were born again you were born as a child of God into his kingdom, a spiritual realm where all is holiness, light, victory, blessing and more. But your physical life didn’t end, so your thoughts and feelings are often in conflict with that kingdom. (Indeed, bringing them into line with God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is our lifelong task.)
Still, those fearful thoughts arise. Rejecting them isn’t as easy as it sounds.
I remember that many years ago a young lad who lived close to us was saved at an outreach meeting to which we’d invited him. He was a little simple, but truly saved, and thereafter we would try to steer him rightly down his path of salvation, and provide bible studies and fellowship.
One day he came round to our house in a state of alarm and some despair. “I’ve lost my salvation!” he said. “Come on, sit down and tell us what happened” we said. “Well, I was trying to pray and then I thought, ‘Jesus is a W****** [expletive]’ so I’ve blasphemed the Holy Spirit and I’m lost.” So we had to explain to him that this UNWANTED thought that he didn’t for one moment agree with was just a lie of the devil, and he wasn’t lost at all. In fact, it was a sign that he was progressing as a Christian because the devil was angry and striking back at him.
As we progress in the Christian life, we become stronger in faith and the devil knows he has to be more subtle than the example above. He starts to suggest things that could almost be true. If YOU, dear reader, are victorious over these worries and suggestions, then praise God for that. You don’t need any help from me. But personally I have had problems, and even felt sinful for listening to unwelcome thoughts.
I Owned the Thought
Despite being totally opposed to a suggestion or a worry, I’d accuse myself of having considered it – and that alone was enough to concern me.
- Am I giving heed to the devil? If so, how much?
- How far have I gone down this road of fear instead of faith?
- Do I actually believe some of this, and if so, in what way?
- Am I failing in faith? How can I regain my faith?
- If I am being double-minded it might hinder my prayers.
- Is this coming from my own thought-process in fact?
- How is it possible for me to contradict my belief in the protection and provision of God?
Round and round, trying to wrestle with a slippery eel of a thought that you want desperately to defeat, but now you cannot get it out of your mind.
It haunts you. You try to banish it, you pray, you tell yourself the bible verses, but it’s like an “ear-worm” a tune that won’t go away. The more you struggle, the more it appears to assert itself, and the more time you are spending thinking about it… just the reverse of what you intended!!! ARGHH!
My Basic Problem
I realised that what I was doing was owning those thoughts. If a thought arrived – no matter if it was ridiculous or something I didn’t really believe – the very fact that it had arrived was enough for me to think, somehow it was MINE. I owned it.
Thereafter I had to DO something with it, or about it – that is, I felt it was MY responsibility to deal with it. The struggle to un-think it, to banish it, would begin, but the more I tried the more it seemed to establish itself in my thoughts. The very act of unthinking it was reinforcing it!!!
I don’t know about you, but I have had times when I have literally GASPED in horror at a thought passing through my mind – something so ALIEN to me and my beliefs that it staggered me. But at one time I still felt bad for even having the capacity to think such a thing.
Not any more.
The Analogy That Works For Me
I asked the Lord about this, apologising for having so much difficulty trying to banish things that I already knew were nonsense. (Or, at least, wanting to be able to remain in faith that this or that horrible event would not occur.)
This morning I woke with a clear picture of HOW these troubling thoughts arrive, and WHAT to do against them.
It’s like this: the UPS delivery van appears outside your front door. In this version, UPS stands for the taunt “U Pathetic Sucker”, and up the path comes the delivery driver with your package. Sent from Hell Headquarters, this is the package containing the devil’s taunt, suggestion, worry, or whatever else.
You see it coming to your door. The Courier offers you the package and says “sign here please”. Here is what you do. You say “NO, I refuse to accept it. I will not sign. I will not receive that. Return to sender!”
You see yourself refusing to let that parcel over the doorstep of your house (your life, your thought-life and mind, and your emotions). It doesn’t matter that the parcel was sent to you! You had no part in that. It doesn’t matter that it came to the door of your mind – you rejected it. You refused it. You have not sinned.
If you can see the thoughts as parcels, then you can disclaim responsibility for whatever is inside them. They remain the property of the sender until you sign for the parcel. And you are not going to do that. You can boldly say, in the authority that the Lord Jesus provided, “No, I refuse you. I do not allow that thought to enter. I disown it. I will not allow you into my thinking, and I will not consider it. Go away!”
That is about the same thing you would say anyway, in essence, if you were in faith. But the illustration helps me to visualise what I’m doing, and to KNOW that the thought has no permission or dominion over me. Nor will I concern myself with thoughts of sinning, or having failed in faith.
Since the Lord showed me this simple device, it’s been a pleasure to banish unwanted thoughts and KNOW they are not mine, and they have no hold over me. They will not affect my faith nor my fellowship with God. Having stopped them at the door, I never owned them. They are not mine and so I am not accepting responsibility for them, nor do I have to struggle to banish them. Hallelujah!
(I should add that – having seen the illustration of the Courier and the parcel once – I don’t need to keep seeing it every time. Having imagined it once, I now understand the principle, so I can act accordingly. The truth of it remains with me.)
I pray this helps somebody who is trying to deal with unwelcome thoughts.