“I get frustrated that I even think negative thoughts in the first place! My desire is that ALL my thoughts are pure, true, honorable and so on. But not so,” a reader wrote to me.
Do her words resonate with you?
Perhaps you’ve even used the mere presence of negative thoughts to beat yourself up about not “taking every thought captive.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
If so, I have a hard truth to share. Are you ready?
Buckle up, then. Here we go…
Your negative thoughts are not going away.
I don’t mean they’re not going away soon, or they’re not going away until you put in a lot more effort.
I mean they’re not going away…ever.
Well, at least not until God wipes away every tear (Revelations 21:4).
Now, before you get discouraged, there’s a more important truth you need to know.
You need to know why you’ll never stop having negative thoughts — and why you wouldn’t even want to.
God created you to have negative thoughts
Whether your negative thoughts merely annoy you or sabotage you, it’s easy to want them G-O-N-E gone.
But here’s the thing: God created you to have negative thoughts.
When you see a stranger walking toward you in a dark parking lot, or discover a bear in your campsite, negative thinking is your friend. Without it, you’re likely to trust people you shouldn’t … or get closer to that cuddly-looking cub than safety allows.
Most of your negative thoughts originate in the most primitive part of your brain—what some scientists call the Lizard Brain. It’s the part that registers fear—and spurs you to action when you’re afraid.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking right about now:
That’s all well and good when I’m near scary strangers or dangerous animals. But shouldn’t I be able to just turn off my Lizard Brain when I don’t need it?
I hear you. I’ve asked myself the same question.
And the answer is, “Nope.”
Your Lizard Brain is part of your body’s primary defense system. It’s on 24/7, and you wouldn’t want to turn it off — even if it’s annoying at times.
When automatic negative thoughts pop into your head they’re there to protect you.
Did you catch that?
Negative thoughts aren’t evidence that you’re wrong or broken. Instead, they’re evidence that you’re normal and that your body is working exactly as God intended it to.
They serve as a warning sign to tell you that danger may be ahead.
Hallelujah! Let’s give a shout-out to God for our Lizard Brains!
I know. I hear you. You don’t want to have negative thoughts.
I get it.
Even when your negative thoughts serve some purpose for you, they can still be frustrating.
But here’s where a small mindset shift makes all the difference.
Make friends with your negative thoughts
Too often, we use our negative thoughts as an excuse to beat ourselves up because we’re not doing what we think God wants us to do— that is, “take every thought captive”.
But what if we’re thinking about it all wrong?
You see, in order to take a thought captive, you must have the thought first—otherwise, you’d have nothing to take captive!
Just as police officers can’t take captive a person who hasn’t yet robbed a bank, it’s impossible to take captive a thought that hasn’t yet occurred.
So, although you do want to “take your thoughts captive* and make them obedient to Christ”, it’s important not to get overly frustrated with yourself that you had the thought in the first place, because God designed you to have negative thoughts.
In fact, it’s actually a good sign when they pop up, because it means your God-given alert system is activated and working. Being aware of the potential danger gives you the opportunity to process the negative thought and determine how to act on it.
Remember, God knew you would have these thoughts. He created you to have negative thoughts.
So, rather than a bad thing, think of your negative thoughts as a prompt — a reminder — to approach God and seek His wisdom in the situation.
Hugs & Blessings,
*It’s also important to keep in mind that negative thoughts are not what Paul was referring to when he told the Corinthians: “We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, BSB)