Capturing Negative Thoughts
In my last post I discussed the Ignatian view of imagination as a powerful force to point believers toward God. Ignatius believed imagination can be a tool to draw us deeper into a knowledge of and love for God. I also confessed I’ve always been a daydreamer with a fertile imagination.
I’m not sure how his photo from our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park applies to today’s post, but I loved the scene! Two fly fishermen catching and releasing beautiful trout while a group of bison, munching springtime grass, seem quite unimpressed. Sport and nature cooperation at its finest!
Although I’d never heard teaching to convince me otherwise, until a few years ago, I hadn’t considered that God desired my thoughts.
Then, one morning while reading my Bible, a verse I’d probably read numerous times, jumped off the pages and forever altered my thinking about my thought life.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:5 NIV)
God, You don’t really want my every thought do You? They’re MINE!
As I’ve told you in previous posts, when I’m convinced the voice I’m hearing is Divine, the impression is never harsh, never accusing, but rather, a gentle, kind, insistent whisper resonating in the deepest part of my soul. That morning, my spirit heard clearly the response to the question I’d directed to God, “Yes, I want EVERY thought!”
Thus, my journey of capturing thoughts hanging out in my fertile imagination began. If I told you I’ve mastered this discipline, I’d be lying. Like most spiritual disciplines, it’s a process, and I keep learning and moving forward. In today’s post, I will give some practices that have helped me deal with harmful thoughts:
- When my imagination takes me to a place that is:
- Worrisome – I name my worry, which is generally motivated by fear, reminding myself that Jesus said worrying won’t add a single hour to my life (Matthew 6:27) and that God doesn’t give a spirit of fear. (2 Timothy 1:7). Then, I make known my request to God about whatever situation worries me. (Philippians 4:6 & 7).
- Greedy, Jealous, Inconsistent with my Christian Faith – I confess the sinful thought, ask forgiveness and accept God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). I then pray for the person or situation that’s the object of my greed, jealousy or un-Christian thoughts. I also try to re-focus on what is pure, lovely, admirable. (Philippians 4:8 & 9)
- Regretful or Shameful – These are usually related to incidents from my past. If I haven’t already asked forgiveness for my part in the incident, I do so (1 John 1:9). If I’ve already asked forgiveness, I remind the enemy of my soul I’ve been forgiven, and there is NO condemnation to those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). I ask God if I need to act, such as:
- Forgive someone who has hurt me.
- Ask forgiveness because I’ve hurt someone.
- Ask God how I can make amends to a person I’ve hurt, and if that isn’t possible directly, in some other way.
- Invite God to recycle my pain or pain I’ve caused for a good purpose (2 Corinthians 1:3 & 4)
- If the thoughts keep recurring, ask God if I should talk with someone about this.
- Vindictive, Hateful or Incensed by Injustice – Here’s where I love The Serenity Prayer – God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference. Examine the amount of emotional energy I am giving to situations over which I have no influence and re-focus on what I can do to act in accordance with my conscience and with Christ-like love. Relinquish my judgmental spirit to God who will be the ultimate judge and will administer perfect justice. (James 4:12)
I much prefer dealing with the positive rather than negative, which I will do in my next post when I conclude exploring the power of our imagination.
I hope you’ll join me then…