Here’s something no one ever explained to me growing up: Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean it defines you or controls you. There’s actually some steps before a thought becomes an action, and you can stop them at any point.
The Three Levels of a Thought
When a thought pops up in your head, here’s what happens. You:
Have the thought
Agree with the thought
Act upon the thought
A lot of people seem to think that because I have a thought, especially a recurring thought, this means I agree with it or must act upon it. This isn’t true. This may seem pretty basic, but let’s put it into some real-life examples.
You’re on a diet. You are doing really good, maybe even losing a couple of pounds, and then you wake up one day and you think, “Man, I would really love a chocolate cake today.” You brush it off. You remind yourself you’re on a diet, but the thought keeps coming back. Suddenly every single advertisement you see is about chocolate. “But I want a chocolate cake! I NEED it!” You can’t even really work that day because you’ve become preoccupied thinking about what you can’t eat. (If you’ve ever gone on a fast, you know exactly how this feels. I sobbed over a donut once while doing a Daniel fast.)
So far, you have only had the thought. It’s an extremely powerful, overwhelming thought, but you have not agreed with it.
And then all the sudden, you decide the agony isn’t worth it, and it’s not even that many calories in the first place, and you’re just going to eat a chocolate cake. Forget all this stress. You’ll start on your diet again tomorrow. You DO need a chocolate cake.
At this point, you’ve agreed with the thought. You have not acted upon it yet.
And suddenly, you’re back in your apartment, diving your fork into the first bite of chocolate cake. It’s amazing. You feel a tinge of guilt, but you’ve resolved to just enjoy it for now and you can feel like a terrible person later.
Boom. You’ve acted on it.
Of course, this is just a semi-silly example. This pattern can be incredibly destructive if the thought you ultimately agree with is “I can’t do anything right,” “no one will ever love me,” or “nothing will make me feel better.”
Beliefs As Filters
These thoughts become filters we process information through. For example, a woman who believes “no one will ever love me” (or its twin, “I’m unloveable”) will process the experience of a man trying to date her through the filter of “no one will ever love me,” and will make the excuse “well, he doesn’t know the real me” or “he’ll just love me until someone better comes along.” We strive to make sense of our world through our filter of beliefs.
Break That Agreement
Almost all of us can identify at least one thought pattern in our lives that we regret agreeing with. We must realize that our belief is a thought we have agreed with, and we can break the agreement.
Hint: Use Jesus
Here’s where, if you’re doing the Jesus thing, this downer piece of information becomes really good news. The Bible tells us:
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. - Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
We know that God desires whatever is good and produces good fruit in the lives of his children. We know that he is a good father. We know that he is an Almighty King. We know that his word is not only true, it is The Truth.
We also know:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. - Ephesians 6:12 NIV
Those thoughts that tear us down, that keep us in fear, that lead us down destructive paths, those are from one place:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…. - John 10:10 NIV
But God is victorious against the Enemy:
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. - John 16:33 NIV
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and Lord of Lords. -Revelation 19:16 NIV
Halting the Process
If you’re realizing that you have agreed with thoughts that have been against the Word of God in the past, or if you want to know how to stop them at any step in the process, here’s how:
Have a thought: if you have a thought you know if from the enemy, it helps to identify where it’s from (“Enemy, I know that thought is straight from you”) and remind yourself what the Word of God has to say about that topic. Eventually, when that voice realizes you will not listen to it, that voice goes away.
Agree with the thought: Agreements change into beliefs. Our beliefs are our filters. Break your agreement with that current filter (this is as simple as “I realize that belief is a lie from the enemy and I no longer believe it to be true or good.) Then you replace it with God’s word. (You would then say in prayer, “God, show me what your word says about ___ and help me to believe it. Show me your truth working in my everyday life.”) Then you dive into God’s word to see what he says on the subject. Once we replace that thought with the truth of God’s word, God’s word on the subject becomes our filter which we process all other thoughts through. Any thoughts that don’t fit in are tossed away.
Act upon the thought: STOP. DO NOT PASS GO. Stop doing the action & start working on figuring out what belief led you to do the action. Get some accountability to help you along the way.
A Prayer That Works
And there’s another, simple way to stop this process in its tracks. I’ve learned that, just as powerful, is the prayer: “God, make me more like you. Search my heart and find any unclean way in me. I’m yours, God, and you can speak to me about anything you want, or ask me to do anything you want. You’ve been so good to me and I’m at your command.”
Love you guys. <3