How To Be Free From Intrusive Thoughts
I am putting together this article in hope of helping any brethren who may be suffering from intrusive thoughts. By intrusive thoughts, I mean unwanted thoughts, fearful thoughts, thoughts that torment, thoughts that lead to much mental anguish, and generally thoughts that lead to what is termed in modern times as ‘pure obsessive compulsive disorder.’
Intrusive, unwanted thoughts can be relentless to the point where you cannot sleep, you cannot maintain the actvities of daily living, and you cannot escape your thoughts. It can be tormenting to the point where it feels like torture. If you fight the thoughts, they will overcome you, “for fear hath torment.” It is certainly caused by the sin of fear and anxiety that take the mind of the child of God captive. Usually one’s greatest fears are the cause of the obsessive thought patterns that arise. Stop caring and you will starve the monster (the fear) to it’s death. This will allow you to be free. Faith is the absense of fear (1st John 4:18). Faith believes that Jesus Christ cares for us perfectly (1st Peter 5:7), because that is what His Word declares. This heavy burden can be beaten with four simple words…“Be anxious for nothing.”
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
If you suffer from overthinking and ruminating just remember that God knows all things, and you do not really need to care, because those thoughts are just that…they are just anxious, fearful and often times tormenting thoughts.
Negative unwanted thoughts, are not the intent of your heart, they are in a sense not you, your inner man thinking about them, it is your mind making those thoughts up or the fiery darts of the wicked one. If you do not dwell on or think about something and yet you are trying to get the thoughts out of your mind, remember it is your mind. If you try to push them away you will only make it worse. Remember God tells us to give all our burdens and all our cares to Him.
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1st Peter 5:7)
If you get a bad thought and it really upsets you, these thoughts and ruminations are just thoughts and they do not define who you are, for you are a child of God, forgiven and redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. These intrusive thoughts are usually the same reason one dwells on them because they are so upsetting. Unwanted blasphemous thoughts are the chief example of this in the life of a christian, because it goes against who you are, a lover of God. One who has had “the love of God shed abroad in (their) hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5)
If an unwanted, intrusive thought comes to mind, recognize it as just that, UNWANTED and INTRUSIVE, and then get out your sword and speak the word of God! If you practice this, they will go away. If you do not identify with an unwanted and intrusive thought, and recognize that you have little control over the thought randomly appearing, or a fiery dart from the enemy and take heed to the Word of God when it says “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” you are able to have the control to take each thought captive by rejecting and ignoring them, and therefore giving the enemy no power to torment you. Initially this can be very difficiult but do not be discouraged (Deuteronomy 1:21). The word of God truly has the answers to all of our problems.
In my experience and the experience of other saints whose testimonies I have read over the years, we have no control over stopping the enemy from throwing a fiery dart at us (Ephesians 6:16), yet, we do have the full armour, by the grace and loving kindness of God to overcome them.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the full armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preperation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Responding to negative emotions will only fuel intrusive thoughts. And the enemy thrives on the attention and meaning that you give to them. The goal should be to become completely invulnarable, by ever looking to Jesus and His finished work on the cross on our behalf, to all intrusive thoughts, knowing and believing that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). And in doing so they will go away. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
Unwanted, tormenting, intrusive thoughts is where it almost feels like your mind tortures you with the thing that you find most reprehensible. A common misconception that I believe the enemy tries to inbed is that intrusive thoughts are secret desires that one does not want to admit, which fuels more anxiety, but this could not be further from the truth. The reality is it is one’s worst fears (“fear hath torment” – 1st John 4:18). As I mentioned previously, in most cases for the child of God, the fear of blasphemous thoughts towards the God they love, others struggle with pushing away other thoughts. Initially when one is not aware of how intrusive thoughts work it brings extreme negative emotions which results in the sins of fear and anxiety, which cause torment and restlessness. Once you recognize those fiery darts, there can be immense freedom.
Things to eliminate:
- Mental rituals
- Mental arguments
- Neutralising unwanted thoughts with other thoughts
Most, if not all persons experience intrusive thoughts. The difference between one who suffers with negative emotions which cause obsessive mental incognitions lies not in the occurance or even the (un)controllibilty of the intrusions themselves, but rather the interpretation made by the sufferer. “Do other christians suffer with this?” “Am I the only one?” “What if others knew I had these thoughts?” “Is that my thought, did I think that?” “How could a christian ever have that thought!” If the interpretation is focused on what one fears the most, or the content or occurance of intrusions are appraised as personally meaningful and threatening then the emotional reaction is likely to be anxiety and guilt. But there are scriptures that can set you free, and give you much relief. You are not alone. Your situation is not unique.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1st Peter 4:12-13)
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (1st Peter 5:7-8)
You cannot solve these unwanted, intrusive thoughts inside the mind, for if you do, the enemy will draw you back into it’s grasp through anxiety and anxious reactions within the body including tension, a racing heart, unease, and torment. You need to heed God’s Word and put on the full armour of God. By following God’s Word and keeping our minds stayed on Him, we can, by the grace of our awesome loving, kind, caring, compassionate God be transformed by the renewing of our minds. And by doing so we can learn to be free by trusting wholly in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and repenting of the cares of this life, anxiety, and fear.
“And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obediebce of Christ.” (2nd Corinthians 10:4-5)
How do we renew our mind? with the word of God.
The “problem” created by those who suffer with a mind set where intrusive and unwanted thoughts take hold is never the problem. The problem is rumination, overthinking. Thinking that we can solve what we think is our problem will somehow fix the problem. And yet the sufferer never seems to be able to solve it. What this results in is the entering in of other emotions, and this leads to distortions that arise which will wear out a saint, rendering him or her paralysed with fear and anxiety.
God is love. Fear is from the enemy of our souls, the accuser of the brethren. If we hold on to fear, directly or indirectly we will remain in bondage. If we believe and follow God’s Word, there is a solution.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)