THE TAKE AWAY
By Kersley Fitzgerald
I am one of the primary question-assigners at GotQuestions.org. I see a lot of the questions that come through our system. There's been a trend lately that's a little disturbing — teenagers (and older) plagued with intrusive thoughts of a spiritual nature.
Most everyone has intrusive thoughts at some point. They're the little nasty ideas that pop up out of nowhere. They may be about sex or blasphemous thoughts about God. They could be about hurting someone or even hurting yourself. As disturbing as they can feel, they're very common and don't necessarily mean anything serious. And they're not sin. It's not a sin to have a random thought. Although it may be sin to choose to keep thinking about it or to act on it.
The simplest way to deal with intrusive thoughts is to reject them and think about something else. Philippians 4:8 is a key verse: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." As simple as it sounds, it isn't always easy. You have to be consistent and do it every time such a thought appears in your mind. Over and over, a thousand times if necessary. Before too long, it should be second nature.
Another option, if you're more curious about the thought than disturbed, is to quiet down and contemplate why that particular thought came about. You may find that you're anxious about something or saw images that triggered it. If the problem is a life event or a strained relationship, you now know what you should be praying for.
It's entirely possible that the intrusive thoughts are feeding off of something you've voluntarily exposed yourself to. It could be a TV show, a movie, a video game, or a book. If you have sexual intrusive thoughts and you watch sexually-questionable shows, stop watching. If you have spiritual-based intrusive thoughts and you watch reality shows about ghosts, stop watching. It's harder to notice when you're younger and constantly deluged with input from different sources, but what we put into our minds really does matter. You may not immediately feel the effects of that horror movie because you think you like being scared. But everything we watch changes our brains just a little bit, making us more sensitive the next time.
Some intrusive thoughts come from stimuli around us, but some may very well be a form of spiritual warfare. To those who are grounded in Christ and the truth of the Bible, these thoughts are obviously ridiculous. If you think the enemy is whispering in your ear, "God is dead," remember that without God, there is no enemy to whisper that God is dead. Any claim that God is less than all-powerful is just a silly attempt to instill fear.
But it is also possible to open ourselves up for spiritual attack. Whenever we take a drug that affects our minds or how we perceive reality, we're just asking for demonic influence. Involvement in the occult is another obvious danger, but it doesn't just mean animal sacrifices and graveyards. Playing with Ouija boards or tarot cards, watching paranormal movies or reality shows, listening to music with blasphemous lyrics, or any of the other little games we sometimes play as kids, opens a door that allows harmful spiritual influence inside. It's foolish to go looking for demons and then be surprised when they show up.
To fight intrusive thoughts, we have to control what goes into our heads. Know the Bible. Know God and Who He is. It's one thing to dismiss the thought, but we have to fill our minds with something else to take its place (Luke 11:24-26). Memorize some applicable verses and have them at the ready.
Verses for anxious intrusive thoughtsPsalm 94:19: "When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul."
Psalm 40:1-2: "I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm."
Psalm 139:23: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way."
2 Corinthians 12:9: "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."
Verses for blasphemous intrusive thoughtsJob 42:2: "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted."
2 Kings 19:15: "O LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth."
Psalm 62:1: "My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation."
Psalm 90:2: "Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."
Verses for sexual intrusive thoughtsPsalm 73:25-26: "Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
Psalm 119:59: "I considered my ways and turned my feet to Your testimonies."
1 Timothy 5:1-2: "Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity."
When an intrusive thought pops up, find an appropriate verse and quote it to yourself. Be tenacious; sometimes these things take time. Don't be discouraged if the thoughts escalate — just keep relying on the power of God's Word.
If you've memorized the verses and used them diligently, but intrusive thoughts are still plaguing you, see a doctor. Intrusive thoughts are a common side effect of many conditions. There may be something more serious going on that requires medical attention.
Image Credit: Sybren Stuvel; "Frustration"; Creative Commons
comments powered by Disqus