Dealing with negative thoughts with the Word of God is something I’ve learned is absolutely essential if I’m to remain sane. This has become even clearer to me recently while going through a particularly difficult period of my life waiting on the Lord to answer prayer about a few ministry positions I’ve applied for. I often find my mind going to the place where I’ve already been accepted in the position, thinking what the position would be like, the work I’d be doing, what I’d do in the role, and so on, and so forth. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this it’s that this is completely unhealthy. It’s not bad to dream but it’s unhealthy to go there as if you already have the job.
Perhaps you can relate (or not!). I would venture to guess that you might be like me though and wonder, “How do I deal with negative thoughts when they come?” Perhaps your struggle is different from mine but you still have negative thoughts and wonder how to deal with them. In my most recent bout with negative thoughts, I’ve recommitted myself to meditating on and memorizing Scripture.
The spiritual discipline of meditating and memorizing Scripture arises from the biblical and Protestant view of sola Scriptura. The reason we want to delight in the Scriptures is because they testify of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative Word of God. It is not enough to just read the Bible daily—we must daily eat it, digest it, reflect upon it, and apply it to our lives. This is especially so since many of you are already thinking of what reading plan you’ll do in the New Year. In this post, I want to challenge you as well that merely reading the Bible cover to cover is good but it’s not enough.
Now that I really have your attention let’s get to work. The primary reason that we need to deal with negative thoughts is because of where they come from—the world, the flesh, and the devil. Sometimes you’ll wonder which category they might come from but I don’t think it matters. Understanding that the world, the flesh, and the devil are aimed at your destruction and seek out weak spots in your life to exploit is reason enough for you to stand as a solider prepared for battle (Ephesians 6:10-20) as God has commanded. God has enlisted you in a war for the salvation of mankind. Your primary job is not just to stand girded for battled but to take up the only offensive weapon God has given you—the Word of God!
The Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword, as the author of Hebrews in Hebrews 4:12 says. This is because through the preaching of the Word of God, which testifies of Jesus, God saves men (Romans 10:17). Jesus is the only way to God and only by believing in Him can you be born again. Only God can take your heart of stone and replace it with a new heart, with new desires, and new affections for Himself. This is the only way that you can deal with negative thoughts.
Through the Word of God your affections will be stirred and you’ll begin to see life as it really is. This is where daily Bible reading, meditating on the Bible, and memorizing the Scriptures come in. Whenever a verse stands out to me in my daily Bible reading and it seems as if that verse is “highlighted” in the text, I know that the Holy Spirit wants me to meditate, reflect upon, memorize, and apply that verse to my life. So to that end, I “chew on it” for however long I need.
Dealing with negative thoughts requires regularly reading, meditating, and committing scriptural passages to memory before negative thoughts come. Since I’ve recommitted myself to Scriptural memorization I’ve noticed whenever negative thoughts do come (and they do) the more I quote Scripture the more at peace I am. God tells us in Psalm 119:11 to hide His Word in our hearts.
The reason we meditate on and memorize Scripture is so that our new affections will be stirred up and strengthened. Scripture memory for Scripture memory’s sake isn’t good enough. The reason we engage in any of the spiritual disciplines is because we are in a war. The reason, therefore, that we engage in Scriptural memory and biblical meditation is because we are soldiers in the army of the Lord.
Soldiers of the Cross prepare themselves for battle by rightly handling the Word of God! Soldiers of the Cross embrace the hard rugged cross of Christ in all of life. They do this by regularly reading, meditating, and memorizing God’s Word. They regularly chew on it because in doing so they are building up their repertoire to fight against the evil one. Furthermore, soldiers of the Cross memorize Scripture because Jesus, when He encountered Satan in the wilderness, quoted Scripture at Satan.
Christians meditate and memorize Scripture because we are in a war for the salvation of the lost. We are in a war to see disciples made, the Kingdom of God expanded, and the light of the glory of God in the gospel extend its white-hot rays into every nook and cranny of every part of God’s creation. Behind the power of the Word of God is our God whose promises are “Yes,” and “Amen” in Christ. Our God is mighty to save, mighty to sanctify, and He will one day demonstrate His faithfulness in glorifying His own precious treasured possession—His own people. He will do this on account of His Word which is true. This is the reason we can know how to deal with negative thoughts because our Savior was tempted in every way and yet did not sin. It is on account of Him that we can deal with whatever the world, the flesh, and the devil throws our ways—since He knows it, experienced it, died in our place for our sin, and now lives to make intercession before the Father for His beloved.