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When I was a child, I remember telling my parents (multiple times) that “no one” liked me at school. My Daddy would sing an enthusiastic chorus of “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat some worms. Big, fat juicy ones. Little, skinny, tiny ones. I’m gonna eat some worms.”

I knew that meant he thought I shouldn’t think the way I did. But I continued on believing the lies I was telling myself. I had no idea how to stop my negative emotions, feelings and thoughts. I allowed myself to be completely held captive by them so many times.

This week I had the privilege of talking with our children about some of their feelings and thoughts and helping them sort through lies and replace them with the truth. Will they be able to absorb all that I am sharing with them? I don’t know! Time will tell. But how I pray that they might begin to learn to take their thoughts captive for Christ now, replacing the lies with God’s truth.

We wrote out all the upsetting thoughts they were having together:

– Silver (our kitten) left because he hates me.

– This bad thing happened as punishment from God for something I did wrong.

– Nothing good can happen this week. I am doomed to have a terrible week.

Here are some examples of other thought battles your children (and maybe you, too) may be facing at times:

– No one likes me.

– I don’t have any friends.

– My mom/husband/parents/sister/brother/friend hates me.

– I am worthless.

– I can’t do anything right.

– I don’t deserve to be loved.

– God can’t forgive me.

– God isn’t really good.

– God is out to get me.

– God only loves good people and I messed up too much for Him to ever love me.

– I’m a loser.

– I’m unattractive/too fat/too thin/not curvy enough/not pretty enough/not handsome enough.

– I’m stupid.

– I’ll never find a man/a woman to date/marry.

– No one would ever want me.

– I am an inconvenience.

When we allow ourselves to marinate in lies for weeks, months and years, we eventually believe these things are true. They become “fixed beliefs” about ourselves, others and God. How much damage we do to ourselves by clinging to lies! We carry this baggage into adulthood, into our marriages, and parenting. Then these toxic lies wreak destruction on our walk with Christ and our relationships.

Here is what I do whenever I have destructive thoughts/feelings or if I discover our children are having destructive thoughts/feelings:

1. We write them down – in detail. I try to write out every single thing I am telling myself or ask my children to share every single negative thought they are telling themselves and we write it all down.

2. We compare each negative thought to the truth of God’s Word and write down God’s truth in detail. We talk about when feelings and negative thoughts might be lying to us and how it is important to look at our feelings and thoughts, but ultimately, we believe God’s Word, not our feelings or thoughts. Feelings are indicators that we need to examine what is going on in our lives and in our minds. Are we being sinned against? Are we sinning in our own thoughts? Is there something we need to address with someone or with God? The key to remember is that our feelings, emotions and negative thoughts are not always accurate. We let God reign in our hearts. We do not allow our feelings to become our tyrants.

3.We compare and write down our thoughts to the truth in real life (when applicable) and write down the real truth in detail. We question the negative feelings and seek to find actual proof to verify whether these ideas are really true or not. If our feelings are not telling us the truth, we reject the lies and we embrace the real truth.

This is how we take every thought captive for Christ (II Corinthians 10:5).

EXAMPLES:

– Silver left because he hates me.

God’s truth:

  • The most important thing in the world is that God loves me – I can just look at the cross to see the incredible evidence of God’s unfathomable love for me (John 3:16-17).
  • Even if everyone else did hate me, I have the greatest treasure there is when I have God’s love for me. If God is for me, who can be against me? (Romans 8)

Real life truth:

Silver is a cat. He shows affection to all of us. There is evidence that he “loves” all of us as much as a cat can love us. There is no evidence that he “hates” any of us. He purrs when he is around us. He seems happy around all of us. He left because he was probably curious about the world outside and saw a chance to sneak out. Then he probably panicked and was terrified being outside and stayed hidden for days because that is his instinct. His leaving had nothing to do with him not being happy here or him not loving us.

– This bad thing happened to me as punishment from God for something I did wrong.

God’s truth:

  • God can and does use hardship, difficulties and suffering as discipline for His children because He loves us (Hebrews 12).
  • God can and does use suffering and trials to help us grow stronger in our faith (James 1, James 5, I Peter, Job, Hebrews 12).
  • There are consequences to sin many times that we must still face even if we turn from our sin and are forgiven by God. Some consequences can be things like: if I steal, I may have to spend time in jail. If I do drugs, I may get addicted to them. If I lie, people may not trust me anymore. If I lash out and say mean, hateful things, I may lose friendships. If I don’t study for a test, I may get a bad grade. If I am sexually active outside of marriage, I may get an STD for which there is no cure (I Cor. 6:18). God’s forgiveness does not take away earthly consequences of sin.
  • Jesus took all of the wrath of God against our sin on Himself on the cross and satisfied God’s righteous wrath against our sin (Romans 6). So, I don’t suffer “punishment” from God now because God sees Jesus when He looks at me because I trust Him as my Savior and submit to Him fully as Lord. I don’t have to fear punishment as a disciple of Christ because I get to abide in Him now (John 15).
  • There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18
  • Not everything bad that happens is punishment or discipline. In this case, Silver left because he was a curious cat. It most likely had nothing to do with any of us or anything we did, other than that Dad and I were not observant enough when we were coming in or out of the house. God can use this situation to teach us discipline, yes (Hebrews 12). But God is not “punishing” us by sending Silver away to hurt us.
  • No matter why something bad happened, our God is sovereign and He is able to use this painful trial for good in our lives and for His glory. We can trust God even with this situation (Romans 8:28-29).

Real life truth:

Same as above. Silver left because he was a curious cat and he had a chance to sneak outside, not because God is out to get us or trying to punish us. But God can and will use this situation for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory.

– Nothing good can happen this week. I am doomed to have a terrible week.

God’s truth:

  • Good and bad things happen to everyone (Matthew 5:45, Job, Psalm).
  • There are always things for which we can thank and praise God (I Thessalonians 5:15-18, Philippians 4:4-8).
  • God gives good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).
  • God is incapable of having evil motives toward us (James 1:13).
  • God is only good, all the time and He is the only One who is good (Mark 10:18).
  • If God is for me, who can be against me? (Romans 8:31)
  • When God’s Spirit fills me up, He promises I will have the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control no matter what my circumstances may be (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • As a follower of Christ, I lay down my expectations, my “rights,” my plans, my ideas, my goals, my desires, my will, my wisdom and my strength at the foot of the cross of Christ. I pick up His will, His wisdom, His vision, His desires, His perspective, His resources, His power, His goals, His desires and His purposes. I die to self and live for Christ (Romans 6). I lay down my definition of “good” and embrace God’s definition of “good” and His eternal perspective.
  • If I want to be negative and want to complain, I can find negative things to think about and I can make myself miserable. I can choose to sin by focusing on negative things and on complaining. Or I can choose not to complain but rather to fill my heart, mind and mouth with praises for God and thanksgiving (Philippians 2:14-16, I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Real life truth:

Good and bad things will happen every day. I have the power to choose to focus on the good or to focus on the bad. I can choose to obey God in how I respond to both the good and the bad. God can give me His joy and peace no matter what my circumstances are.

– No one likes me.

God’s Truth:

  • God loves me more than I can ever imagine (John 3:16-17, Romans 8:28-31).
  • I am very valuable to God. He made me in His image (Genesis 2, Psalm 139).
  • Ultimately, when this life is over, God’s opinion is all that will matter, not the opinion of people (I Thessalonians 2, Ephesians 6:6, Galatians 1:10, Matthew 6:33).
  • Am I seeking to please God or people? (same scripture as above)
  • If I truly do have enemies, how does God command me to treat them? (Romans 12:9-21)

Real Life truth:

I do have some friends. Their names are…

There are some people who have been mean to me at times. Their names are…

Why might they mistreat me?

Have I possibly done something mean to them that I need to apologize for?

What can I do on my end to make these relationships better?

Am I being a godly friend and a good example?

Are these people hurting in some way?

Do they know Christ?

How can I pray for them?

How can I bless them?

What can I say that would be productive?

What are some constructive comments I can have ready in case someone does say something hateful to me?

At what point do I need to involve adults/teachers/parents?

YOUR TURN:

Which of these examples above do you tend to tell yourself, or what are your biggest thought battles? What is God’s truth about that issue? What is the real life truth about that issue? You are welcome to share as you process these thoughts and take them captive for Christ!

———

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-38

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