how to take every thought captive

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Does taking every thought captive seem like a bit of a mystery to you? There was a time it seemed like an out of reach dream to me. Like you, I longed for a break from thoughts that caused so much trouble in my mind. I would read articles on “taking thoughts captive” and would finish feeling inspired, but without any actionable steps. Feelings of discouragement would follow.

Who actually needs to learn how to take every thought captive? Everyone! We all have thought patterns that need to be improved. Things pop into our heads every day that can cause problems in our mind and relationships. Surprisingly, the same general formula for taking thoughts captive, relates to all kinds of thought patterns that cause problems.


For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Do Any of These Thoughts Need to Be Taken Captive?

Out of control thought life

Dwelling on the past

Making negative assumptions about others

Self-defeating thoughts

Fear of what others think

Anxious or fearful thoughts

Depressing thoughts

Replaying conversations and events in your head

Overthinking things to death!

And any other problematic thoughts you can think of…

If you’re like me, you’re probably tired of trying to figure out how to take every thought captive on your own. Let’s dive in to some actionable steps you can take starting now!

What Mindsets are Keeping You from Taking Every Thought Captive?

We have a tendency to maintain mindsets (beliefs) that keep us from moving forward. This is even true about the things we believe about our abilities to take every thought captive. Thoughts can feel overwhelming and out of control. As a result, we believe we can’t gain control of the thoughts.

So often I hear people believing they can’t control their thoughts so they just give up. They literally waive a white flag and surrender to the way they think. That was the very mistake I made years ago about my own thought life. I gave up and surrendered to a thought life that caused me problems.

I remember walking into a Starbucks and they had this cute chalkboard with quotes of the day. That particular day I looked up and read … “A thought is just a thought and it can be changed”. I remember rolling my eyes in complete disgust. I was struggling with my own thought life and this quote was challenging my beliefs.

Here is the truth…even though your thought life may feel out of control, it’s not! It’s not easy work to gain control of your thoughts and you will not see the immediate effects of your work to change your thoughts, but believe this…

You CAN control your thoughts.

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”. -2 Timothy 1:7

What mindset keeps you from moving forward and taking every thought captive? Are you willing to change your mindset?

You Are Equipped to Take Every Thought Captive!

God never calls us to do something without equipping us. His Word says we have everything we need for a godly {thought} life (2 Peter 1:3).

Have you ever had to do a job and didn’t have the tools you needed?

I was recently determined to remove old wallpaper. I bought the wallpaper scoring tool and dragged out my old steamer to get down to work. Once the wallpaper was soaked, it was time to scrape. Only one problem…I couldn’t find the scraper. I had one, but gave up after a quick walk around the house. So I began peeling, and peeling and peeling. It was taking forever! If only I had that scraper I thought (but didn’t look further). As a result, I was much less effective in completing the task and gave up alot faster because I didn’t utilize the tools I possessed.

That’s what happens when we don’t use the tools God has equipped us with as His dearly loved children. We aren’t as effective in taking those problematic thoughts captive.

What are the tools we have to take every thought captive?

Ephesians 6:17-18 it says, take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The first tool is the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word. God’s Word is the plumbline for Truth, not our thoughts. In other words, we have a tendency to view our thoughts as facts (big mistake). We will think a thought, which results in a feeling and action…because we believe what we think. Are you lining up what you think with God’s truth?

The second tool is praying in the Spirit. God wants to be in relationship with you. He desires that we bring our sins and burdens to Him, trusting Him with it all. This includes the thoughts we want to take captive!

And finally, the Holy Spirit is the power behind the weapons we have in God’s Word and prayer. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Bible is just a book and prayer would just be words. The Holy Spirit is the power behind these divine weapons that we will use to stand firm against a thought life that does not honor God and wreaks havoc on your joy and peace.

Identifying the Thoughts to Take Captive

Read this section carefully! In order to take your thoughts captive, you must be able to identify what your thinking. I know this sounds like the easy part, but it’s a little bit more challenging to identify problematic thoughts. We actually have thousands and thousands of thoughts every day. Our thinking patterns are second nature, which means we actually pay very little attention to what we’re thinking. We are more likely to notice our emotions. Then, we act on our emotions. However, in order to take those problematic thoughts captive, we have to act on right thinking. Are you with me so far?

Let’s do an example…

Have you ever felt anxious or fearful (ofcourse, right?!). When feeling fearful or anxious, what did you do?

My son feels fearful when I ask him to take his dirty laundry to the garage (washer and dryer location). As a result, he asks me to go with him or he throws open the door, flips on the light and runs away for a few minutes (this is acting on fear). This has been the pattern for years. What in the world is he afraid of (this is the thinking we have to identify)? When pressed, he will say he thinks there might be a bad guy out there. Ahhhh, there it is…we got to take that thought captive. We’ll get to that in a minute though.

First, do you see how our thoughts lead to emotions and then to actions? I gave a very simple straightforward example, however this is the very beginning of taking thoughts captive. Pause for a moment and think of a strong emotion you recently experienced. How did you respond to the emotion? In other words, what did you do? Now, try to remember what you were thinking. It’s kinda hard, huh?

A couple things to remember…First, this is hard work. It takes practice to get better at identifying thoughts you want to crush. Second, it can be a bit time consuming at first, but imagine how much time, peace and joy you will reap in the long run.

Challenging the Thoughts You Want to Take Captive

Now it’s time to take the thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (obedience always brings blessing). Even though a child’s fear of the dark garage, potentially filled with bad guys seems silly…the struggle is real for him. He identified his thought, “There might be bad guys out there”.

Once we identify the thought we are taking captive, we then want to identify if God’s Word speaks to this situation (I can’t think of anytime God’s Word doesn’t speak to a situation). First, I reminded my son we are commanded to not be fearful (Joshua 1:9). But, why not? Who is God in this scary situation? A few things I came up with are… First, God is with us (Joshua 1:9), He is our protector ( Thessalonians 3:3), He fights for us (Exodus 14:14), and uses everything for our good (Romans 8:28).

The other strategy I use is logic. God gave us the ability to think logically. So, I also help my son examine historical information. Have you ever actually seen a bad guy in the garage? The answer is, no. Then I talk about the crime rate and the low probability that we will face a bad guy in the dark garage. He wisely pointed out, it is actually a possibilility though. He’s right. Then I take him back to the primary strategy- examining God’s Word. What does He say?

Are you thinking this isn’t or doesn’t work for you? You’ve tried examining the Bible and find no relief?

I’m Going to Challenge Those Thoughts About God’s Word.

First, the problem could be a lack of knowledge of the Bible. We simply don’t know enough about God’s Word to apply it to our situation effectively. The good news is, this is an easy fix. Begin to carve out time daily to study God’s Word. Get into a Bible study where you can find accountability and help learning how to study the Bible so you understand it. Also, you can google literally any emotion and correlating bible verses to navigate that topic.

The second problem tends to be unbelief. We might have all kinds of head knowledge about God and His Word, but without belief, that knowledge has less power. More good news…faith comes by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17). So, the same answer exists…get in the Word so you can effectively begin to take thoughts captive. Also, ask for help with unbelief (Mark 9:24). God desires that your faith would grow (Hebrews 11:6).

Maintaining a Healthy Mind: Fewer Thoughts to Take Captive!

We all know that it’s important to be intentional in our health, right? There all kinds of things we can do to maintain a healthy body. First, eat good nourishing foods. Second, get lots of exercise and avoid too much sitting. You can take vitamins, get regular check ups, etc. The outcome usually results in a healthier body.

Why don’t we do that with our minds? There are practices outlined in the Bible that are helpful to keeping our mind healthier. Whatever you put your mind to, it will grow. If you put your mind to thoughts that are anxious, negative, depressing, (or anything else that steals joy and peace) it will grow! The opposite is true of putting your mind to healthy habits…it will also grow.

3 Strategies!

Let’s talk about a few strategies that are hugely successful in developing a healthy mind. First, cultivating an attitude of gratitude. This isn’t magical thinking or the power of positive thinking. This is looking at things from a different angle. Can you think of a movie you recently watched? Each scene has different camera angles. The camera cuts to the person talking, zooms out to capture everyone, then cuts to something else going on that the characters don’t know about, yet. Let’s practice doing this with our own life. Stop looking at what is going wrong and start looking at what is going right! Find the good.

I will cover the next two strategies more briefly. Journaling has REALLY big impact on maintaining a healthy thought life. There are ways to journal hurtful events so they don’t build up like a losing tetris game. This is especially helpful if you are struggling with dwelling on the past, unforgiveness, personalizing, or negativity (just to name a few). And, finally, God’s Word. Renew your mind daily with God’s Word (Romans 12:2). This helps correct wrong thinking. The Bible takes our wrong thoughts and aligns them with the truth of the Word of God. We become so much more effective in sorting lies and truth. Little by little and day by day, you will become increasing aligned with Truth.

Final Thoughts on Taking Every Thought Captive

Take courage! The pattern of thoughts in our heads are firmly established because we’ve been practicing them. When you begin to take thoughts captive it can seem overwhelming, even impossible. BUT, remember that nothing is impossible for God. First, believe can do this…God says so! Second, identify and challenge the beliefs that need to go. Then, practice healthy thought habits for a healthy mind. And don’t forget…if it was easy everyone would be doing it. Practice leads to progress and we are all a work in progress this side of heaven.

Do You Want a Little Bit More Information on Taking Every Thought Captive?

Check out my full online course on the topic of “Taking Every Thought Captive”. The course takes you more in depth, explaining how our brain is wired as well as taking a closer look at the connection between thoughts, feelings and actions. There are wonderful printable tools to help you on your way, such as, a thought tracker, healing with journaling outline and many more! Check out the overview video here. Don’t take my word for it…see what others are saying as well!

taking thoughts captive bible study


32 Comments

  1. Sara Jane Kehler on May 15, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    Great info. Battling thoughts of doubt has been my downfall for years, but in Christ, I’m gaining victory! Check out my post Faith vs. Doubt – https://saralivingfree.com/2018/12/13/faith-vs-doubt-how-i-won-the-battle-this-christmas/

    • Scarlett on June 29, 2020 at 11:08 am

      Wowww…it’s so crazy because I was just talking to God about how I need to change my thought life and He led me to this blog post.
      Sometimes I feel suffocated by my thoughts. I want to stop them but I can’t. They get me so distracted and flighty alot. I will put into practice what I’ve read today and check out your course because this is so important to me.
      Thanks for letting God use you to bless me

  2. Carolina on May 15, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    I think aligning our thoughts with the Word of God is not easy but it’s possible. This is a key to live a victorious Christian life. Great post, and great strategies.

    • Sunshyne on May 22, 2019 at 8:55 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Carolina:)

      • Jackie on August 7, 2019 at 11:27 am

        My main thoughts that I’m dealing with are about my husbands addiction to smoking I don’t know why I’m trying to control this area in his life. I am concerned bc he has a cough that’s been here a few months I don’t know if I’m scared he has cancer or I’m afraid to lose him or if it’s triggering my own subconscious fear not even related to his addiction. I have been working through these thoughts on a daily basis and every other thought is if and when he is goin to smoke a cigarette. I need peace with whatever is bothering me if anyone has ideas or suggestions

        • Sunshyne on August 14, 2019 at 10:36 am

          Hi Jackie! I have an article for you… check it out!

  3. […] So what’s a girl to do? Just push through? No way… We take those thoughts captive! […]

  4. Crystal on June 5, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    According to the link sent to me by a friend, the “Taking Every Thought Captive” Bible study is free; however, when I tied to download it, your website said the study is $79. Am I missing something?

    Thanks.

    • Sunshyne on June 5, 2019 at 6:34 pm

      Hi Crystal, the bible study is absolutely free:) It gets sent to your email…so check your inbox for the download. The course (different than the bible study) I have on “Taking Every Thought Captive” is not free. Hope that helps.

  5. […] best way to win the battle of the mind before it ever begins is by practicing the kind of thinking outlined in Philippians 4:8. This means […]

  6. JOYCE CANTRELL on July 5, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    YOUR INFORMATION IS VERY HELPFUL TO ME. I USE IT TO HELP ME UNDERSTAND GOD’S WORD AND TO HELP ME BE A BETTER CHRISTIAN & SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

    • Sunshyne on July 17, 2019 at 3:57 pm

      Hi Joyce, I’m so glad you found this article helpful! Taking thoughts captive is such a challenge (an ongoing battle). Thank you for taking the time to share:)

  7. […]  thoughts we think are pretty powerful. According to the Proverb, everything we feel, say and do flows from our heart […]

  8. […] how to take thoughts captive can be a bit puzzling. I struggled for years, wondering if changing the way I think was even […]

  9. […] Taking thoughts captive is a phrase that means we take a closer look at what we’re thinking to figure out whether or not it’s true. Why study the Bible? Renewing our mind is how we separate truth from lies. […]

  10. […] For more information on taking thoughts captive get your free Bible study below. You can also get more information about the steps on how to stop depressing thoughts here. […]

  11. […] who has guest written for this site before, offers several free online Bible studies including How to Take Every Thought Captive and Taming the Tongue. She also offers one on Marriage Communication. Sunshyne is a licensed […]

  12. Jenn Mertz on November 12, 2019 at 4:50 am

    I appreciate your thoughts about obedience bringing blessing, praying in the Spirit, and making sure we’re in the Word so that we have weapons to fight with. Thank you!

    • Sunshyne on December 1, 2019 at 9:52 am

      Thank you for stopping by Jenn!

  13. […] the thing though… it all started with a thought. Our thoughts drive our feelings and actions. Consequently, it can be hard to get to the root of the thought because thoughts are like heart […]

  14. […] As you renew your mind, you become better equipped to lineup the truth of God’s Word against the things we tell ourselves about our identity, circumstances and even relationships. As you grow in the knowledge of the Lord you will be able to wield the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) to fight battles. Use God’s Word, not only fix your eyes on Jesus, but to also face life with more clarity. (Learn how to take thoughts captive here.) […]

  15. […] Do You Worry About What Others Think?How to Take Every Thought Captive {For Real} […]

  16. Nita on March 22, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Looking to have this bible study sent to me please.

    • Sunshyne Gray on March 22, 2020 at 11:32 am

      Hi Nita, once you sign up, you go to your inbox, confirm the email and then you get the download! Hope that helps:)

  17. Melissa @myhillsandvalleys on March 28, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    Hi! Looking forward to getting the free study! 🙂 Thank you!

    • Sunshyne Gray on March 28, 2020 at 5:49 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Melissa! Check your inbox for the bible study😉

  18. […] Taking Thoughts Captive […]

  19. […] the Holy Spirit guides us through Scripture, we become more effective in taking thoughts captive, crushing anxiety, practicing gratitude, forgiving others – and so much […]

  20. […] thoughts are pretty powerful. They impact our emotions and actions. In other words, thoughts affect everything. In fact, negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, resentment and depression all start with a […]

  21. […] Check out this (NO FLUFF) article on taking your thoughts captive. Did I mention there is a free Bible study inside? […]

  22. […] Taking Thoughts Captive Study by Sunshyne Gray […]

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