Take Every Thought Captive {+Bible Study}

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 negative thoughts that caused so much trouble in my mind. I would read articles on “how to take thoughts captive” and Bible studies on taking thoughts captive. Most resources would leave me feeling inspired, but without any actionable steps. Feelings of discouragement would follow when negative thoughts returned.

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 mind every day that can cause problems in our life and relationships. Surprisingly, the same general formula for taking thoughts captive, relates to all kinds of thought patterns that cause problems.

title: take every thought captive

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… some refer to their thoughts as “bad thoughts” or “evil thoughts”. No matter what negative thoughts you are wanting to overcome- God will enable and empower us to do what He has called us to do.

If you’re like me, you’re probably tired of trying to figure out how to take every thought captive on your own. Changing your thought life will require hard work on a daily basis and you can’t do it in your own strength. It will most definitely require the renewing of your mind with God’s Word.

The Bible is clear that we have an enemy and he is referred to as the “father of lies”. The enemy uses moments and people in our life to mislead us into believing things that aren’t true. Those moments or people are the gateway to lies making their way into your heart. Once a lie makes its way into your heart, we will begin to operate according to lies.

Core beliefs can affect our view of ourselves, others, the world around us and even God. What we believe matters! The only way to know if any of our beliefs are untrue is to hold it up against the most True thing- the Word of God. Taking every thought captive is a spiritual battle and it requires divine weapons.

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    Divine Weapons for Taking Thoughts Captive

    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. Ephesians 6:17-18

    The first divine weapon is the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word. God’s Word is the plumbline for Truth, not our own thoughts and beliefs. 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 your thoughts aligning with God’s truth?

    The second divine weapon is praying in the Spirit. Prayer is so powerful- it requires dependence on God rather than trying to take thoughts captive in your own strength.

    And finally, the power of the Holy Spirit is 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.

    How To Take Every Thought Captive

    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 (every lofty opinion) 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

    Now that we have defined our weapons for spiritual warfare, let’s talk more about how we can actually demolish strongholds as Paul talks about in his letter to the Corinthians. First, a stronghold is a “firmly held belief”. Remember earlier when we talked about lies that make their way into our heart? Another word for that lie is a stronghold. If we have a firmly held belief that is not aligned with the Truth of God’s Word, then we will need to demolish that stronghold. The Apostle Paul goes on to say that we must also tear down arguments or prideful opinions (AKA lofty opinion) that goes against the knowledge of God and make it obedient to Christ.

    Now that we have several important elements of how to take thoughts captive, let’s break down how to take sinful thoughts (any thought contrary to God’s Word) captive in actual steps. We have already covered what the weapons of our warfare are and the thoughts we are going to battle against. Let’s break this down into steps.

    Practical Ways to Take Every Thought Captive

    Identify the Thoughts to Take Captive

    Read this section carefully! Taking every thought captive means we are gaining control over our thought life. In order to take your thoughts captive, you must be able to identify what you’re 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  single 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. 

    So how do we identify our thoughts? Admittedly, I am not as good at identifying my thoughts as I am at identifying my emotions. Most people first notice experiencing a negative emotion. For example, I might feel fearful. I will notice this uncomfortable emotion and it alerts me to my beliefs or thoughts. So, I use negative emotions to signal me to pay attention to my thoughts. This is when I will pause and reflect on my own thoughts. I will ask myself, “What am I saying to myself?” Practicing a pause is life changing! Ask God to reveal what is going on in your heart and mind.

    Emotions always come from beliefs and thoughts. Our hearts are deep waters and learning how to get beneath the surface is vital to spiritual and personal growth. 

    First, do you see how our thoughts lead to emotions? 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. 

    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). Once we identify the thought we are taking captive, we then want to identify how God’s Word speaks to this situation (I can’t think of any time God’s Word doesn’t speak to a situation). Once you identify thoughts that don’t align with God’s Word, we search for Bible verses to help us compare what we are believing with Truth. Does an attribute of God speak to your thought life? Perhaps a promise of God will help you demolish any firmly held beliefs that argue with Truth. 

    Let’s do an example-  I am feeling fearful (emotion) and that is my signal to pause and figure out what I am believing or thinking. Maybe I identify that I am thinking I don’t measure up or I am not enough. How does God’s Word speak to that fear? I find Bible verses on my identity in Christ. Biblical affirmations would also speak to my value in Christ. Now, I am going to prayerfully ask God to help me to believe what His Word says about me rather than believe I am not enough.

    It sounds simple enough, but converting Scripture from head knowledge to heart knowledge can be challenging. This is something that we can’t do in our own strength. We have to depend on God’s divine power and our divine weapons (sword of the Spirit and praying in the Spirit).

    Obstacles to Taking Thoughts Captive

    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, start a bible study 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 are 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.

    Rejoice always, pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

    How to Take Every Thought Captive: 3 Tips

    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. Let’s practice doing this with our own life. Don’t just look at what is going wrong. Be intentional in looking at what is going right as well! Find the good.

    I will cover the next two strategies more briefly. Journaling has a REALLY big impact on maintaining a healthy thought life. There are ways to journal hurtful events so they don’t build up. This is especially helpful if you are struggling with dwelling on the past, unforgiveness, personalizing, or negativity (just to name a few). 

    Lastly, but most importantly, God’s Word. The renewing of your mind on a  daily basis with God’s Word (Romans 12:2) 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 increasingly aligned with Truth.

    Final Thoughts on How to Take Every Thought Captive

    Take courage! The patterns of thoughts in our mind 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 be demolished. 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 on this side of heaven.

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

    Check out the 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! Authored by a Licensed Christian Therapist and Life Coach. Check out the overview video here. Don’t take my word for it…see what others are saying as well!


    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!

          • Licelle on August 11, 2020 at 9:30 pm

            Thank you I’ve been in a battle on this. This article helps a lot. God bless you

            • Sunshyne Gray on August 11, 2020 at 9:37 pm

              Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave encouraging words, Licelle!

    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?


      • 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


      • 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 […]

      • Mildred McKenzie on January 20, 2022 at 12:03 pm

        My thoughts are all over the place. Needless to say, I feel powerless to conquer them. I struggle with negative thoughts against the Holy Spirit and I need deliverance. I need the Holy Spirit’s power.

    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 […]

    23. Pearl on September 7, 2020 at 12:49 pm

      Thank you so much for these wise words! You’re right! It’s hard work to take thoughts captive. I’ve discovered that the faster I replace the negative in my mind with a Word from God..the better!😇

      • Sunshyne Gray on September 9, 2020 at 9:25 am

        Me too, Pearl! The longer my brain stays on the negative the harder it is to divert it back on track.

    24. 12 Ways to Calm Anxiety Fast! - Christian Counseling on September 23, 2020 at 11:13 am

      […] Taking Thoughts Captive (With Bible Study) […]

    25. Michael Carron on August 24, 2022 at 9:15 am


      I want to learn more about the research completed that supports “Taking Thoughts Captive”. I am the treasurer of a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, http://www.WordBearer.org that is producing a pilot episode for web series titled Oopsey Daisey to be distributed on streaming services. I am writing a grant proposal and would like to site the research completed.

      Thank you,
      Michael Carron

    26. Sunshyne on February 22, 2023 at 8:49 am

      This is a good follow up article as you begin to take thoughts captive… https://sunshynegray.com/what-are-core-beliefs-free-download/

    27. […] 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 […]

    28. […] the words we say to ourselves are not based on the words God says about us, we must take those thoughts captive. The way we clean the lens through which we see ourselves requires God’s Word. This is where […]

    29. […] Taking Thoughts Captive {free Bible study} […]

    30. […] provides a powerful way to draw closer to God through His Word. Memorizing Scripture can help you take thoughts captive, find strength in hard situations and share Truth with others. The Bible is full of timeless wisdom […]

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