How to Deal With Negative Thoughts

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2017 23 May

a woman sits, looking out a window, thinking

Ever try not thinking a particular thought? The harder you try, the likelier you are to think it. I appreciate the way one woman deals with her propensity to think in negative ways:

“My negative thoughts are like impatient toddlers jumping up and down and screaming, ‘Look at me, look at me.’ Jesus and I take the negative ‘toddler thoughts’ and send them to time-out so we can focus on the good thoughts. Sometimes they don’t obey. They get up out of the chair and once again scream for attention. Then Jesus and I take those thoughts back to the time-out chair, but this time we tie them up!” 1

Though no analogy is perfect (I am sure, for instance, that she isn’t advocating tying children to time-out chairs), we can extend the comparison in helpful ways. For instance, whenever our “toddler thoughts” scream for attention, we can simply distract them or redirect them, calling to mind specific instances of God’s faithfulness and his promises, and thanking him for gifts we have already received. Distraction works because if we fill our minds with positive thoughts, there is no room for negative ones.

Of course, I am not advocating that we ignore every negative thought. Sometimes we need to pay attention to them so we can solve problems. But most of us know the difference between problem solving and merely rehearsing doubts, complaints, and negativity, which only corrode our faith and rob us of the peace God promises.

  1. Linda Dillow, Calm My Anxious Heart (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2007), 32–33.