What does the Bible say about intrusive thoughts? Here are six Bible verses to help you battle unwanted intrusive thoughts.
1. Battle Intrusive Thoughts with Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
One symptom of intrusive thoughts manifests in the fear of being unforgiven for a sin if you don’t confess that sin specifically and after every instance that you commit that sin. This causes an OCD loop where you obsessively worry about being unforgiven and then you compulsively confess your sin over and over again.
Hebrews 10:14 is so important because it stops this unhealthy loop by reminding us that we are already made perfect once and for all through the blood of Jesus. Of course we should still confess our sins when we sin, but so often intrusive thoughts are not really a sin but just a manifestation of OCD thinking and fear. By embracing the truth that you are perfected in Christ, you can avoid the compulsion to confess sins you have already confessed.
As 1 John 1:9 also states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confess a sin once, and then move on. Anything more than that is unbiblical.
2. Battle Intrusive Thoughts with Romans 7:18-20, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
It’s important to rightly categorize the problems that you are facing when it comes to intrusive thoughts. From a biblical perspective, there are three entities we need to constantly remember when thinking about ourselves: The body, the sin nature, and the new nature.
The body is morally neutral and is the vessel in which the old or new nature manifests. At their most fundamental level, unwanted intrusive thoughts are a body issue (meaning the brain). By the term intrusive thoughts, we are not talking about sinful thinking or evil thoughts but more so the repeated thoughts or the unwanted thoughts that are not consciously chosen but keep appearing in our minds. However, the sin nature then uses this bodily disorder to manifest evil thoughts that are sinful. So the repetition and intrusiveness is a brain issue but the evil and sin in those thoughts is a sinful nature issue.
Romans 7:18-20 is so helpful because it teaches us that neither this broken body or the sinful flesh are the truest things about a Christian. The true person in Christ is a new creation. Thus, you can compartmentalize unwanted and intrusive thoughts and accept that those are not coming from the true you in Jesus.
So when an intrusive thought comes, just say, “That’s not the real me in Christ.” And then simply move on, letting the thought pass, resisting the temptation to engage any further with that unwanted thought.
3. Battled Intrusive Thoughts with Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Intrusive thoughts gain a deeper and deeper foothold in your thought-life the more you pay attention to them. The more you worry about not having an intrusive thought, the more intrusive thoughts you will have. The reason for this is that the mind can’t “not think” about something. Rather, the mind can only think about other things.
Romans 8:6 states, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Notice this verse states it’s an either-or option here. You can either set your mind on the flesh or you can set your mind on the Spirit. But you can’t just have a blank mind.
When you try to avoid unwanted thoughts through avoidance, it doesn’t work. But if you choose to occupy your mind with healthier thinking because you are staying busy doing God’s work for you, then your mind will be too busy doing good so it doesn’t have time to focus on the bad. This is what Romans 12:21 is teaching us.
4. Battle Intrusive Thoughts with Matthew 6:22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
The eyes provide the fodder in which the mind burns. If your thoughts are like a fire, your eyes are like your hand reaching for another log to place on that fire.
When your eyes are looking at bad things, it gives your mind bad materials to build thoughts with. But when your eyes are looking at good things, it will give your mind good materials to build better thoughts with.
5. Battle Intrusive Thoughts with Ephesians 4:22-24, “. . . to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Your beliefs about yourself will control the types of thought you are having. If you believe you are an unholy, wretched person that is corrupted by deceitful desires, you will have wicked thoughts. Indeed, this was our “former manner of life” before the Spirit of God came into us.
But now we need to remember we are no longer our old, sinful nature. Now we are made new through Jesus, thus we must “put on the new self” which is “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
If you are a Christian, you must keep renewing your mind by reminding yourself that you are not your old self but now you are truly righteous and holy because Jesus has made you righteous and holy. When you believe this about yourself, your mind will produce holy thoughts.
6. Battle Intrusive Thoughts with Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Perfectionism is often an underlying issue for intrusive thoughts. Our fear of not praying perfect and thinking perfect causes us to worry and over think every little issue. But by remembering that the Holy Spirit is actually praying on our behalf when we lack the perfect words to pray, we can rest in the knowledge that we don’t always have to have the perfect thoughts and prayers.
God covers us with grace. We need him, not our own perfect works.
Here’s a playlist of past videos I’ve done about how to overcome intrusive thoughts according to the Bible.
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