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Battling Bad Thoughts
By Brian Price 4/10/2011

Watch "This is my comfort! (Bad Thoughts Help)" on GodTube

Win The War On Your Mind

"I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love." - Psalms 119:113
There is one battle that some people go through that no one will ever know about. It is so dark, so horrific, that not one word would be spoken to even their spouse, their pastor, or their closest friend to clue them in on such a battle. That battle is the battle against bad thoughts.

I have suffered with bad thoughts probably the most within the past couple years. I really didn't have bad thoughts until I became a Christian. What I mean by bad thoughts is unwanted, intrusive thoughts. Of course, God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen. 6:5)

But that's not what I am talking about. Sure, before I was a Christian, the only thing that was on my mind was the same thing that is on every young man's mind. And we all know what that is! But, what I am talking about in this article is much, much more terrifying.

Imagine being in a room, and there is no escape out of this room. The only thing in this room is a radio. And on the radio, they are playing music with the most blasphemous, horrific words imaginable. You try to change the channel on the radio, but the radio has no dials on it. You try to smash it on the ground, but it is nailed to the wall so that it cannot move. You try to kick it to destroy it, but it is made out of metal. You sleep, and you hear it. You wake up, and you hear it. You eat, and you hear it. Day in, and day out, this radio is playing, and there is absolutely no relief whatsoever.

That is what it is like to live with intrusive (unwanted) thoughts. They are the most horrific words and images imaginable that one just cannot possibly get rid of. They are invincible to anything that you throw at them. They are there day in, and day out. There is almost no rest from its torment. Sometimes you wonder if it's really you who is putting those thoughts there. You wonder if it's the devil. You really are never sure. You feel the most intense and horrific guilt, and there is just nothing you can do to stop these things.

According to one source:

"One of the most painful elements of obsessive complusive disorder (OCD) are the intrusive thoughts that many people with OCD experience.

These involuntary thoughts or images become obsessions. The main features of intrusive obsessive thoughts are that they are automatic, frequent, upsetting or distressing, and difficult to control or get rid of." - http://web.archive.org/web/20070928162343/http://www.ocdaction.org.uk/ocdaction/index.asp?id=433

Some kinds of intrusive thoughts include:

"> Repetitive blasphemous thoughts
> Thoughts about impulsively saying blasphemous words or committing blasphemous acts while attending religious services
> Intrusive sexual thoughts about God, saints, religious figures, etc.
> Intrusive 'bad' thoughts or images that occur during prayer, meditation, or other observances that 'contaminate' and ruin or cancel out the value of these activities"
- http://web.archive.org/web/20050324003859/www.homestead.com/westsuffolkpsych/Sin.html

It is truly discouraging and distressing to have to live with these unwanted thoughts. If you live with such constant thoughts, then you very well know the effect it has on your daily life. It is almost like having internal Tourette's Syndrome. In fact, intrusive thoughts are believed to be associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it is sometimes tied in with people who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Intrusive thoughts are practically paralyzing when they occur at a rapid rate.

To explain the experience, picture a lake. The lake in this case is a person's mind and tranquility. A normal person's lake is on most days calm with a light breeze. From time to time, there are storms that arise with the cares of life, and usually after some time, the sun comes back out, and the once tempestous lake is calm again. For a person who battles intrusive thoughts, it seems that only during times when one's mind is completely engaged in an activity (like sleep), that the lake is at a calm. But a normal day for this person has a wearisome tsunami of fearful thoughts that crash on his shores on a daily basis, with only a slight hour or two of calm seas. It is a constant barrage of storm and cold and harsh winds. The peace is gone most of the time, and only when this person is actively engaged in something, that is when there is a calm. It can be very distressing at times.

I was diagnosed in the 5th grade with ADHD. I know what it's like to be the only one in church who changes his seating position at least 50 times within a 30 minute sermon. While everyone else is sitting calmly listening to the message, I'm in my own little corner rebuking Satan for trying to fill my mind with evil thoughts, and I'm constantly trying to ignore the big pink elephant worth of bad thoughts that is standing off in the corner of my eye.

For a normal person, an intrusive thought may enter his mind, and it is quickly dismissed as a nuissance. For a person with OCD, the intrusive thought becomes a point of concentration. The person who suffers from its terror often will focus on that thought. For instance, if for some reason, somebody says, "That guy looked as white as a ghost." For the person who suffers from intrusive thoughts, fears flood in and he starts to think that he is about to blaspheme the Holy Ghost.

He thinks, "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" And then he might try to repeat in his mind what that person said, and he may try to change the words in the sentence to something like, "That guy looked as white as a goat." But the constant focus on that fear and potential bad thought won't go away until something distracts him otherwise. I know this sounds strange to the normal person, but for a sufferer with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), this is exactly what they battle.

You Are Not Alone

"8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world."
- 1 Peter 5:8-9
One source of great comfort is knowing that I am not the only one who suffers from a cruel affliction. When I started to read about other people who went through the same ordeal of battling unwanted thoughts, it brought me great comfort knowing that I was not alone.

Obsessive compulsive thoughts are so prevalent, that according to Lee Baer, author of The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts, they are the most common kind of OCD worldwide, as opposed to the stereotypical kind of OCD like excessive handwashing. In fact, just in the United States alone, if one were to combine all of the people who suffer from intrusive thoughts, they would make up the 4th largest city in America.

The Bible says that you should know that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. The same things you are going through, other Christians are going through them as well.

How To Get Victory

"This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me." - Psalms 119:50
Psalms 119 is perhaps the best chapter in all of the Bible when it comes to battling mental afflictions. King David obviously had a lavish lifestyle. He had many wives, riches in abundance, and was in charge of an entire kingdom. His fame spread throughout the entire world, and his life has been read by millions. But even though King David had such an "easy life" as we would say, he still suffered from some terrible afflictions.

What did he suffer from? What compelled him to write such a book as the book of Psalms which is filled with prayers crying out to God for help for his afflictions?

Many believe it was his experiences during his flights from King Saul, when he had to flee for his life. His life hanged in the balance many days, and he constantly went from cave to cave, and safe haven to safe haven. He had no certain dwelling place in those years.

But I think King David's greatest battles were not from without, but they were from within. His battles with his own mind, and his own flesh. Psalms 119 is the longest chapter in the entire Bible, and it is filled with pleas for God to help David with his agonies.

"Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine own affliction." - Psalms 119:92
David experienced such agony and pain in his mind, and I believe that it was his sufferings that compelled him to write Psalms 119 under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Never has a book been so comforting to a believer as the Psalms. Never a chapter has been so read and cherished as Psalms 119. It is the longest chapter in the Bible, and it is exactly in the middle of the Bible. All one has to do is put his finger in the middle of the Bible, and open it up, and there Psalms 119 is. God put it there to encourage and comfort the believer.
"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." - Romans 15:4
Those feelings which we cannot formulate into words, the Psalms formulates for us. The only victory for the person who suffers from intrusive thoughts is found in Jesus Christ, and his holy word. The scriptures give us comfort and hope. And it is Jesus from which this divine power flows. Truly, our source of comfort is the Word of God (Jesus).

Many times when I feel an episode of intrusive thoughts coming on, I will immediately find a Bible, and turn to Psalms 119. It is pretty much the only relief I can find from these horrific thoughts. The Bible says that to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Our carnal minds are already enemies to God. We wonder why our thoughts tend to always be aimed directly at God. The reason for that is because our minds are naturally enmity with God.

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." - Romans 8:7

I once heard my pastor talk about a man who he knew that suffered greatly in his mind. He said that his mind was miracously healed through reading the Psalms. I can verify this man's claim to healing because I too suffer very much in my mind, and the only relief and peace I get is when my mind is completely submerged in the Psalms. Much of the time, it is Psalms 119 that I read. And if you read Psalms 119, you notice that there are only two persons that are mentioned in the context over and over again. That is God, and the psalmist. Constantly, there is reference to himself (David) and to God. The reason for that is because sometimes we HAVE to pray for ourselves. We need the Lord.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." - Isaiah 26:3
So yes, living with intrusive thoughts is like living in a room with a radio blarring the most obscene things. But, when we rely upon the Lord, and speak to ourselves in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, it is as if God just walks right into the room, puts his hand on the radio, and turns the volume down. He doesn't necessarily take the radio out of the room, but he does silence the noise it makes.
"6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
- Philippians 4:6-8

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