Rapid Relief For a Running Mind
By Steve Leavitt and Buddy Vaughn
Eight Strategies to Take Your Thoughts Captive & Get Relief Now!
Your mind is racing. The all consuming feeling of worry and guilt is so heavy in you, on you and around you feel like it’s almost a monster or separate being that is attacking your heart, mind and spirit. It’s a secret battle. The load is too heavy to carry but you don’t know any way out.
You could never tell anyone what you are thinking right now. The thoughts are too graphic, too vile or so silly that you feel like someone would laugh in your face if you told them. Or they would judge you as the worst person on earth...if they only knew. If they only knew what you were really thinking even the people who are closest to you or love you most would shutter with shock, horror and disbelief that you could ever “think” such a thing. Surely they would think differently of you or see you in a different way if they only knew.
Maybe you have done something that you are sure is a sin. You wonder if you crossed the line. You worry you have disappointed God. You are putting yourself through “self condemnation” because you need to pay a price for what you have done. You feel so bad about yourself, there must be some penance you have to pay. You just need to figure out what exactly. Until then you will just keep adding to your personal mountain of guilt.
Or it could be that you are sure you are dying. You have all the symptoms. Something does not feel right. You’ve looked it up on the internet. You know it has to be. It’s going to be horrible. You don’t want to die. You are too young, too many people need you. You just can’t stop your mind from thinking about it or your heart from racing. You just wish you knew if it was true or not but you are too scared to find out.
You are going to need to exchange truth for a lie. You are going to need to replace your thoughts with His thoughts. Remember your feelings can lie to you. Your head can lie to you. Satan who is the Father of lies wants to accuse you, confuse and bombard you so that you cannot discern the truth and Freedom Christ has for you from what you are feeling right now. So get ready to take in the truth. For it shall surely set you free. Rest your mind and get ready to hear what the truth is. Here we go.
Step 1: Identify Your Obsession.
You need to distinguish between what your obsession is and who you are as a person. It does not define who you are; it’s just something you struggle with. We have pointed to how you may be feeling but let’s look at some common or classic obsessions. According to the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation here are some typical ones. Dirt, germs and contamination; A fear of acting on violent impulses. Like worrying you want to kill someone or those close to you. Feeling overly responsible for the safety of others; Having abhorrent religious or sexual thoughts. Unfounded fear of having a serious illness. Some compulsions would be repetitive behavior such as hand washing, bathing, counting, checking , touching, or arranging. It could be you continually focus on a minor body defect or you are unhappy with something about your body and you can’t stop thinking about it.
What you are going to learn is that your Obsession does not affect how accepted you are in the eyes of God. You are not a bad person because you obsess, no more that a person with Diabetes is bad because they struggle with the body’s inability to create insulin. Your obsession is not you. It’s simply a struggle you need to get tools to learn how to deal with.
Step 2: Understand you are not alone.
First, it’s not just you that struggles with these intrusive thoughts. Again according to the National Obsession Compulsive Foundation, at any one time in the US at least 5 million people are struggling with the symptoms of OCD. In fact according to USA Today people missed twice as many days from work last year from depression and related issues than any other chronic disorder….even cancer. You are not crazy. You are not going to go crazy. Other people struggle with the exact same thought, fears and worries you struggle with.
Second and more importantly is the fact that your Heavenly Father also knows you are hurting and He is here to help. He is in your corner. He knew from the beginning of time that you would need His help and He is here to give it you. He is not going to leave you to suffer alone in this.
God can give you comfort when we learn how to receive it. Notice it’s nothing we can do, but open our heart and minds to receive the comfort of God. And then one day, when you see someone else struggling, you get to be a part of God touching someone else’s life. Right now you may not feel like it could ever happen. But I’m here to tell you it can. It’s God’s design. In fact it’s why we are here.
Step 3: When your thoughts are running away with you… then you need to run to a safe place.
When you are in the moment where your thoughts have you trapped. Remember there is safety and shelter in God. Turn your focus from what you have been thinking about and begin to zone in on light of God’s of word and who He is. In the New King James version of the Bible let’s look at Psalm 57 to see what this looks like. It reads “Be merciful to me, O, God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in you.” There is perfect safety and perfect peace there. You can run to Him until the calamities have passed you by. Until the thoughts subside. It’s good to know that there can be a future without these thoughts. But when they come take refuge under the perfect protection of His wings.
We know what it is to cry. All we need to do is cry out to a God who hears. God will answer by setting you free. When you begin to experience freedom then you know it’s of God.
Step 4: Humble yourself.
It seems counterintuitive because you may have never felt worse about yourself or lower. But the truth is feeling bad about yourself or feeling low is not humility. Believe it or not you, like me, may have spent the last several years of your life trying to figure your way out of how you feel. But look at the focus. You are trying to do something in your own strength that you were not meant to do. You are trying to carry a load that is too heavy for you to carry. So let see what God’s word says. I Peter 5:6 says “Humble yourself , therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” When you come to place where you can admit to God that the load is too heavy…then God can lift you up.
Step 5: Root yourself in God’s love.
In Ephesians 3:16 Paul says “I pray that through His glorious riches that He may strengthen you with power through His spirit, in your inner being.” Wouldn’t you say that this battle you are going through is happening in your “inner being”? Absolutely! We tend to suffer in secret. Paul is saying we are weak but Christ is so strong that out of His glorious riches He can strengthen our inner being. He prays that we would get stronger. And it gets even better.
Romans 8:39 “Neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus or Lord.”
Exodus 34:6 “And he passed in front of Moses proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
Step 6: Take your obsession, confession and sin to the one who can take it away.
There are many times we experience so much guilt with our thoughts that we don’t know what to do. We wondered if we crossed the line, we wonder if we have sinned. Maybe you did sin. Many times when you struggle with OCD you will never know. You run it the scene over and over in your mind. Trying to pinpoint the exact moment when you could have messed up. The good news is, that no matter what it is, if we confess it to Christ He promises to forgive us and purify us, so that we don’t have to carry the guilt anymore. It all stops with Him.
1 John 1:9” If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteous.”
What do we do? Simply confess to Christ. What does He promise to do? Purify us. From how much unrighteousness? All of it. It all stops with Him. If you have done this and you pick it back up, then go back and identify it for what it is. It’s obsession. Nothing more and nothing less. It’s no longer sin. That was taken care. It’s no longer your guilt to carry. You have been purified. Just take it back to step one. Separate and identify your obsession from who you are as a person. It’s just a struggle.
Step 7: Learn the difference between Obsession & Self Condemnation and Conviction and God’s loving Correction.
The obsessive mind is always searching for something to feel bad about. It’s just the way it works. It always seems to be hunting for something to hook into to make you feel that overwhelming, all consuming, joy stealing guilt. For a Christian who struggles with Obsessive thoughts that often relates to “I think I sinned when…”, “My thoughts are so revolting surely I sinned against God when I thought…”. One of the most important tools you can use is to learn the distinction between Self Condemnation, or you taking in your own hands to convict yourself of sin and God’s correction for actual sin in your life. In reality they are worlds apart.
Galatians 5:1 says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Are you enjoying Freedom in Christ? If not, what yoke of slavery are you being burdened with? If you are trying to be your own Holy spirit, you are going to be miserable. Because it is for Freedom that Christ set us free. Think about it. Christ experienced all the pain and suffering on the cross – so you could be Free. Free from fear, free from guilt, free from the judgments of our sin, free from the law, free from slavery, just free. What an amazing gift. Take hold of it. Don’t let it go. Thank God for it. Enjoy it and praise Him.
Step 8: Praise God in the midst of your Fear and Find Freedom.
Remember that when you are having an anxiety attack and your body feels like you are dying that it is actually the physiological response to anxiety. You are afraid of dying and your body responds physically. First your brain is sending signals saying that you are in danger and should be afraid. In reality you are not in any danger at all it just feels like it. Your mind is saying we either need to fight or run for our lives. It tells you that something is very wrong and doom is eminent. The simple truth is you are completely safe. You are going to be just fine.
While many people may worry from time to time that minor physical symptoms may be a sign of a serious illness.
People with hypochondria often have other struggles; two thirds of patients also have major depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder.
It is very common for this person to have unknown pains throughout you body, feel like you are having a heart attack, or have the sensation that you are about to pass out. These feeling are real but are not true. The truth is, if you look at it statistically, you are going to be OK.
Let’s look at how to begin to calm these fears. You begin by training yourself to believe the truth in these moments.
Psalm 34 NIV is a great road map. In Verse 1 it says “I will extol (NAS bless) the Lord at all times. His praise will continually be in my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice”
Are you afflicted? Sure you are. You are afflicted with fear. This verse was written just for you! The pain and fear is very real. Then this scripture says to “rejoice”. But how can I do that? Your fears seem so overwhelming. You begin by praising God for all He has done so far in your life.
Here is something to really rejoice about. Psalm 34 verse 4 says “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
God can deliver you. From every single one of your fears. You will gain power over your anxiety when you no longer fear it.
Another strategy is to say “bring it on” “let’s get this over with so I can “go on”.
Almost every client I have ever seen for this has been to the cardiologist or ER thinking they are having a heart attack.
Most of my clients get prescribed and anti-depressant (SSRI), usually Lexipro, and an anti-anxiety medication (Benzodiazepines) like Xanax (Alprazolam), Klonopin (Clonazepam) or Ativan (Lorazepam).
While I am generally against the use of medication to take the place of spiritual health and healthy thinking, I do believe the medications are extremely helpful in the beginning to help get your head above water. Especially an anti-anxiety medication that give you control over your anxiety.
Here are some more excellent verses you can meditate on to comfort you in the mist of your anxiety and obsessive hypochondria.
Matthew 6:25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body…
God is going to take care of you!
Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
God is going to be with you today, tomorrow and forever!
Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
Just like a Dad rushes to help a child who has hurt themselves, we can cry out to God when we are hurting.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear), but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
The fear you have is not what God had in mind for you.
Hebrews 3:5-6 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." 6So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
God is in your corner. He knows right where you are at and what you will face today.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The key that unlocks the door to peace starts with prayer.
1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
The creator of the universe, who hold the stars in His hands, cares for you!
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Here is a very brief description of the fundamentals of overcoming anxiety
1. "We do what we do because we believe what we believe"
2. Most of the fears, worries and anxieties we have result from the lie's we believe.
A. Figure out what lie's you believe
1. If some one rejects me, I am un-loveable.....that's a lie
2. If I don't have enough money, my world will fall apart.....that's a lie
3. If I lose my spouse or children, my life is over.....that's a lie
4. If my spouse or children don't love me well, I will be destroyed....that's a lie
5. When I am not perfect, God does not love me as much......that's a lie
6. I must control everything or I may experience the unknown, which is bad....that's a lie
B. Satan is the father of lies and he will use them to destroy you. God is a God of hope and truth and will give you peace and joy with any circumstance. Have big faith!
3. After you sort out what lie's you believe, counter them with God's truth. Then run that through your mind over and over again. Replace the lie's with truth!
Here are the 20 most common lie or thinking errors people believe by Dr. Paul Carlin's book Change your beliefs...Change your life
1. The Disqualifying Lie: You reject good, positive experiences by insisting they do not count for one reason or another.
2. The all or nothing Lie: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfection, you see yourself as a total failure. There is no middle ground.
3. The Overgeneralization Lie: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
4. The Mind-Reading Lie: You arbitrarily conclude that some one is reacting negatively to you, and you don't bother to check it out. You prematurely define how people are feeling toward you. Without their saying so, you think you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do.
5. The Magnification / Catastrophizing / Minimization Lie: You exaggerate the importance of thing such a failures, falling short, or someone else's achievement, or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny. Catastrophic thing, "I'm going to have a heart attack." Catastrophic symptoms triggered by encountering the object/situation of a phobia or fear. You expect disaster. "What if's" control your thinking.
6. The Personalization Lie: You see yourself as the cause of some problem, or take on someone's opinion as having more value that it should. You take statements and events personally. You compare yourself to other people.
7. The Control Lie: You see yourself as helpless, a victim of circumstances and controlling people.
8. The Fairness Lie: You feel life ins not fair. You have more talent and ability than other people who have greater success. You feel resentful because you think you know what is fair and other people will not agree with you.
9. The Blaming Lie: You hold other people responsible for your misfortune and bad breaks.
10. The "Should" Lie: You try to motivate yourself with 'should" and "should not," as if you needed to be whipped into shape and punished before you accomplish anything. "Musts" and "oughts" also fall into this category.
11. The Labeling and Mislabeling Lie: This is an Extreme for of the Overgeneralization. Instead of identifying the lie you believe, you attach a negative label to your self. i.e., "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him/her i.e. "He's a jerk". Mislabeling involves describing some events with profanity or emotionally labeled in another negative way.
12. The performance-Based Lie: God will love me more if I am a better person. I must meet certain standards in order to feel good about myself.
13. The emotional reasoning Lie: You assume that your darkened emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are. i.e. "I feel it, it must be true" If you fell inferior, inadequate, senseless, unattractive, dumb, crude, or boring, then you must be the person your feeling reflects.
14. The Jumping to Conclusions Lie: You make a premature judgment about people, events and statements. You make a negative or positive interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
15. The Approval Lie: You believe you must have the approval of people to feel valid or validated as a person.
16. The Unworthy Lie: People who fail are unworthy of love an deserve to be punished.
17. The "I Cannot Change" Lie: I have been like this as long as I can remember and I cannot change/ I want to stop, but I cannot stop.
18. The "Conform to My Image" Lie: I want to change people, even my spouse, into whom I believe they should be. I want people to be the way I want them to be.
19. The "Forget the Past" Lie: If I really have forgotten my pasts failures and mistakes, I would never remember them again.
20. The "If I have God I don't Need People" Lie: All I need is the power and presence of God. Since Christ is enough for me, it is God and me against the world.