Written By Riley Sands
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
It all started with my second rejection for a work placement.
I had applied for two work placements—one with an independent publishing company and the other with the university where I was pursuing my Master’s. Since I had previous work experience at a publishing company, I surmised I’d have an edge over the other candidates for my first placement. However, I was rejected.
In the subsequent weeks, I was reeling with disbelief. But the hopelessness dissipated when I received news that I was shortlisted for an interview for the other (and much-desired) placement. It was a research assistantship with the university, and I wanted it badly. But to my disappointment, I was notified two days after the interview that I wasn’t selected.
After this second rejection, I was back to reeling, desperately trying to make sense of everything. Questions like, “How did it happen?” and “Why didn’t God bless me with this placement?” kept replaying in my mind like a broken record. That night, instead of dwelling on God’s faithful provision in my life over the years (Deuteronomy 2:7), I continued to dwell on my rejections and started to doubt His goodness.
The negativity eventually morphed into a myriad of voices and my mind quickly filled with harsh condemnation. “You messed up the interview!”, “You have years of work experience and still can’t even get a decent placement!!”, and “People will see what a failure you are.” With tears streaming down my face, I tried to shut out these thoughts, but it was to no avail. Instead, the accusations grew louder and gradually cut deeper, eventually leading to thoughts like, “You are useless” and “You are not worthy of God’s love”.
I knew right away that something wasn’t right. Fear and trepidation rose within me. It occurred to me that if I were to allow those words to sink it, it would be a slippery slope to wallowing in self-pity. I made up my mind that I didn’t want to go there.
The thing about negative thoughts is that they don’t develop overnight. In fact, they are bred over a long period of time.
When I was growing up, I faced various rejections and disappointments in my pursuits. Often, this led me to believe that I’m just not good enough. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that because of these negative experiences, I’m susceptible to letting my mind become consumed with negative thoughts—and that has helped me realize that I must fight the hardest to think godly thoughts in those moments.
Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” I recognized the fleshly, sinful nature of my un-true and self-degrading thoughts, and it brought me to the Lord in repentance. With renewed strength, I spoke against the dark voices in my head and searched Scripture so I could fill my mind with God’s promises instead.
I would turn to promises like, “He does not make us timid but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7), and remind myself that this God-given power gives us the strength to fight against spiritual darkness, including negativity that threatens to consume me.
I found comfort in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, where he encouraged them to fill their minds with godly thoughts:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
As I began applying these verses to my thought life, the voices stopped and God’s peace came upon me. By replacing defeating thoughts with constructive biblical ones, I began a journey of committing every thought and making it obedient to God.
Even after this specific episode, I wouldn’t say negative thoughts have stopped polluting my mind entirely. Sometimes, criticism and doubt unknowingly start creeping into my mind, especially when I contemplate my future.
But now I know better how to respond—I take these thoughts captive and remind myself of God’s truth. It’s never easy to do that because it requires a lot of discipline to not let my emotions get the better of me.
However, I remember that as Christians, we are, “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37), and even though negative thoughts can nudge us into thinking that God has abandoned us in times of crisis, the truth is that He is always with us in every step (Isaiah 41:10). Turning to His Word daily helps to drown out the noisy thoughts that compete for space in our minds.
Today, I’m still applying for other job opportunities. The process is slower than I’ve expected. But I’ve grown in confidence and choosing to not allow negative thoughts to take root in my mind. Instead, I am learning to take joy in the process, knowing that my God knows exactly what I need for the next phase in my life.