Have you ever experienced an injustice that opened a door to negative thinking and toxic emotions? Most likely, your answer is yes.

Several years ago, I was overtaken by worry, fear, and then anger over a situation at our church. Yes, this can happen to pastors, too!

Worry and anger consumed me, and I couldn’t sleep for a couple of nights after getting the news. What occurred was unjust, and I wanted the wrong to be righted. The anger I was feeling was connected to negative thinking and other harmful emotions. My worry led to fear, which fueled the harmful emotions that were affecting my sleep and my disposition. I had moved from trusting God to worrying about what would happen next.

You might be wondering what the incident was that caused my emotions to become toxic. A few years ago, our church contractor called to let me know he was filing bankruptcy and couldn’t complete the construction of our new sanctuary building. Our project was only 75% complete, behind schedule, and exceeded the entire project budget.

My initial reaction was shock, then anger developed. He didn’t seem to care, after all, “business is business,” right?! I chose to forgive him, although “feelings” of forgiveness would come later. Once I chose to forgive, I was able to overcome my negative thinking and emotions. I moved from the “law” back into “grace,” and God began to work a miracle for our church.

Usually those who wrong us are either unaware of causing harm or are uncaring about how their behavior affected us. As Jesus said, it is impossible to live life without suffering offenses. How we handle wrongs and offenses—and our subsequent thinking and emotions—will determine our state of being and wellness, whether we abide in God’s peace and joy or are consumed by emotions of worry, fear, anger, unforgiveness, etc.

Our church board hired another contractor and discovered we needed an additional $300,000 to correct some of the construction and complete the project. However, within months, we finished the new sanctuary and, after a couple of years, we began to recover from the financial setback the situation had caused us.

God worked a miracle for our church, and I learned even more about forgiveness and the detrimental effects of negative thinking and emotions. Seriously, I could write a long book on the “ABCs of Forgiveness!” (In my book, Fulfill Your Dreams, I devote an entire chapter to the importance of forgiveness.)

Left unresolved, anger and negativity become toxic, like taking poison. Our inner person becomes poisoned, and God’s peace and joy are thwarted in our lives.

During the last four weeks, I taught a series titled “Principles to Live an Abundant Life.”

In parts 3 & 4 of that series, I discuss how spiritual attack of the enemy attempts to rob us of living a fulfilled and abundant life in God. I stated how most of the spiritual warfare we encounter is with our thought life.

The enemy, just like he did with Jesus in the wilderness, tempts through subtle suggestions and half-truths. If we take his bait and agree with his lies, we empower him. Remember—he is defeated, he gains power when we give it to him through agreement with his lies, which typically come as thoughts and impressions to our minds.

Look at what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Although we live in the world, we don’t fight our battles with human methods. Our weapons that we fight with aren’t human, but instead they are powered by God for the destruction of fortresses. They destroy arguments, and every defense that is raised up to oppose the knowledge of God. They capture every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5 CEB)

The NKJV states this way, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down of strongholds…”

Strongholds or fortresses are primarily ungodly belief systems… they need to be dismantled and replaced with Godly truths and beliefs. A fortress keeps others out and, in the case of our minds, can keep thoughts captive within. But negative, ungodly thoughts must be resisted and replaced with God’s truth.

Today, I want to continue with discussing principles to overcome negative thinking and emotions. Next week, I will discuss how we can establish positive thinking and emotions in our lives.

The Effect of Negative Thoughts and Emotions

Let me ask a rhetorical question: do negative emotions affect us? The writer of Proverbs gives us the answer:

A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones.” (Prov. 14:30 AMPCE)

The English word rottenness in this verse translates from the Hebrew word rā·qāḇ which means ‘something rotten, an organic object which decays, an infection, or degeneration of a joint or bone which can cause pain or weakness.’[1]

Let me re-word Proverbs 14:30 according to the definition of rā·qāḇ, “A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and anger are like an infection that causes decay of your joints or bones, which can cause pain or weakness.

The Bible is clear—maintaining a peaceful mind and heart aids your overall health!

Studies show that over 85% of all disease is rooted in our thought life and emotions.

In her book, Who Switched Off My Brain?, Dr. Caroline Leaf, a researcher in cognitive neuroscience since 1985, states that 87% of the illnesses plaguing people today are a direct result of their negative thought life.

Her research indicates that “toxic emo­tions can cause migraines, hypertension, strokes, cancer, skin problems, diabetes, infections, and allergies.” [2]  She concludes that what we think about tangibly affects us both physically and emotionally.

Her studies indicate that fear triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses and activates more than thirty different hormones and neurotransmitters.[3]

Millions die each year of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. It is likely, based on Dr. Leaf’s research, that a high percentage of those affected by disease is due to negative emotions. Perhaps if someone had taught them how to eliminate negative emotions, some of them might be alive today.

I believe it is right to conclude that some of our diseases are indicators—or messengers—of negative emotions and spiritual root issues that need to be addressed.

However, instead of addressing these spiritual issues, we typically ignore or cover these indicators. We mask the sickness, often through medication, without addressing our soul needs. Consequently, often the sickness reappears—sometimes fatally.

For example, our sickness may be telling us, “You need to forgive and get rid of your anger.” But instead of forgiving, we often just take medication. Or our illness may be telling us, “You need to stop worrying and trust God more.” But instead of trusting, we take antacids or other meds.

Or our anxiety may be telling us, “You need to stop working too hard and relax more with your family.” But instead of enjoying our families and taking time to exercise and relax, we take meds… or worse, self-medicate—perhaps by drinking heavily or using other substances.

Hebrew Perspective on Wellness

One of the early leaders of the Church, James, gives both instruction and a glimpse into Hebraic practice for healing in biblical times. He writes:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save (or heal) the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:14-16 NKJV)

Take note—healing of sickness and disease is related to the confession of sin and trespasses (i.e. unforgiveness, envy, jealousy, anger, etc.). While not all disease and sickness are related to our sin and faults, there is in some cases a link. I discuss this passage and the Hebraic perspective with healing more in my book, Receive Your Miracle Now: A Case for Healing Today.

In Hebrew culture and in many primitive societies, doctors were also priests. When people became sick, the cure was holistic. Aside from giving them herbs, doctors told them to pray, forgive, and trust God. Then the scientific revolution came, and doctors focused primarily on the body. However, this holistic healing model is returning.

Many doctors today are praying with their patients, encouraging them to have faith, to forgive, and to spend time with their families. You could say that they’ve become doctors and priests again. Why not? Every follower of Christ is an ambassador for Him—a priest of God!

God Created us with Emotions

Understand that, foremost, the Lord loves everything about us. He created us into His image and, through our new birth in Christ, we are completely accepted in Him. The Lord gave us emotions so that we could experience Him, the Kingdom, and life in its fullest.

Jesus had emotions; we see them evident in the gospel accounts. In John 11:35, we read that “Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the Bible describes Jesus experiencing sorrow over the news of his friend Lazarus’ death.

Jesus also wept over the city of Jerusalem—His compassion for God’s wayward people (Luke 19:41). We read in Luke 10:21 how Jesus had extreme joy when He heard the missions report of the 70 that He sent out to proclaim the gospel with healing and deliverance.

We also read of Jesus being angry with the money changers in the temple because they corrupted the house of prayer and worship into a place of greed (Matt. 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:14-15). But Jesus didn’t allow His emotions to rule Him. He certainly didn’t allow a moment of righteous anger with the money changers to control His feelings about the people of Israel.

Think about this—the Father’s emotions toward me and you are positive: love, compassion, grace, mercy, peace, joy, gentleness, goodness, and faithfulness.

Consider what the Lord spoke to wayward Judah, who was led into captivity for 70 years:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)

God’s feelings toward us are powerful and positive—they are transformative—even when we are faithless. His goal is restoration for His people—there is always hope in Christ for you and me!

Keep in mind that Jesus can never be rejected from the Father, and neither can you and I as we live in Christ. Jesus—ascended, glorious, and victorious—is at the right hand of the Father.

John declares, “as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17 NKJV). Jesus is loved and accepted by the Father, and so are we. The Father’s emotions toward us are ALWAYS positive, even in correction!

We have been created new in Christ to walk in the fullness of His positive emotions. We are complete in Him; therefore, we have the capacity by the Holy Spirit to walk in healthy, positive emotions toward God and others.

Next week, I’ll continue this discussion, examining how to identify negative emotions which could affect you and how to replace them with positive thoughts and emotions.

For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “Overcoming Negative Thoughts and Emotions: Part 1”:



[1] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[2] Caroline Leaf, Who Switched Off My Brain? (Southlake, TX: Switch on Your Brain International LLC, 2007), 4.

[3] Ibid., 49.

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Bob Sawvelle

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