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Louie Giglio on How to Take Every Thought Captive

Louie Giglio on How to Take Every Thought Captive

In talking to Louie Giglio, it’s easy to see why he’s built such a reputation for engagement. In conversation, he’s personable, curious and uses your name a lot. You can tell this is a guy with a lot of experience in making people feel seen. You get the impression he’d welcome almost anyone to the table. And he does. So why has he written a whole book called Don’t Give Your Enemy a Seat at the Table?

This article is part of our Quarterlife series, produced in partnership with Unite Health Share Ministries.

The table is this case is a metaphor, and the enemy in question is not flesh and blood. Giglio has written a book about our thoughts, and the way we often surrender them to our worst, most negative impulses. He calls that getting into conversation with the enemy, and it’s the source of a great deal of our own pain and struggle.

We talked to Giglio a little about the process behind the book, and his own emotional health crisis that led to new revelations about how to let God reshape his mind.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Can you give us sort of the origin story of the book?

The title was a game-changing moment for me. I had a petty moment and I wanted pity for my petty. So I reached out to a friend and said, “Hey, you’re not going to believe what I just heard.” This was a person who’d walked right through the whole thing with me. I was looking for a big, long commiseration response… and the text came back and it was one phrase: “Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table.” It froze me and broke me and freed me all at the same time. 

I realized I’ve just let the enemy come and sit down at my table, and I needed to take control of my table. This is the enemy putting these thoughts in my head, and I’m not going to give him a seat at my table.

What do you mean by “the enemy” specifically? How do we know what thoughts are from the enemy versus what aren’t?

We’re talking about the capital E “Enemy” in this book.The text I got connected to was Psalm 23: “I prepare a table for you in the presence of your enemies.” God is offering me the opportunity to have this intimacy with Him in the middle of the conflict, but the enemy can get into our minds so quickly. 

And how do you know the thoughts are from the enemy? The ones that aren’t what Paul writes about in Philippians 4 are not from God. The thing that struck me when I got into this [book] was when you start hosting those thoughts, you’re actually in a conversation. You’ve let him sit down at your table. Psalm 23 says for us to be at that table with our shepherd. 

The way I was raised to think about the devil was like he’s always in the shadows, plotting, making bad things happen to me. You’re talking about something different.

Scripture is interesting when Jesus is talking about the enemy. He said that he’s a murderer from the beginning and the father of all lies. The enemy works the same way now as he did at the beginning with Adam and Eve. The conversation was subtle at first.  “Maybe God doesn’t want you to get what He’s got. Can you really trust Him?” And what he was doing on day one was lying and twisting God’s truth. 

I think that’s the way he operates right now. He’s still saying, “Surely God didn’t say that.” Or he’s taking a natural fear and ultimately turns it into a mental stronghold. I believe choices come out of our thoughts and whoever controls the thought narrative ultimately controls the story. 

We don’t want to be negative people. Why is it so hard for us to say no to that?

I think, deep in our fallen nature, we are not prone to the positive. I’m a new creation in Christ, but that new creation is residing in flesh. If given the chance to either speak positively or negatively about something, more often than not, we choose the negative route. That’s when the enemy slides in. 

He’s not going to say, “Hey, I’m going to wreck your life.” He just says, “Man, things at work are tough.” Before you know it, you’ve spent about a half an hour in your mind thinking about how hard things at work are.

Are there ever causes where we might need to turn to things like medication and therapy instead of just willing yourself out of these mental states?

Yes. Broaden that question to all things in life. When your car doesn’t work, you don’t say you don’t have enough faith; you go get your car fixed. If you have a mental meltdown, like I did, you reach out to people to help you. 

When I fell into that hole, I didn’t even know it existed. I prayed and I had people pray for me and I asked God daily to heal me. I was stuck in a tough spot and I had no choice but to ask people to help me. I sought professional help.

A friend of mine sent me a video link to a pastor who had been through something similar. In it, he said, “if you need help, get help.” And that’s what I say to people, knowing that whoever it is that’s helping you is an agent of God. It’s not turning away from God to get help somewhere else. It’s knowing that God is using people that He’s gifted to help you. 

It’s one thing to realize I’m setting a table for my enemies and I need to stop doing that. But on a practical level, what does that look like?

One of the things that we have to do is examine the thoughts that enter our minds. I can’t control what thought comes into my mind, but I can examine that thought and decide whether I want to host it or not. That’s what Scripture asks us to do. It says, “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 

As the thought comes in, see it, identify it and ask a question about it. Is this thought from God, and does it match His character and purpose? If it’s not, take the next step and reject that thought. 

It’s a lot of work, a lot of retraining the way we think. What’s on the other side of all of this?

Doing what God created us to do. The average human being spends an inordinate amount of life wasting mental energy on negative thoughts when they were created to use that same mental energy to create something positive for the world. On the other side of getting the enemy away from your table is sleep, peace, rest and the creativity that God put you on planet earth to be a part of.

Louie Giglio’s Don’t Give Your Enemy a Seat at the Table is available now.

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