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Triggers for Sinful Thoughts


A few weeks ago, I conducted a survey to determine what some of our greatest triggers are as wives that get us thinking in a downward spiral of sinful thoughts.

Of those who answered, here are the results (please remember that ladies could vote for as many of these as are triggers for them):

  • Comparing your marriage to someone else’s marriage that you know – 135 votes
  • Reading about what godly husbands should do – 131 votes
  • Romantic movies/books – 100 votes
  • Reading other people’s Facebook pages and seeing their happy pictures – 94 votes
  • Marriage books/blogs that talk about what wives need – 93
  • Comments from other husbands that seem very loving toward their wives – i.e.: complimenting their wives’ beauty – 91
  • Love songs – 67
  • Other – 33

Over 744 of you read the survey, but not nearly as many answered – If you want to go back and answer, you are most welcome to! 🙂 The more answers, the more accuracy. 🙂

I would love you to stop right now and let’s pray together –

Precious Lord,

Please open our eyes to anything that You see in our lives that we are cherishing and holding on to that is sinful in Your sight. Show us our personal temptations and snares. Show us the ways that the enemy would like to entrap us and destroy our witness for You and our fruitfulness in Your kingdom. Expose his designs and plans. We confess and repent of every single sinful thought that offends Your holiness and we receive all that Christ Jesus has done for us on the cross. We receive Your Spirit. We long to be filled with Your power. Let us walk in righteousness and holiness for Your Name’s sake by the power of Your Spirit living in us. Cleanse us of our sin and show us what changes we may need to make to avoid temptation and what changes we may need to make to protect and guard our hearts and minds to prevent sin from taking root in our lives. We submit fully to You, holding nothing back. We trust You completely. Our faith is in Christ alone.

Let’s do a quick review of thoughts that God counts as sin:

  • lack of faith in God – complete unbelief is an unforgivable sin if we continue in our unbelief and die in this state as unbelievers (Hebrews 11:6, John 16:9). Thankfully, PRAISE GOD, if we repent of our sins and turn to Christ in faith, receiving His work on the cross for us and receiving Him as Savior and LORD of our lives, we can be forgiven for our past unbelief!  Weak faith is also something that can trigger doubts, worry, anxiety and fear, please see comment with scriptures referring to the different types of unbelief.
  • disobedience to God/His Word (John 14:22-24)
  • lack of wholehearted love for God, a divided heart/mind that longs for things other than God (Matthew 22:38-39)
  • idolatry/addictions – putting something/someone above God in our hearts, seeking our ultimate purpose in life through something/someone other than God, looking to that thing/person to bring ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment instead of God, building our lives on some priority other than Christ (Ezekiel 20:13, Exodus 20:4, I John 5:21)
  • irreverence toward God – lack of proper fear of God (Romans 3:18, Proverbs 1:7)
  • lack of respect for those in positions of God-given authority over us – including our husbands, the government, church leaders, managers at work, the police, etc… (I Cor 11:3, Ephesians 5:22-33,  Ephesians 6:1, Romans 13, Hebrews 13:17)
  • pride – “I know best.” “I have ultimate wisdom.” “I know better than God.” “I know better than my husband.” “I’m always right.” (Psalm 10:4,  Proverbs 16:18-19, Isaiah 14:12-15, I Corinthians 4:7)
  • self-righteousness – “I am so much better than my husband.” “I am so holy. I am much more holy than he/she is. God is really impressed with how good I am!” (Romans 3:10, Matthew 23, Luke 18:9-14)
  • hatred – which is murder in our hearts (I John 4:20, I John 2:9-11, Proverbs 10:12, Matthew 6:15, Matthew 5:44)
  • unforgiveness (Mark 11:25, Ephesians 4:26,27,32, Matthew 6:12-15, Colossians 3:12-13, Matthew 18:21-35)
  • gossip (Ephesians 4:29, Proverbs 16:28, 6:16-10, 11:13, 20:19, Titus 3:2, Luke 6:31, James 4:11)
  • lying (Proverbs 19:9, Colossians 3:9-10, Psalm 101:7, Ephesians 4:25, John 8:44)
  • covetousness (Exodus 20:17, James 4:3, James 1:14-15, I Timothy 6:10, Mark 7:20-23)
  • resentment (Mark 11:25, I Corinthians 13:4-8, Luke 6:37, Matthew 6:12-13, I Peter 2:23)
  • bitterness (Ephesians 4:31-32, Hebrews 12:14-15, Romans 12:17-21)
  • malice (Ephesians 4:31-32)
  • lust (Matthew 5:28, Galatians 5:16, I Corinthians 6:18, I Thessalonians 4:3-5, Colossians 3:5, I John 2:16, II Timothy 2:22, Romans 8:6, James 1:14-15, Galatians 6:8, Philippians 4:8)
  • apathy toward God or others (Revelations 3:2 and 16, Zephaniah 1:12-13, Romans 12:11, Romans 12:9-13)


These are some of the things our Lord HATES. These are the kinds of evil things that nailed Jesus to the cross. These are the things He paid for on our behalf with His own pure, holy, righteous blood. How I pray that we might come to hate all sin as much as God does! Once we are believers in Christ, God calls us to give up being slaves to sin and to be slaves to righteousness from this point forward. We are to be dead to sin. We were buried with Christ and our old sinful nature died with Him and was buried. Now, we have a new nature in Christ, a new Spirit (God’s Spirit) and we are to live in obedience to God by the power of His Spirit working in and through us.  We are new creatures in Christ! The old is gone, the new has come! (Romans 6)

God calls us to live holy lives. He calls us to take every thought captive for Christ and not to dwell on sinful thoughts.  (II Corinthians 10:5) The ONLY way we can have power and victory over sin is to live by faith in God, trusting fully in Him, submitting fully to Him and allowing His Spirit to flow through us. Avoiding a list of potential tempting situations – without God’s power in our lives  and without us fully trusting Him – is an exercise in futility.


Here is one secret, my precious sisters. We must discover the things that tempt us to begin thinking sinful thoughts and we need to guard our hearts around those things and avoid them whenever possible.

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5

I think that what we can conclude, is that if something is causing and triggering sinful thoughts for us (here, Jesus had just talked about lust), then, we need to try to avoid or get rid of the trigger. It is a serious issue.

What causes temptation for me may not cause temptation for you. So, our triggers may be different. But the goal is the same, to live by the power of God’s Spirit, to fully submit to Him as LORD, to examine each thought that enters our mind and reject any ungodly, unholy, unscriptural, sinful thought and to focus our thoughts on the truth of God’s Word alone.


Many of you shared other things that trigger a cascade of sinful thoughts and temptation for you. I want to share some of these so that we will not be ignorant of the devil’s schemes.

  • husband bashing among other women
  • focusing on what I deserve, how I want to be treated, what my husband is not doing
  • remembering the past when my husband was more romantic than he is now (comparing my own husband to himself from the past)
  • seeing godly men worshipping and praising God
  • seeing a man who has strengths that my husband doesn’t have
  • being sinned against
  • Thinking thoughts like -“I MUST have this person/thing to be happy. I can’t live without it. If God takes X away, I won’t love Him anymore.” (Idolatry)
  • when someone else receives praise, accolades and recognition
  • when I receive praise, accolades and recognition
  • focusing on my unmet needs
  • focusing on my circumstances
  • seeing men with a job or who are financially responsible or who take time to spend with their families or who take their families on vacation when my husband doesn’t do those things at the time
  • wanting my husband to change
  • watching porn
  • watching or reading something sensual
  • sometimes even reading rated G Christian romantic books (can trigger discontentment)
  • daydreaming about “what would it be like to be with that other guy?”
  • reading that men really want sex from their wives (particularly when my husband doesn’t seem to want sex with me very often, or ever)
  • when my husband sins against me or comes across in a way that seems unloving to me
  • my husband spending time watching TV, watching sports, on his phone, with his friends, with his hobbies
  • PMS/hormones/pregnancy/peri-menopause/illness/exhaustion/low blood sugar/health problems/pain
  • self pity
  • seeing someone else’s husband spiritually lead, serve, pray or give
  • having a very godly male pastor/teacher can make us feel justified to submit to and respect them above our husbands in a way that is not appropriate – i.e. “Pastor Joe said we should give more money to the poor. So, I’m going to do what he said no matter what you think, Honey. After all, Jesus did command us to give to the poor.”
  • when my own husband begins to be more loving, or begins to change in Christ, or begins to pray with me and lead in a more godly way, I have to be really careful not to begin to put my hope, trust and faith in him instead of Christ or not to begin to put him above Christ in my heart
  • Getting what I want can reinforce my idols if I have any or can tempt me to turn good gifts from God into idols
  • hearing/reading another man’s fervent prayer – for many Christian wives, this is the highest level of intimacy we could experience with a man, to pray fervently together, this can be extremely attractive, even sexy
  • being persecuted for my faith in Christ and for seeking to do what pleases God
  • experiencing victory over a sin or trial and then focusing on what a great job I did (pride) or loosening the guard on my heart
  • fashion/hair/make up magazines
  • reality shows
  • celebrity gossip shows
  • focusing on what I want instead of what God wants
  • worry/anxiety/fear
  • facing the unknown
  • when my husband makes a decision I REALLY am not comfortable with
  • when I don’t feel safe in some way
  • lack of trust in God
  • thinking about how I HAVE to have something/someone to be happy or to be OK (that is not God)
  • misplaced priorities
  • unbiblical thinking
  • watching HGTV, commercials, home decorating magazines, Pinterest, social media, soap operas, seeing luxuries that other people have
  • worldly music/media/books
  • thinking about “what if my husband passed away” and how I would be able to live somewhere special or have imagined freedoms
  • focusing on the things that seem so attractive, mesmerizing, exciting, enticing about another man
  • when my husband gives attention/affection to my step-daughter
  • reading men-to-men Christian advice blogs/columns/articles
  • hearing sermons about husbands’ responsibilities in marriage
  • hearing sermons about how men should be godly fathers
  • being far from God – clinging to any sinful thoughts, not having time for Bible study and prayer, spiritual starvation
  • a general spirit of discontentment
  • lack of gratitude and thanksgiving and praise for God
  • attempting to compare another man’s strengths to our husband’s weaknesses and ignoring our husband’s strengths and the other man’s weaknesses
  • loneliness
  • when my husband talks with his ex wife
  • when my husband talks with other women
  • when another man gives me his full, undivided attention and makes tender eye contact
  • when another man prays with me or for me
  • pictures of myself (for women who are struggling with body image issues)
  • when I expect a person or something of this world to meet the deepest needs of my soul
  • disappointment
  • seeing a good looking man, or an immodestly dressed man
  • a man flirting with me/teasing me
  • confiding deep emotional/spiritual things to close male friends
  • a man hugging me or touching me in a sensual way
  • hearing a godly pastor preach or a godly Bible teacher teach or pray and developing an emotional/spiritual/physical fascination or attraction to him
  • insecurity, self-loathing (trying to find our self worth in something other than Christ, listening to the enemy’s lies and refusing to hear God’s truth about who we are in Jesus)
  • being treated by my husband in a way that reminds me of being abused/mistreated by my father/step-father as a child
  • seeing strong, godly leadership qualities in another man
  • focusing on the unbiblical ways my parents handled situations and feeling that what they did was “normal”
  • not being careful about guarding my heart, mind, chastity and marriage
  • not setting proper boundaries with other men, allowing myself to become emotionally/spiritually attached to another man
  • having a controlling mother or mother-in-law
  • when people are angry with me
  • being too busy
  • rushing
  • rehearsing someone’s sin against me over and over again from the past
  • hearing gossip
  • watching scary things on the news
  • spending a lot of time around unbelievers and allowing them to influence me
  • disagreeing with my husband
  • when my husband allows others to treat me with disrespect
  • strong emotions


You may be able to add to the list. I am sure it is not remotely exhaustive. I think this is a very important first step as we learn to take our thoughts captive. We must be able to discern the things that trigger us to begin thinking sinful thoughts. Then, we can pray and guard ourselves against them and seek God’s wisdom and His power to help us to face our temptations. We cannot always eliminate the temptations. A lot of these things are not things we can completely get rid of in our lives. But, we can be AWARE of these issues and how the enemy would like to use these situations in our lives. And we can begin to examine our thoughts immediately and reject sinful thoughts and consciously replace ungodly thoughts with truth from God’s Word. We can immediately reject the sinful ways of thinking and choose to thank God, focus on good things, focus on praising God, focus on repenting of our own sin, etc…

The sooner we nip those sinful thoughts by God’s power working in us, the less dominion and control sin will have over us. If we are not thinking sinful thoughts, we are not going to say sinful words or commit sinful actions. Our thoughts are where evil desires begin and then they take root and grow from there. (James 1:14-15)

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… II Corinthians 10:3-5



28 thoughts on “Triggers for Sinful Thoughts

  1. Oh April, what a crucial and timely post for us all. I know that this subject has been heavy on many of our hearts lately and the Lord gave you the ability to articulate it so well. Thank you for such a timely and important conversation about this topic. You blessed me big time today.

  2. Hi Sandi,

    I’m sure April will respond personally, but I understood her list to be things that can cause triggers that lead to sin. Certainly there are many, many things on the list that are not sinful in and of themselves, but that may be triggers for us personally that can turn into sin if we allow envy, jealousy, ungratefulness, bitterness, or discontentment regarding them.

  3. Such a great post. I hate how unconvicted I am by my sin! The words “evil,” “wicked” and “abomination” are so strong, yet my heart can be so callous to my own sin. Ugh! May I not wear out God’s patience.

    1. Jane Doe,
      It is terrifying to me how comfortable we can get with sin. My prayer is that we might truly grasp how right God is when He calls our sin evil, wicked and abominations. That we might agree with God – that is how we confess our sins, we agree with God that what we have done is very wrong, unholy, ungodly, sinful, evil, wicked….

      And may we see Him in His holiness and purity and have complete and total awe and reverence and healthy fear before Him.

      I pray He might cleanse us from all of our sin, every trace of it, that we might learn to live out what Jesus has done for us already – being dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. That we might be able to truly say “to live is Christ and to die is gain!”

      Thank you for sharing!

      I am praying for you, my precious sister!

      Much love to you!

      1. Ah! Tim Challies at (one of my other favorite bloggers) is talking about the seriousness of sin today! Coincidence? :). Good stuff. Thank you for your prayers!

  4. Sooooo good!! I can’t wait to look up all those scriptures.
    I’ve already slipped with my thoughts once this week & almost did another time today (while looking at FB), but took that thought captive! Sure need His Word going through my mind. So much good stuff in this post, need to take it slowly…thanks April! Also wanted to share that my husband suggested we don’t have any cell phone time, or “internet” time, until after 9:00PM… see if that will eliminate the stress that comes up between us, with that distraction. Looking forward to seeing how this goes. Thankful.

    1. Rose,

      Yes, these scriptures could make a really great quiet time study I think. 🙂

      And I am excited to hear about you realizing when and where and why your thoughts slipped. It is impossible for us to take our thoughts captive if we don’t even know what they are! That was my problem for a long time. I had to learn to dissect my thought processes and find the sinful thoughts and expose them with God’s Word. I was blind to my sinful thoughts for many years and felt totally justified to wallow in sin. Yikes! So, I am really excited to see that this is helpful.

      I also love your husband’s idea. That sounds very interesting! Let us know how it goes! 🙂 Much love to you!

  5. A Sister in Christ,

    Yes! We can absolutely be tempted even by Christian, rated G books – to feel discontent. I stopped reading even Christian romance novels a few years ago. Now, I don’t really have time to read them anyway. But, yes, I would start to compare my husband to the husband in the book and want my husband to be more like the fictional godly husband.

    Great point!

    I will add that to the list!

  6. This was exactly what I needed this morning, praise God. If I could add to the list it would be
    •when my husband acts disrespectful
    • just going out alone without my husband (I feel and see the eyes of other men and for me that alone is triggering, not to mention a little unnerving because I am only 5’1″)
    • feeling like God would never help us because of my husbands lack of xyz.
    • talking with other brothers in Christ, especially on the phone.
    • my phone. Seriously, I feel like I am addicted. I use it for everything. I hate it.

    Lord, oh God, against You and only You I have sinned. Forgive me of my wicked, idolatrous and uncontent heart and give me the desire to love my husband without wavering, to trust You and my husband without doubt, and to give up this iphone addiction! Lord, You are our King and You are jealous for us, praise God! I confess that I get mad, greedy and almost loathing because of our situation. I get mad at my husband for his sin struggles. I get mad at You for not answering prayers. I get mad because I feel like I “deserve better” when really I deserve hell. I get mad at motherhood.
    Oh Lord, forgive your servant. Father God, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.

    Thank You Lord, for Your gift of salvation, for my husband, for motherhood, and for this exact circumstance. May You be glorified in all we do and say. Thank You for this blog, and the wise words of sister April, and all of the sisters. Father God, I ask these things in Jesus’ holy and precious name. Amen.

    1. annemarielynn,

      Thank you for sharing this!!! It is so powerful. Amen! Amen! May we all humble ourselves before God like this and repent of any sin and turn wholeheartedly to Him!

  7. Speaking of ‘western romances’ it reminds me of a true story an old historian told me at a museum. He told me about a couple back in the pioneer days, Billy and his wife. History didn’t record her name. But during this time husbands and wives didn’t go around telling each other how much they loved each other. It was an era of working hard as a team; love and commitment was assumed. One day Billy threw away an old hat of his and his wife took it out of the trash and began wearing it herself. A disagreement sprung between the settlers and native Americans in the area and during a battle, when shots were being fired, Billy’s wife dropped the hat during an evacuation. When she realized the hat was gone she actually ran back into the crossfire to retrieve it. Her husband was irate for her foolishness. He said “why in the world would you go back for a hat I threw away?!!” and she responded, “Because, Billy, it was your hat”. As the man finished the story he had tears in his eyes and said, “they weren’t affectionate back in the day but you can’t tell me that woman didn’t love that man and he didn’t love her”.

    That story stuck with me. I’m not saying anyone should go into gun fire for a material object but it showed me that if I define love by my current American culture and not God’s Word, I could really be missing out on something special and not even realize it. It also moved me to see how this gentleman was touched by this woman’s devotion. Sweet, sentimental acts of love are wonderful. But seeing a husband do something nice for his wife has thankfully become less of a trigger for me since hearing this story. I can just be happy for that couple as oppose to having so much envy because through the love of Christ I am called to love deeply, sacrificially and without thought of reward.

    You have a great list for personal reflection and evaluation. It hits the mark totally. I will be working on that love part the rest of my days to cover my multitude of sins! Thank God for the blood.

    1. Refined,

      Aw! Thank you for sharing this story, and helping us have a glimpse into a past generation’s mindset. I think that is very valuable. Sometimes, we are so immersed in our own culture and time, we don’t realize how different things were at other times in history.

      And I am so thrilled that now you can be happy for other wives when a husband does something sweet and loving. By God’s grace, I am able to do that now most of the time, as well. It is such a blessing to just marvel at what God is doing in someone else’s life and to enjoy it instead of looking with envy. I praise God for what He is doing in you!!!

      We will all be working on this list the rest of our lives, taking each thought captive for Christ, seeking to please Him and to identify sinful motives and repent, allowing God’s Spirit to take control.

      You know what? I don’t even feel tempted to read romantic books anymore. Don’t really have time anyway now. But, I have found something much better… Reading about what God is doing in people’s lives, in their marriages and their families. I never get tired of seeing God at work, watching Him transform ashes into something beautiful and watching the way He causes people to awaken to His love and truth and blossom for His glory. This is way better than some fictional romance book any day in my view!!

    2. Refined,

      Three years ago, I think, I was in bed one night with an earache so painful I was in tears. So, Greg was watching the kids and I was watching TV. I found a hallmark movie. Which is usually not a good idea for me! But this story was so touching to me.

      It was about the old west, too. Well, pioneers, really. Covered wagon trains brought new settlers to these small villages once or twice a year or so. A man’s wife died recently, and he and his young daughter were alone. He needed a new wife because he couldn’t do all of the farming and handle the house and his daughter, as well. A young woman on the wagon train coming into the little town had just lost her husband to an accident. She was newly pregnant. The kind widower, who was a good bit older, suggested that they get married right away because there wouldn’t be a minister in town again for months, and a widow couldn’t stay with a man, it wasn’t proper. There was no where else for her to stay. The cruel winter was coming. They needed each other. They didn’t love each other. They didn’t know each other. It was the only option either of them really had.

      The husband was very respectful and moved out into a storage room so that his new wife could have privacy. He told her how happy he was for her that she would have a piece of her first husband with her in their child. They didn’t consummate the marriage. He never pushed her to love him or be physical with him. They slowly had to learn to work together and be a team. There was no romance. There was hard work, danger, a horribly cold winter, injuries, dust storms… And then the wife was in labor. They were in the middle of nowhere. There was no doctor.

      The woman finally begged her new husband to help her. He had delivered many calves, and knew what to do to help. In time, they did develop love. But it was not the frilly kind we think of today. It really struck me how a love like that could be born out of necessity and mutual need. I don’t know if that was based on a true story, but, it was interesting to picture being in that woman’s position and how she must have felt, alone, terrified, mourning over her young husband, living with a stranger and his unwelcoming elementary school aged daughter. It was neat to see how different events helped to turn these strangers into a strong family and how they eventually built a strong, loving marriage, as well as the way they both showed honor and respect to one another all along the way.

      They didn’t speak loving words, but their actions and their eyes showed the love and trust more and more as they learned to depend on each other.

      1. April, I think you are referring to “Love Comes Softly”? These are actually books by Janette Oak. They are a wonderful read…I read them as a young girl 33 years ago! I remember thinking about how romantic they were, and yet compared to characters today they probably seem very simple. I might have to pick them up again. If I remember correctly, Marty struggled with being a wife and the guy was a man of very few words.

        1. Mrs. G.,

          Hmm… I think you may be right! I wish I could remember what it was, but that sounds like it may be it. Thank you! 🙂 Yes, there were struggles. The man was definitely a man of few words. But, it was amazing, to me, to see how they began to love one another and the way they honored each other in the midst of very difficult circumstances.

  8. April, thank you so much for sharing about that Hallmark program you saw. How sweet of Greg to care for the kids so you could rest! For some guys it shakes them up something fierce to see their wives sick and they can’t fix it. I totally get your reasons for staying away from such shows and I find myself doing the same. These days I find the quick romance quite comical. I work as a therapist primarily with the geriatric population. It is interesting to share with the readers how many divorced couples end up together again later in life based on mutual need. It can be a scary thing to be alone and battle financial and health issues with no help. It is interesting too how these arrangements are usually quite harmonious as the individuals have apparently mellowed out and wisened up over the years. The things that seemed so important in their youth, the things worth separating for, suddenly seem quite shallow.

  9. April, I want to point out something in this post that I don’t feel is scriptural. You say that unbelief is the unforgivable sin and use several scriptures to back this up. But there is nothing in these verses that says God will not forgive unbelief. Hebrews says without faith it’s impossible to please Him, but not impossible to be forgiven. In Mark 3:22 the scribes accused Jesus of being the prince of devils because he cast out devils. In verse 29 Jesus says, ” But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:” Blasphemy of the Holy Ghost is the only unforgivable sin.

    1. Trish,
      I hope you will see my clarification on this in response to Sandi. If someone does not believe Jesus is the Son of God and does not receive Him as Savior and Lord- that kind of unbelief means they rejected Christ. I don’t find anywhere in scripture that one who does not put his faith and trust and hope in Christ will be forgiven – if he continues on in this state until death. (That is the part of the point I needed to clarify). He is an unbeliever. Thanks for the question! I hope this makes my feeble attempt at explaining more clear. 🙂

      Thankfully, PRAISE GOD, if an unbeliever (which we all start out to be) repents and turns to Christ in faith in this lifetime, we CAN be forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. 🙂

    2. Of course, thankfully, if an unbeliever repents and turns to Christ in faith, we can be forgiven! The issue is if we die as unbelievers, we cannot be forgiven. Please forgive me for not being more clear about what I was trying to say!

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