Resolving to Change Old Habits
We are well into the New Year now, and how are things going for you? Perhaps you have made some New Year’s resolutions. That is something that many do, and then set out to follow through. The going is well for the first month or so, and then as old habits and routines start to push on our thoughts we fall back into old patterns of behavior. What happened? Why couldn’t we keep up the good work? We recognize the importance of making changes in our life, but then we don’t necessarily always follow through on those changes. Why is that?
Sometimes we tell ourselves that we just can’t change no matter how hard we try. This is not true. God’s word says that we can change our lives for the better. In the Bible, this is known as repentance: a change of mind that results in a reformation of life. To change, though, we’ve got to be committed to God and His will for our life. Without that foundation, our efforts of change will not last. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). To change, we must recognize our past problems and sorrow for them. This sorrow must be of a godly type, having the proper foundation for lasting change. Many simply do not see their past indulgences as being a problem. Hence, when they seek to change, it doesn’t last, but with God, we can change.
Why is it that we cannot hold onto lasting change in our life when we know it is needed? In last week’s article, we noted that change is possible according to God’s word – we can change for the better! This change requires us to acknowledge the wrongs of the past, and make God the foundation of our change. Even under these conditions, change can be daunting. There are other obstacles. Many of these we place in the way of our changing so that we don’t have to do the hard work. If we understand that we can change, then why is it still so hard to change?
Perhaps the biggest detriment to changing is our own desire; we don’t want to change. We may say, “Yes, I do!”, but deep down, we like the way things are because it validates us. Take dieting as an example. Why is it that we can’t lose weight? We like eating! Instead of eating to live, we live to eat, and it is so easy to be validated by eating. Don’t we show love for one another by giving food? If I don’t eat the food, then haven’t I rejected another’s love? Of course not, but we take it that way, and since we don’t want to be unloving, we eat. What a rationalization! We have just validated ourselves as loving people by eating. Who wants to change that? This whole process is deceitful. Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” Who really validates us? God does. Get yourself out of the way and change!
When we let go of validating ourselves by everything except God, it becomes easier to change. However, knowing that we can change, and getting rid of the obstacles to change, we may still fear change. We tell ourselves: “How I am going to adjust? Maybe the changes will be horrible instead of good. Maybe life isn’t too bad right now as it is.” Fearing the unknown is a challenge when we need to make changes because fear pushes us to accept the status quo and stagnate. How can I confront fear and overcome it, so I can change and thrive?
Fear is an emotion that we create from our own anxieties and worry. God doesn’t want us living like that. He wants us to put our faith and trust in Him. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” God promises a life of peace and spiritual safety through Christ Jesus, but we must act on faith to receive that life by trusting in Jesus and His word instead of our own rationalizations. When we live like Jesus, we can overcome our fear knowing that Jesus will be with us to give us peace and spiritual safety. We overcome fear through loving God and loving one another as Jesus taught us to love. First John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Our fear is not greater than God, and God’s love practiced in our lives overcomes it! Trusting in God, we can change!