My daughter has a horrible habit of chewing on her hair. It’s a coping behavior that has come and gone and come back again over the past few years. While we spend a fair amount of time asking her to take her hair out of her mouth, I’ve recently started talking to her about replacing that habit with another one. When she picks up her hair to put it in her mouth, I’m trying to train her to put it behind her ear instead. Replacing the one habit of chewing, with a somewhat better one of putting it behind her ear. It’s a crazy hard thing to change a habit.
The same goes with us and our mental or spiritual habits. Back when I was struggling significantly with anxiety and fear, I went to see a biblical counselor. He called my anxiety and fears what they were: sin issues. My anxiety and fear, specifically of thunderstorms, stemmed from my inability to trust God. It was me moving into the future and forecasting what I predicted might happen (which usually wasn’t positive), which was in essence me attempting to be bigger than God. But when my mind started to wander into those predictions, I had to learn how to replace that habit with another one. For me, that means when my mind starts to go to that place of presumption I first start replacing my fearful thoughts with the verse from Philippians:
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and petition present your requests to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
But to be honest, it took weeks and weeks and even into years before this became embedded into me. Habits are not easy to replace.
There’s a great book, that sadly I only made it partly through, about habits called The Power of a Habit by Charles Duhigg. While it’s not written from a Biblical perspective, there is so much of it that speaks into our spiritual lives. There are so many things we can change and improve in our lives merely by realizing our habits and replacing them with another one.
I really feel like this is the success of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts campaign. Choosing to see the blessing, choosing to count the gifts is a habit. When I take my pessimistic oriented mind and choose to see the glass half full instead of half empty, I am changing the habit of my negativity.
I’m sitting at a red light frustrated with the person in front of me who didn’t move fast enough and now I’m stuck at the red light again. In that moment, instead of getting angry and bitter about it and spending that red light fuming over the car in front of me, I change that habit and choose to find the blessings. I choose to find something to be thankful for. I choose to replace the habit of my anger with thankfulness.
There’s a great verse in 1 Corinthians: 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. I think I’ve known that verse for years, but never really understood what it means to “take every thought captive” for in reality that’s the battle we are in. Taking every single thought that we have captive. But it’s not enough to just become aware of those thoughts, we also have to replace them.
It makes me think of the verse from Colossians:
“Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”