Written by BCC Counselor Jim Lang
When we reach a new year, it’s natural to want a fresh start. After the hardships of 2020, this sentiment holds true for many. So how do we, as followers of God, change our unwanted behaviors and actions? How does the Word of God instruct us in matters of transforming these behaviors and actions? If we want to establish new patterns and habits in the new year, we need to understand what’s required of us to change with God’s help.
We need to WANT to change.
Lasting change requires us to cultivate a strong desire to change. Science shows us that our habits exist because we want the reward that comes from satisfying a craving. Even though the habit may cause us pain in different ways, it’s easy to become fixated on the reward. The Bible speaks to unwanted behaviors, and even showcases His followers participating in unwanted sinful behaviors. We must reach the point like David in Psalm 51 when he cried out to God for forgiveness, acknowledging his sin and confessing his need to God to create in him a new heart. Only by God’s grace and mercy are we able to change our sinful habits.
We are too weak to change on our own.
Lasting change requires us to understand and be willing to confess that we are weak against the unwanted behavior, and that we need our Father to strengthen us in our weakness. We must acknowledge that our habit seems to have control over our behavior, and we need God to create a new heart in us just like He did with David. Remember how David was blown away at how marvelous God is? Are we amazed at creation like David? He trusted that God was going to restore him to the joy he had before. He was humble and asked God to grant him a willing spirit.
David knew that he alone could not change, but rather he needed God to give him a spirit of obedience. We need God’s mercy, and He promises us in Lamentations 3:22-23 that He will provide new mercy each morning.
We must actively work to change.
Lasting change requires that we do things differently! Bad habits won’t change without hard work. Breaking unwanted behavior takes a willingness to change and a commitment to work hard: beginning each morning reflecting on God’s mercy is a great way to start the day; spending time with God each day is the start of actively working towards change; talking with God about your habit and your desire to change it softens our heart towards God and starts our day on the right foot. It’s hard to keep sinning when we have a contrite heart and our focused on Him. Different habits will require different kinds of “work” to stop the behavior. Many resources and counseling services are available at our churches or online.
We must seek wisdom to change.
Lasting change will require engaging other people for support. One thing we know in the world of addictions and bad habits is that we normally do not break unwanted behavior in a vacuum. God tells us in Hebrews 3:13 to exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (or we could say our bad habit). We need to confide in a trusted brother or sister and be accountable to them for our behavior and our goals for recovery; a brother or sister who is not afraid to challenge us when we need to be challenged. Our habit may not be sinful, but rather an annoyance that we want to stop. The methods of change are the same.