Developing New Habits

**Originally published in The Christian Online Magazine, May 2013**

 

A few months ago I wandered into the pantry for a snack, found a bag of sunflower seeds and got to cracking. Within two weeks I found myself constantly snacking on sunflower seeds and whenever my supply ran out, I made special trips to the store to get more (or I begged my spouse to do so). Eventually my husband called me out on my behavior, “You know you’re addicted to those things.”

 

Of course, being the honest, sensitive, open-minded person I am, I responded, “NO I’M NOT!” But my defensiveness told the story. He was right; I had become “addicted” to the seeds and it took a couple of months for me to break the habit.

 

Whether it’s removing a food from your diet, exercising, or spending more time in prayer, new habits can be developed but it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind:

 

•Make an Attainable Goal

 

No matter what the goal is, make sure it’s actually doable. If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t make a goal to exercise an hour a day, eat salads at every meal, or lose six clothing sizes in a month—you’ll only be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, pray about it and make a goal that is reasonable. Maybe you’ll commit to exercising twice a week for a while, until your endurance builds up. Or maybe you’ll decide to cut your dinner portions in half and stop the late night snacking. Whatever it is, start small and make baby steps. Any progress is better than nothing.

 

The same concept applies to your spiritual growth. If you are trying to develop a good devotional routine, it would be unwise to commit to waking up at 3am and spending an hour and a half in prayer and study when you’re normal routine involves waking up at 6am and getting out the door by 7:30am. Again, make a reasonable goal. Maybe try to go to bed fifteen minutes earlier each night, and wake up fifteen minutes earlier each morning. Set yourself up for success by making goals you can actually achieve and stay committed to.

 

Make a Thirty Day Commitment

 

Whenever you commit to replacing a bad habit with a good one, make sure to take baby steps. Thirty-day goals are a great place to start because it’s easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Psychologically, there is a huge difference between saying, “I’m going to exercise every day for the rest of my life,” and, “I’m going to exercise three times a week for the next month.”

 

When your radar is set on “forever” it’s easy to get discouraged because there’s no end in sight—especially if you’re trying to develop a new habit. Maybe you can’t commit to avoiding fast food every day for the rest of your life, but you can commit to just thirty days. The same goes for any new habit, whether it’s removing a food from your diet or spending more time in prayer and Bible study. Focus on the short term goal and once you’ve reached it, make a new goal for the next thirty days. After a few months of this, you’ll find yourself with a new, good habit that has replaced the old.

 

You may also find it helpful to keep a list or calendar of some sort that you can mark off upon completing your goal. Each day when you see that “X” or check mark, you’ve come one day closer to your short-term goal. You’ll also find this useful on the days you fall short. Maybe you missed your workout, or you weren’t feeling well and caved in to eating that tempting treat. But knowing that you’ve only got thirty days to get through will encourage you to get back on the wagon as soon as possible. And once those thirty days is up you’ll realize it wasn’t as bad as you thought, and you can probably do it again.

 

The first few days are always the toughest but stick with it, because the rewards will far outweigh the temporary discomfort. And by the time your first thirty days is up, you’ll find that God did equip you to accomplish your goal and He will equip you to accomplish the next one.

 

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

© Rebecca Aarup

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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Why You Might Need to Stand on Your Head

 

“I was so desperate; I would have done anything they told me to do, even if they had told me to stand on my head in the corner of the room for a week straight. I would have done it—anything to be free.” My sponsor shared her own story of recovery with me the first night we met. She had been sober from alcoholism for over ten years, and here I was, a newbie to the whole thing. At the time, though, I had not quite reached that level of desperation, and it would be two more years of addiction, bitterness, depression, mental illness, and overall internal misery before I experienced freedom from such things. In other words, I had to get to that level of desperation, that level of desire, before an authentic lasting change of behavior could take place. Until I reached that point, I continued in a “double-minded” state of living, oscillating between what I knew from God’s word and what I actually experienced in my day to day life.

And I’m not the only one who has experienced this tragic tug-of-war over the mind. Often, the mind is far more willing than the heart. Unfortunately, the two must meet in agreement in order for a real transformation to take place. And by transformation I don’t mean a temporary lapse of obedience to God’s word, but a true sustained inner peace that passes all human understanding. A peace that is characterized by freedom from entanglements that exudes through one’s countenance, which brings us to:

The Countenance Test

You can learn a lot about a person through their countenance. Luke 9:28-36 recounts the events surrounding Jesus’ transfiguration, and in verse 29 we’re told, “As [Jesus] prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered.” Even the Son of God was changed when in the presence of His Father through prayer. Much the same, when we wear the person of Jesus Christ (spending time listening to Him and believing what He says about us—experiencing life to the full) our presence (how we carry ourselves and how we express ourselves) will be affected.

When my family spent a day at Disneyland for our daughter’s fifth birthday last September, we had to cram as much in as we could in one short day. We arrived when the park opened and stayed until they closed the doors. We only sat down to eat one time during the entire day. No joke, folks, it was brutal. At first we entered the park practically skipping along with excitement. We were all smiling from ear to ear; we could hardly contain our enthusiasm. But by the time midnight rolled around we were exhausted, sore, hungry, and sunburnt. It wouldn’t have taken a psychologist to figure it out, either. One look at us would have told the story.

Most Christians have that sort of skip-a-long attitude when they first come to Christ. They’re excited and full of energy, “I’ve been redeemed! WOOOO!” But over time, as the reality of life kicks in, the believer wears down emotionally. Sometimes having to drag themselves to church through the doubt and discontentment they feel on a daily basis. The same is true for those who have experienced a personal revival or rededication to Jesus. The excitement eventually wanes and things go back to “business as usual”.

Week in and week out believers are walking into churches with saddened countenances. Their body language and facial expressions tell a far greater story than their words. And that story is not exuding peace, joy, and contentment. Instead, the countenance says, “Jesus, your burden is so heavy and your yoke is more than I can bear. You want too much from me. I want to give up. I’m tired.” How sad that Christ-followers are settling for this kind of existence!

When Truth Doesn’t Set You Free

I recently received an email from a stranger who had stumbled upon my website. This person was desperate for freedom (or so they said). But I had an uneasy feeling from the get-go, and in my correspondence I tried to pay careful attention to the responses I received. It became apparent that the struggling person was not, in fact, even a Christian (one who has trusted in Jesus alone for salvation). They were dealing with demonic interference and had dabbled in the occult/Satan worship.

When I presented this person with the gospel, their whole demeanor changed. They became angry and aggressive, even switching personalities and claiming to be someone else. At one point they told me the original author of the email was no longer allowed to communicate with me.

I assured this person that they could be set free, but only through Jesus Christ. But that wasn’t the answer they wanted to hear and submitting to Christ was not an option for them. In fact, it enraged them every time I mentioned the name of Jesus.

I’ve had experiences of a similar nature with other believers who come to me with their struggles. While they are willing to read books—especially the Bible—do studies, attend conferences, and join groups, they are unwilling to believe what God says about them or their circumstances, and they are not willing to allow God to circumcise their heart and purge the things that are holding them back from a full experience of freedom. Many times these individuals also get angry and defensive when presented with the truth. Unfortunately, they want the result (peace) without the effort (choosing to believe and live by the truth despite circumstances).

The only truth that will set you free is the truth you are willing to apply. <<<(Click here to Tweet this!)

If you want to experience a freedom that exudes through your countenance (in other words, it’s infectious to those around you), you need to reach that point where you’re willing to stand on your head to get results. You’re willing to choose not to be a victim, not to have rights (because your rights are in fact God’s, not yours), you’re willing to be humbled, you’re willing to admit your way isn’t producing the fruit you’d like it to, you’re willing to listen to truth without defensiveness, you’re willing to embrace the relationships God has placed in your life—even the tough ones (some of my biggest spiritual epiphanies have come through the voice of my accusers); in other words, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to be free. You’re willing to believe God’s word and live by faith.

Are you weary, worn, tired, fearful, anxious, depressed, despairing, discontented, embittered, angry…? Are you tired enough to let God change it? Will you stand on your head if He tells you to? You can experience life to the full but you need to ask yourself how willing are you really?

If you are willing, but need help with the “how” of all of this, feel free to email me (RebeccaAarup@mail.com) with your questions. Please, don’t settle for anything less than perfect peace.

Related articles:

If You Really Want the World to Change, it Starts with This

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

_______________________________

You can support Rebecca with one click! If you enjoyed this post, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

If you were encouraged by what you read here, please share with your friends and/or leave a comment.