I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7: 15-19)
Oh, Paul, I feel ya! Why is it so hard to change a habit? You have the best of intentions, which are the bricks paving the road to you-know-where. You resolve, and you start, and you fall off again. Habit change is difficult.
But why don’t we follow through? What keeps us from sustaining the effort long enough to get and keep a great new habit?
- We try to get the old will power in gear and do it ourselves. The Apostle Paul was totally frustrated with himself in Romans 7, but he changed his tune in Romans 8. What made the difference? The Holy Spirit! Yes, there’s necessary self-discipline and effort, but I have learned that I do not do well when I’m dependent on my own “herculean strength.” When I’m trying to focus on a personal habit, I desperately cry out for the sustaining empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, I’ve learned from hard experience, I’m sunk.
- The pain of same has not exceeded the resistance to change. So you’ve become uncomfortable enough that you’re toying with changing “it.” But the human tendency to stay the same is so alluring, usually the “pain” of the current habit’s consequences has to become more intense – so personally distasteful that it pushes you over into serious and determined effort. It is the wise person who can intentionally seek knowledge about the escalating pain of the end result and allow that picture to motivate them to change now.
- The gravity of self-will pulls us down when we really want to take off. We want what we want when we want it – a little nap instead of exercise, a trip to that ice cream bar at the church social, just one little drink, just a short phone call to/from that person you know is toxic. Just one won’t hurt…will it?
- We think now rather than having long-term vision. Check out Numbers 2 and 3. It’s the flesh that believes it has to be satisfied right now. In God’s Kingdom, the Holy Spirit produces in the fruit cluster, patience and self-control. A toddler wants it all now. Mature adults can look ahead to the future and make choices now that their future selves will thank them for. Bad habits will never be replaced with healthy ones until we grow up enough to hold in our hearts and minds the long-term vision over the immediate urge.
- We go back into denial. Hmmmm…this is a pretty big one on its own. When it gets difficult, we begin to rationalize, “Well, maybe it wasn’t so bad!” And off the wagon we tumble.
God, I know that You are at work within me, inviting me to keep growing Android stretching toward You. Your salvation brings wholeness, and Your Spirit will lead me there. I pray for the self-control and perseverance to change unhealthy habits, one by one. I will persist – in Your power