Why do you always check your phone as soon as you wake up? Why do you always make a cup of coffee in the morning? Every single day is filled with routine and chaos, but my guess is that we don't even realize it. Habits drive our every day, both for the good and the bad. In this episode, we take a look at why we have these habits, evaluating the good, the bad, and the ugly while also looking at how we can use habits to draw us closer to the Lord.
We All Have Habits
Are habits a God-given thing or a man-given thing? In other words, are habits a gift from God or a curse of man? While as always I'm no expert, I do believe that habits are a God-given thing, but we also can abuse them. Let's start back at the creation story and hold to these words...
Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. Then He separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”
And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. - Genesis 1:4-5
God created a habit. He gave us a continual cycle of evening and morning to benefit us in our need for rest as well as, and I'm guessing here, to break the monotony that he knew we'd struggle with. So look throughout scripture and find places where you see God created habits, I believe it's important to not write habits off as something bad but a powerful tool for our lives and to draw us closer to the Lord.
So let's talk about what a habit actually is... In His book, Atomic Habits, James Clear defines the habit loop like this...
The Habit Loop: Cue, Routine, Reward
Cue – is any trigger for your brain on when and what habit to use.
Routine – is an emotion, behavior, or activity.
Reward – is how your brain determines if a loop is benefitical.
Here's a couple of examples of a habit loop:
You feel bored (cue), you grab your phone (routine), and you get a dopamine hit because someone liked your social media post (reward).
You got to the bathroom (cue), you wash your hands (routine), your hands feel clean (reward).
You have a not so great day at work (cue), you self-talk about how you're a failure (routine), you feel justified that your day was so bad (reward).
Habits can be either a beautiful way for us to grow into who we are or they can be a destructive way for us to lose self-confidence, mismanage relationships, or even move us away from the Lord.
Over the course of this episode, we're going to talk about good habits, bad habits, and the really ugly habits that can be destructive to our lives. But before we jump into these habits, we need to make an important observation—habits are both a very difficult thing to create and remove from our lives. Actually habits are most impossible to completely extract from our lives. I get it, that's a huge bummer, but we can create new habits that benefit us.
Now I want to be clear, this episode isn't about ways to create new habits, but seeing the habits in our own lives and evaluating which ones lead us to the Lord and which ones might be leading us away from the Lord. You'll need to search out further on finding ways to create new habits. Here are two resources I highly suggest: 1.) Atomic Habits by James Clear and 2) The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
Both books can be found on Amazon and Audible.
So let's start with good habits...
Can you name some good habits that you currently have in your life? Maybe one of those good habits is that each morning you sit down and spend time in the Word of God. Maybe, before you lay down in bed you say a prayer of thanksgiving each night. Maybe you turn your phone off when you get home and spend time with your family.
One of the good habits that my family has gotten in the rhythm of doing when we sit down to have dinner together is what we call "High/Low" Some of you may know what I'm talking about but every person in our family shares the high of their day and the low of their day. It's honestly been so good for our family. Even now, if we haven't done it our 3 year old will start it for us. It's super sweet.
Good habits have the ability to bring consistency and encouragement to our lives. Good habits can be anything that benefits you or someone around you.
So how do you know if you have good habits in your life? I think a super simple way to do this is to find a blank daily calendar online and write down everything you do on an average day. Be really specific like, "wake up at 6 am," or, "make breakfast for the family." Once you've done this, go back and evaluate each thing and ask yourself the question, is this a habit? What I mean by that is does it have a cue (a trigger for your brain to do something), does it have a routine (an activity or emotion), and does it have a reward (something that seems to be beneficial to you)?
So using the “wake up at 6 am” example, it could be that the cue is your alarm clock, the routine is getting out of the bed, and the reward may be feeling productive or rested.
If you see good habits in your life, celebrate that! Let that celebration become a habit.
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” - James Clear "Atomic Habits"
So keep living these things out. Put into practice new habits that help and encourage people. This will help the world to be a better place.
While we each have good habits, we also have bad ones too. It could be as mild as biting your nails or it could be as negative as stress-eating. I’m guilty of that one for sure. I always envy those people who have had a bad day and have no appetite. For some reason, when I have a bad day I want to eat the entire east coast.
Bad habits tend to be the mild things we do to cope with maybe a bad day at work or a strain on a relationship. A lot of the time I believe we try to justify these bad habits. We say, “Oh, it’s not that bad" or, "I really needed that new pair of shoes." This is the place where we can either make or break ourselves. We can turn things toward the Lord or away from Him.
This is one of my favorite verses and I’ve read it several times on the podcast:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:2
If we are trying to fill a void in our lives, we often try to fill it with things of this world. Paul tells us that renewal has to be what takes place in our lives. That’s when we can see and follow the Lord more closely.
Maybe your boss yelled at you at work today and it’s really wrecked your mind. What do you do with those feelings? What is the habit you lean into when your mind is wrecked? Is it prayer or is it retail therapy? What about your kids being punks? Obviously, that will trigger you, so what is your routine? Do you yell and scream at them or do you ask the Lord for wisdom and confidence that this too will pass? While I don’t want to ever promote the idea that you should try harder, the more you understand how you handle things the better you will be at responding to those things with good habits.
Again I’d suggest pulling out that calendar and looking at all the things you do on an average day. Do you see any bad habits there — like binge-watching a tv show that’s a little too trashy for you to be watching? Maybe it’s regular coffee that you get with a friend that has turned into a gossip session.
If you see bad habits in your life get rid of them as quickly as possible. Don’t let them start to rule you or they could turn into something so much worse.
Remember the words of Paul: "You say, 'I am allowed to do anything—but not everything is good for you. You say, 'I am allowed to do anything—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others." - 1 Corinthians 10:23-24
Bad habits and ugly habits are different. The ugly habits are the really destructive ones that can ruin our lives and relationships. I want to make it a point to say that bad habits can lead you onto this road of the ugly ones.
Let’s talk about a few examples of the ugly habits:
Risky sexual behavior
Obsession over someone or something
Uncontrollable gambling or shopping
Most of these are done in secret. We hide them from our family and friends and hope they’ll never find out, but the deeper we go the more destruction we’ll eventually cause.
Luke 12:2 tells us, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”
Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness (arrogance) before a fall.”
The light will bring our ugly habits into view; it’s just a matter of time.
So if you just put a $2000 charge on your credit card without your spouse knowing, it will catch up with you.
If you spent the morning looking at pornography, eventually those you care about will find out or you’ll go down an even darker path.
Ugly habits need to be dealt with right now. Does that mean you’ll be able to break those habits immediately? Absolutely not. But when we begin the work to push those things out of our lives, the Lord will bless it.
This is going to take a much deeper look than looking at your schedule. This is going to require you to pray that God would reveal anything offensive within you. It’s going to take you confessing it to the Lord and someone you trust who can help you. It’s going to require you seeking counseling.
I know what you’re thinking—you don’t want to. I've been there and I get it. That’s so much work and who knows if it’ll work. Let me tell you something: you are enslaved and the sooner you can realize that the better. You aren’t meant to live like this and you might think that these things are helping you, but that’s a lie from the enemy. There is freedom from those chains. There is hope that you can embrace. You don’t have to give up on trying. The light is meant to help not hurt you. It allows you to see all the sides. Bring these habits to the light and it will help tremendously.
How Can Habits Draw Us Closer to the Lord?
This leads us to the last thing I want to make sure we hear. It’s so important for us to allow our habits to draw us closer to the Lord. Habits are God-given and we want to make sure that our habits are glorifying Him and that they speak to His heart for us and His people. So as you evaluate the habits you have in your life, the best question you can ask yourself is this: does this habit allow me to love God and love His people or does it gratify the desires of my sinful nature?
I’ll leave us with this verse…For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. - Galatians 5:13
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