The Foundation of Unhealthy Living
We all have habits. Some are good, supportive and essential for life. Other habits have consequences that harm us as well as the people we love. We could fill pages with lists of bad habits, and even though Christians see themselves as living “good” lives, they can nurture and grow bad habits that soon control them.
Before we delve into this intense and seemingly never-ending battle with life, we must establish our basis for hope. I am going to use the idea of building with blocks as a picture of our healthy living. The most important part of the building is getting a solid base – in this case, we must accept as our solid base that God is on our side. Realize that God is your biggest fan! Some view God as a being that is watching and waiting to pounce on us when we fail and struggle, but instead, the Bible, in numerous passages, refers to God as our heavenly Father. He wants us to succeed in this life. He gives us hope to transform our lives from having poor habits to having good habits. We get to build those good habits on top of this idea that God actually wants us to have a good life, and he is rooting for us. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote:
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
There really is hope for us, but part of our journey is to recognize where we are, discover why we have arrived there, and then move forward into a healthy life.
Where Are We?
Where do we find ourselves in this life? I believe that many of us who are struggling on our health journey are deceiving ourselves in a way. Our negative behaviors sabotage life, and yet we have grown so accustomed to living this way that we settle for much less than best. Remember that idea of building with blocks? Most of us are like a mess of blocks haphazardly stacked … it is a poorly built stack, balanced precariously, and ready to fall apart.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25
Our God is grieved when we persist in negative behaviors that sabotage our healthy lives. He sees the pain and tears that poor actions bring to our existence. We are encouraged in this passage to be “doers” and not just “hearers” of the Word. How many of us not only hear but also even speak the Word, but we struggle to actively live the Word? Now realize, the intent here is to simply recognize how we fall short, not to condemn.
Whose fault is it?
We simply must realize that there is hope. Besides realizing that God is our source for change and new life, we also must take responsibility. The realization that we did this to ourselves is a tough one to accept. But we must accept that we make choices and that our bad habits, while addictive and at times our second nature, were our choice when they began. I heard a quote recently from Pastor Rich Guerra, “Most people want uphill results, but they have downhill habits.”
Our downhill habits are many times related to incorrect beliefs and negative feelings. We often think that our poor behavior relieves the bad feelings so it must be okay. We rationalize away our poor decisions because of the immediate release of the tension or bad feelings. Basically, we feel better when we indulge in easy fixes – like eating something sweet, cutting corners at work, or sleeping in later with the idea that that extra 30 minutes somehow is going to make everything better. Remember those building blocks? It is always easier to knock the whole stack down than it is to build it higher!
For our unhealthy habits to be replaced with healthy habits our motivation is really two-fold. First and foremost, we desire to be obedient to God’s will. Second, we really do want to benefit both our life and the lives of our loved ones.
Until we deal with the underlying wrong beliefs that weaken our resistance to the bad habits, we will have only limited success in overcoming them. In the end our bad habits are much more than physical issues - many times they are, in fact, emotional and spiritual issues. Because they are so deeply rooted in who we are, we seem to be unable to let go of negative, unhealthy behaviors. We try to adjust and change, but we are never able to stick to new behaviors and the misery once again quickly returns.
Many of us do things that hurt ourselves and we know they are unhealthy. We even know that we should stop but it is as if we can’t. If we could stop, we would. If it was easy to stop, we would. But truly nothing makes this place in life more difficult than for us to feel we are incapable of change. Where hope is vanquished, death soon follows. It is as if we are sitting and looking at all the building blocks scattered on the floor, and just the idea of picking them all up is so overwhelming that we just continue to walk around them and keep doing what we have been doing. For whatever reason, it just feels too hard to stop our regular habits, and start building with the blocks.
Where are we? We are bound up by our bad habits, sabotaging our lives, and letting down God, our loved ones, and ultimately ourselves. We are stuck in self-deception, and we are struggling to admit that our problems are that serious. We have tried to change, but our history has been that we couldn’t change, and so we feel stuck.
The good news here is that THERE IS HOPE!