I wake up in the morning. I am already breathing hard. I get out of bed sluggishly, but I get out. Oh another day at that job I hate. Let’s see what I can find to wear. At least the hours are good. I will get home at a good time.
I check my phone. Make coffee, and get ready for the day.
My mind wonders, and the prevailing sadness that I feel is still there. Here we go again. Another day. Oh yeah. I can’t wait to continue navigating all these life and career changes. I am still no closer to figuring out who I am then I was yesterday, I remember how empty the house feels, how different everything is, and how different everything will continue to be.
Life just hurts, and boy I can’t wait to hurt again today.
Through the day I build myself up. Prayer, Scripture, sermon podcasts, and friends. Things are getting better. I see hope for the future, and understand that someday soon life will move on, and I will enjoy a new life. A life after living with anxiety, in fear, and with depression.
Adopting a New Habit of Reacting to Life
So how can we keep from waking up the next morning, breathing heavy with anxiety, fighting the melancholy of depression, and putting on our eyes and thoughts of fear?
Anxiety, depression and fear make us forgetful people. We are emotion driven people, and emotions don’t remember, they react. We then become in need of a new way of reacting to life. There is NO one thing that will do it, but there are a series of things that we can do.
- Self-examination: spend some time observing yourself. Notice how you react to different situations in your life. The first step to putting off habits is to identify the habits that you have.
- Learn what to replace them with. Last month I got a text. It was very upsetting to me, and I reacted in the same way I had been reacting for the past three years. My first thought was, “I don’t want to live through this.” It was too much like what I had just lived through. Today, I am learning to replace my habit of reacting in that way. The Bible tells us that the best way to change is to put off the old, and put on the new. If I am a thief I need to quit stealing, and earn what I want. It’s not enough to just stop bad habits. They must be replaced with something new or we will return to our old behavior.
- Seek help if needed. Some habits are hard to break. You might need a friend, spouse, mentor, coach, or counselor. It’s okay to need help. It signifies our willingness to change, and will give us hope.
- Practice. Counselor Jay Adams suggests in his book, The Christian Counselors Manual, that it takes at least 3 weeks of proper daily effort to feel comfortable in performing a new practice. It takes about 3 more weeks to make the practice part of oneself.
I have been journaling my progress through each day. My thoughts, ideas, and successes. I open my journal now every morning as a reminder of my new way of thinking about the difficult situations in my life. When I begin to face a difficult situation I remind myself to react in the new way. It’s no longer, “I don’t want to live through this”, it is “I will live through this, and let’s get back to living the new life God is making for me. I have this to do today. I will no longer live in despair.
The key to adopting new habits is endurance. To help me endure I look at the examples of saints who endured great trials and suffering. It helps to see what they did to get through. The saints of old knew how to use God’s Word as a tool for everyday living. It wasn’t just a nice book with Sunday School stories. They considered it alive, and able to provide help.
I highly recommend reading or listening to biographies of Christians to see good examples of endurance. I read missionary books, and I listen to John Piper’s biographies at his website Desiring God. Piper has many wonderful biographies, and the lessons they teach are innumerable.
Jay Adams states this about endurance:
“No one learns to ice skate, to use a yo-yo, to button shirts, or to drive an automobile unless he persists long enough to do so. He learns by enduring in spite of failures, though the embarrassments, until the desired behavior becomes a part of him.”
I am writing about this because I think God has given us tools we can use to put on new ways of living. I don’t think His Word is as lofty as some would have us believe. It’s a guide for living. We can really use it to handle the problems of everyday life.
I pray that you will put off old ways of reacting to life, and put on new ones, and then endure as you practice the new habits. I pray in time that when you begin to deal with anxiety, the melancholy of depression, or fear you will remember how to put that off and put on trusting God, joy in God, and a focus on God.
For His Glory,