There’s a saying from the Old Testament, Jeremiah 13:23 That questions whether or not a leopard can change its spots. Does this mean that if we have a certain trait, characteristic, or habit about us that we cannot change it? That we're relegated, subjected, doomed to live it out the rest of our lives? The answer: No. We CAN change things about ourselves, no matter how ingrained, deeply rooted, deeply anchored they are within us. Slow and gentle living requires us to be mindful about our thoughts and behaviors. The first step to getting to a better place is knowing Christ loves us and calls us to live our best lives possible. Not perfect lives but our best lives.
And if anyone knows how to help us improve ourselves it’s the very One who created us. And no matter how well intentioned the celebrity or motivational speaker, they don’t have what Christ has: divine intervention. What does that mean? That means when we accept Him as our Savior, we immediately receive the power of the Holy Spirit who can make the impossible possible. What you might think can never get better, he has the power to make it better through us. In Mathew 17:20 Jesus states, “…if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Does this mean an actual mountain, like Mt. Kilimanjaro? No, of course not. What it does mean is that through Him we CAN change a seemingly impossible circumstance that feels like we are trying to move a mountain.
That doesn’t mean we sit back and lazily wait on him to act. Someone recently said to my husband about the Christian faith, “It doesn’t work for me.” This statement is reminiscent of the Pharisees, Priests, and Scribes of the New Testament who were always wanting Jesus to perform miracles to satisfy their immature curiosity and desire for spectacles. “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you,” they said to Jesus in Matthew 12:38. What that “It doesn’t work for me” is really saying is, “I haven’t put in the work seeking Him each day, praying, studying, and doing what I can to change my situation. I want to take the easy way and let Jesus do all the work. I mean if he’s all powerful, let’s see him work a miracle in my life. Isn’t there an app I can download?” Jesus helps us out of love, mercy, and compassion. Even if we’ve been struggling with something for years. Nothing is too impossible that he cannot reach into and heal within and around us.
Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Many of us are or have been invalid for years: fragile, frail, challenged, debilitated, feeble, worn-out, run-down, poorly. The man spent year after year expecting others to help him into a healing pool a mere few feet away. When Jesus saw him, he asked the man, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool…” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.” John 5:6-8. But even after that the man engaged in some smarmy behavior, and Jesus had to remind him to knock it off. The man started to lean back into his old, bad habits. Jesus desires for us to “Get up and pickup our mats.” This means do what we can to “get up”, clean up the mess we created around us, and to move forward in His love and guidance. Thus, knowing how powerful Christ can work in our lives, as we do what we can on our own, is the first powerful step to getting ourselves to a more healthy, wholesome, able-bodied, and sound place. All antonyms or opposites of invalid.
The second step is recognizing something as a problem, that causes problems, or prevents us from moving forward in more positive and healthy ways. So, for example, if we lose our temper quickly or we are short and nasty with people then we need to figure out what triggers this behavior? What alleviates it? When did our temper flare-ups begin? Did we witness it as a child from a parent? Did it develop after financial pressures or marital problems increased? Are we insecure about something because it's not built on a good foundation? Are we hiding from something? Hiding something from someone? Acknowledging that it is a problem then identifying its source are crucial to getting to a better place. And when we take the time to give it thought, the answers come quickly. As loving as both of my parents were, one had a temper and the other was quite emotive. I learned both, and it caused problems. With His help I work on these things to this very day.
So, for example, if we are engaging in an unwanted behavior, such as getting our feelings hurt by someone, understand that typically people don’t go out of their way to hurt us. It’s a personality difference. Some people are naturally more abrasive than others, and they don’t even realize the effect they have on us. Recognizing this takes the personal element out of it and should soften the sting of delivery. Often if we tell someone nicely that what they do or say bothers you, they’ll fix it. If they don’t then it’s up to us to create distance or a complete disconnect, depending on the circumstance.
If it’s something that we’re doing too much of, like smoking, drinking, eating, spending too much money, again, recognizing the underlying source that drives us to engage in these behaviors is paramount to finding solutions for them. This is where He begins a beautiful internal work, so we no longer need external sources to use as a crutch to give us our value or to uphold our spirits.
Over-indulgence needs to be replaced by a new habit. A new habit generally takes about 30 days to kick in. It’s important to replace the negative with something positive that creates a reward. So, instead of grabbing a cocktail, grab a refreshing drink, pair it with a nice meal, and the body and mind are rewarded with delicious flavors and feeling satisfied. IIt may not feel as rewarding initially as the old habit, but the new habit will take over. f you need to have a cigarette, opt for a healthy snack instead. Little by little the body will begin to look forward to the positive replacement. Starting each day seeking Him gets our hearts and minds in the right place, gives us power over things of this world that we have allowed control over us. When we set our minds on Him first thing then the body follows suit and conforms to submission to that which is so much more healthy and life-giving.
Most situations causing us anxiety, pain, and frustration are temporary. This is a big help in managing unwanted behavior. What seems like the “end of the world” actually isn’t. What seems like an impossible crisis that cannot be managed really isn’t, and problematic situations can be managed. No, there may not always be quick solutions. This is where many of us get hung up. If we don’t see something improve after a few days, especially in our “quick reward” culture then we think all is lost. That simply is not true.
This leads to the third element; it’s important to understand that managing deep seated problems takes time. It took a long time for them to embed within us, and it may take time to create better habits to replace them. There will be challenges. It’s not easy initially. And sometimes when you think you’ve got it licked, you get hit up by old desires and behaviors. This is normal. So, if you smoke, eat, spend, or drink more than you wanted in one day or evening, does that mean you’re a total failure and must resort to the old ways? No, of course not. You simply get back on track the next day. Don’t clobber yourself because of it.
Jesus called the devil the father of lies. Don’t let your own thoughts whisper to you that you are total loser and failure if you screw up. We ALL screw up big time and from time to time. NONE of us are perfect. Jesus said of the devil, “When he lies, he speaks his own language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44. This is why it is so, so important for us to know what He says about us, so we recognize a lie that comes across our thoughts, anything contrary to what He says and thinks about us.
We ALL struggle with something. We are ALL working to make improvements in our lives. Lol...well, at least I know I am. At least sometimes it feels that way after an evening scroll through Instagram. Truth is, we’re all in this together. We all have issues that come rapid fire, big issues that need immediate triage, or small issues that annoyingly tap at us each day. The beauty is that nothing is impossible for Christ.
Have a beautiful day ~