I have always heard that in order to quit one habit, we must intentionally replace it with another. I’ve seen it happen, too. I’ve watched people quit smoking, only to pick up an eating habit. I’ve seen people quit the abuse of one drug successfully…only to cast that addictive behavior onto another equally dangerous substance. I am no psychologist, so I presume to have absolutely no in-depth knowledge of how these things work. However, it does seem that there are pathways in our brains that once dug, will be filled with something. They will not stand empty.
It’s true for chemical addictions, certainly, but it is no less true for the other dangerous habits we pick up in life. I learned in counseling a few years ago that if I am going to stop the old ways of thinking that get me into anxious binds, I need to pick up new ways of thinking to take their place.
And this issue of balance….I don’t think it’s any different. We’ve grown accustomed to thinking and living this way. We’ve grown accustomed to the harried lifestyle that leaves us running from one thing to another but never really being present in anything. We’re used to the adrenaline rush of trying to get something done at the last minute because we couldn’t get to it before. We’re pretty used to not sleeping well because our dreams are shaken by unsettled, worried thoughts. If we were in a state of having only one thing on our minds at a time, we’d probably assume we were forgetting something. We’ve adapted to this way of living – this way of being – and if we simply remove this pattern from our lives, we are most likely to find another pattern to fill the void left behind.
The task at hand, then, is to intentionally create a new pattern of living. We have to intentionally create new trails for our thoughts to venture down, and then we may be on the way to balance.
If we want God to be the destination at the end of those thought trails, we have to point ourselves in that direction.
I rarely write this way, but I want to offer specific, practical things that you can do to replace the chaos in your mind with solid truth that will balance your life.
- Pray. Pray, pray, pray. I really think this has to be the first step to changing anything about yourself. In praying, you are taking yourself – your harried, stressed, imbalanced self – to God, the One who made you in the first place and has been dreaming of wholeness for you much longer than you have.
This was, for many years, a really hard thing for me. I struggled with keeping my thoughts on God during my prayer time. I struggled with concentrating. I struggled with filling the time and, honestly, I often struggled with staying awake. While I don’t think I have a perfect prayer life, by any means, I have come leaps and bounds by incorporating something I’ve always loved to do with my prayer time: journaling. I don’t just jot the prayer request down…list the things I’m praying about. I write the prayer. Word for word. I write the prayer as though I am writing a letter to God. I have always communicated best in writing, and this has been a refreshing change in how I interact with God in my relationship with Him. Once I gave myself permission to pray in an unorthodox way, my relationship with Christ changed in major ways.
- Read Scripture. This is a way of getting into the heart and mind of God. Read it, but study it, too. Paired with prayer, this will require some time allotted for this purpose, but the change you’ll feel within yourself will make the commitment worth it.
- Memorize Scripture. Filling your mind with the Word of God is the best way to rid yourself of your own thoughts. For me, this has been especially helpful in my times of great anxiety and panic. When my mind begins to swirl with panicked thoughts and I can’t seem to self-talk my way out of it, I rely on the power of the Word of God to do the work for me. Any verse will do. God’s Word is potent, and when you apply it in times of spiritual threat, the threat will retreat. Once you have a verse in mind to memorize, surround yourself with it. Put it on cards where you will see it throughout the day, and deliberately read it when you see it. It will begin to implant itself in your mind.
- Call on the name of Jesus. Just say His name. In quiet moments…stressful moments…tired moments…worried moments…joyful moments. Acknowledge His presence – because He is there with you – and you will begin to feel it.
- Call on the Holy Spirit. My pastor mentioned to me several months ago that he is in the practice of praying simply, “Come, Holy Spirit,” at different times during the day. I have adopted this as well, and it makes a difference. Come, Holy Spirit.
- Listen to worship music. Thankfully, Christian music has come a long way, and listening to it throughout the day is feasible. I use Pandora internet radio, and set stations for my favorite worship songs – Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, Jesus Culture. Even when your thoughts are on something else during your day, the power of worship music can penetrate into your heart. I can really feel a peace come over me and over my whole house when I play worship music, and I try to do so for at least two hours every day.
There are many other things, I am sure, but these are the keys for me. If you feel very, very imbalanced, implement just one of these today and this week. Let me know if you feel a difference. If you have other ideas, I would love to hear them. (Email me!)
Blessings for your day….blessings for today’s journey.