Something occurred to me just recently. I was driving in my old truck (going on 200,000 miles) late in the evening (read, after dark) by myself on a trip which would take about an hour. Halfway there, the truck started running rough and the check engine light started flashing and then stayed on. My knee jerk reaction was fear, bordering on terror. Thoughts like: “Will the truck keep working?” “Will I be sitting by the side of the road by myself?” “I mean, I have AAA and a cell phone, but in the meantime, I will be sitting by myself in the dark.” You don’t have to look at much news to realize the possibilities.
Then it occurred to me. I could continue down this well-worn mental trail I was on, or I could choose to trust God. Great thought, and I felt better for about half a second, then my thoughts were leaping back onto the anxiety trail.
That’s when I had a second realization. My anxiety reaction has been a habit for a very long time. I will not to be able to change it with a sudden realization. As with any new habit building, I will need to keep bringing my mind, along with my emotions, back to trust in God (breathe in, breathe out), trust in God (slooooow dooowwnn, heartrate), trust in God (circulation, return to hands and feet), trust in God (Come back, thoughts! Are you listening to me?!).
Satan does not give up territory without a fight. The verse, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, NIV) has taken on new meaning. There have been times in my life, when I have been trying to change a thought pattern where the picture has come to mind of Satan’s henchman being something like a shadow person clinging to me. I struggle and struggle and finally get him peeled away as far as arm’s length, but then my strength gives out and I have to let go and this shadow being grabs me once again. It is exhausting work!
For years I thought resisting the devil meant just saying no. I mean, that is extraordinarily hard at times in and of itself. But there are times when resisting is exhausting work done over and over and over again on the same problem or sin.
So what I have decided to do is when I realize I am reacting with fear/anxiety to a situation, I will pray for help and then practice trusting God all the way down into my emotions, again, and again, and again. I will not be shocked or disheartened when I fail one more time, because new habits and skills take time and practice. I will be patient and kind with myself as I practice, mentally encouraging and cheering myself on.
What are some things you have identified in your own life that need changing? Pick just one of them, look to God for help, pray, and determine to practice – over and over and over. Let’s not give up! Let’s determine to be patient and kind to ourselves when we fail. We can do this! It will get easier and then one day looking back, it will be hard to believe that the old habit was so hard to change.