There are many ways we hold ourselves back from living the lives God calls us to live. Each of us has at least one area where we struggle to move forward in our lives, our callings, and our faith. It’s very frustrating to feel stuck all the time, but the good news is we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and He enables us to do what seems impossible, even overcoming our strongholds and negative habits!
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
There are five areas in our lives where most of us struggle, and if we’re not careful, these areas can actually become habits which can become strongholds that keep us captive.
Here are the five areas as well as some tips for how to begin to move forward:
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Fear will keep you stuck like nothing else! Everyone has at least one thing they’re afraid of; however, many of us don’t ever take the time to identify or acknowledge our fears, much less overcome them. That’s why when we’re allowing our fears to control us, it can feel like we’re stuck or paralyzed. If we live in fear every single day, we’ll live with that stuck feeling every single day.
Remember, God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, “but of power, love, and self-discipline”! (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT)
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How can we overcome our fear?
1. Identify it.
Take time to sit in silence and journal or think about what it is you’re afraid of deep down. Ask yourself, “What’s my number one fear?”
2. Examine it.
Ask yourself, “Is it controlling me? Is it at least influencing areas of my life? What areas of my life are being controlled or influenced by my fear?”
3. Surrender it.
Release it to God and ask Him for His help in remaining free from it. Also ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do today to take a step away from my fear and toward faith? What’s one small change I can make right now to my thinking, my words, or my actions?”
If you’re not sure, ask God! He’ll definitely reveal some ways to start overcoming your fears, and He’ll even give you all the grace and help you need to take each and every step forward.
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Just like everyone has at least one fear, each of us also struggles with procrastination from time to time. There are many reasons why we procrastinate. There are things we just don’t want to do or are afraid of doing. Sometimes we don’t know what to do, so we put things off. Yet God calls us to take action and move forward with Him (James 1:23-25), and in order to do so, we must overcome the temptation to procrastinate.
“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 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 1:23-25)
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How can we overcome procrastination?
1. Admit it.
We like to use excuses like, “I’ve been busy…” or “I forgot…” when the truth is we’re procrastinating. Once we admit and own the real struggle, then we can tackle it.
2. Ask for help.
Pray and ask God for help with your procrastination. Ask Him to remove any overwhelming feelings and to give you wisdom and clarity about the first small step you can take toward your task. If needed, reach out and ask someone else for help as well.
3. Take the first step.
We often overwhelm ourselves by looking at the big picture and everything we have to do, but once we identify the first small step we can take, it becomes so much easier to take that step and not worry about all the rest. Focus on prayerfully taking one step a day until you’ve completed the thing you were putting off.
Procrastination may seem like one of those habits we’ll never be able to beat, but we are able to do all things through His strength. (Philippians 4:13)
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There are many reasons why we distract ourselves. Sometimes we do so because God has asked us to take the next step forward with Him and we feel overwhelmed so we distract ourselves. Sometimes there’s a sin in our lives that we don’t want to stop, so we keep ourselves distracted instead of dealing with it. Sometimes we choose distractions because we’re unhappy with the season God has us in and we don’t want to think about it.
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How can we stop distracting ourselves?
1. Focus on what you’re doing.
Do what you can to improve your focus and concentration during distraction-prone times. If you’re reading your Bible, leave your phone in another room so you’re not tempted to look at it. If you’re trying to pray, put in some earplugs or earbuds with non-distracting sounds or music to help you focus.
2. Set a timer.
Sometimes, we distract ourselves from things we don’t want to do because boring or difficult tasks seem never-ending, so by setting a timer, we know that the task will have a definite end for today. For example, if God’s been prompting you toward a new job and you’ve got to brush-up your resume, set a timer for 20 minutes. Since you know that in 20 minutes, you won’t have to work on it anymore today, you’ll be more likely to focus and get it done during those 20 minutes.
3. Do what you need to do.
If you need to delete an app from your phone, delete it. If you need to cancel a subscription, cancel it. Do whatever you need to do to eliminate your distractions.
Releasing the distractions that have been holding us back and choosing to focus on what God’s calling us to is one of the ways we can build our endurance as we run the race He’s set before us.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
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If you’re stuck and wondering how in the world you got where you’re at, the missing puzzle piece may be a sense of responsibility. If we don’t take ownership of our decisions, or for our perpetual indecision, we’ll keep looking for a way to shift the blame or make excuses instead of admitting, “My own decisions and actions have landed me here.”
When we take responsibility for our actions, we can work through the consequences and begin to take different actions. It’s then that the Lord can start to guide us and show us a new direction to take.
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How can we take more responsibility in our lives?
1. Choose a mindset.
We can choose to live as victims or as victors, and the way we live our lives starts with the way we think. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
2. Prayerfully choose a next step.
It may be something small like waking up 15 minutes earlier, so you arrive to work on time. Or it might be something big like ending a relationship you know you need to end.
3. Take the step. Do it!
Taking responsibility means taking responsible action. Choosing your next step is a step itself, but you won’t notice a change until you actually take that step.
As you begin to take responsibility in your life, stay surrendered to the Lord and continue to allow Him to direct your steps. He can make the way forward clear for us if we allow Him to do so.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
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Our choices are really the key to everything in life. We choose to procrastinate or tackle a task. We choose to distract ourselves or stay focused. We choose to live in fear or walk by faith. We choose to take ownership and responsibility, or we choose to make excuses.
However, our daily choices are just as important as our bigger life choices because generally, the smaller choices we make each day can become habits, either positive or negative. So how can we break old habits and make better choices, not just in the big things, but in the smaller, day-to-day things as well?
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For bigger, one-time choices:
- Pray. Surrender any decisions to God right away and ask Him for wisdom and help.
- Seek support, wisdom, or accountability. Ask a trusted friend or mentor for some Godly counsel or to hold you accountable to what you know God is asking you to do.
- Take small steps forward each day. Prayerfully take steps forward and ask the Lord to continue to guide you as you do so.
For smaller, daily choices:
- Create a daily checklist. Create a checklist or tracker for habits you want to develop, such as spending time with God, eating healthy snacks, going to bed on time, etc. This will help you stay on track with your choices throughout the day.
- Set yourself up for success. If you’re trying to read your Bible in the morning, put it on your nightstand (or by your coffee mug) so it’s the first thing you see.
- Seek support and accountability. Find a prayer partner or a friend who’s on the same journey and who can support and encourage you as you’re making new choices.
- Pray. Our Heavenly Father is interested in every detail of our lives, no matter how small. (Matthew 6:26-33) He wants to be included in our daily choices so don’t forget to pray over them with Him as you’re going about your day.
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"We have victory through Christ..."
There’s a common theme in many of the tips shared above: prayer. Prayer is really the starting point for any area of struggle, and it’s the key to accessing His power and presence in our struggles. (Ephesians 6:10-18) We have victory through Christ, and through prayer, we can overcome any stronghold and live as true victors.
“...despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:37 (NLT)
Abigail Folds is a Life and Faith Coach from the Carolina coast, and she's on a mission to encourage and inspire Christians to live the lives they’re being called to live. She believes we're on this earth for a reason, and one of her greatest joys is helping others realize and own that truth so that they can reach their God-given potential in all areas of life. You can check out her blog and resources at www.abigailfolds.com and connect with her on Instagram @abigailfolds.
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Originally published Tuesday, 09 October 2018.