Try New Approaches with Grace
Of course, if we expect all spiritual change to be imperceptible, we might get dangerously passive and settle for staying stuck in unhealthy patterns.
Take my struggle with anxiety. Most of my Christian life, I had what seemed like an airtight plan for dealing with it. I committed to praying more, reading my Bible more, and doing other worthy spiritual things. Surely, the anxiety would stop if I just stuck to the plan.
When it didn’t work, I told myself I hadn’t tried hard enough, and doubled down. Then, I gave up altogether, feeling ashamed and cynical.
Notice what I did not do: I did not try anything new.
Look, I believe in the power of prayer or other spiritual disciplines to transform lives. I just don’t think God only calls us to seek spiritual solutions. Over and over, when God calls people to repentance and transformation, they’re asked to change their lives, not just bow their heads.
In my case, I did not make serious inroads into my anxiety until I began to do very practical things:
1. I got therapy.
2. I grieved previous trauma.
3. I began to have better, healthier boundaries in my relationships.
4. I started saying no to activities and commitments that increased my anxiety.
5. I learned how to care for myself when I felt anxious.
6. I pursued joy in my spiritual life instead of dull obligation.
Prayer, scripture, or other spiritual practices can absolutely help us find victory over our struggles—but they are not God’s only tools.
If you have struggled with a particular problem for years and nothing has worked, try something different. Get wise counsel to see past your blind spots. Consider how your past, priorities, mental health, family life, or other areas keep you from changing. Put everything on the table to find wholeness.
Of course, trying new things can feel incredibly scary. Every time I’ve tried a new approach to an old struggle, I’ve had to grieve how previous attempts didn’t work, and find courage to keep hope alive. Just the idea of new approaches brings up anger, cynicism, and bitterness.
As best as you can, lower the stakes for new approaches. Commit to trying new things, not succeeding at them. Remember that growth is messy and unpredictable. Give yourself permission to be honest with yourself and God about how you feel. Then, step by baby step, move toward new ideas.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images