One Key Step to Dealing With Habitual Sin

Tip of IcebergI have been a compulsive nail biter since I was 3 years old. I can remember family members offering a vast array of rewards for growing my nails ever since I was very small. As an adult, there have been times I was able to stop for weeks or even a few months at a time. But I always started again. Every January 1st starts with a new resolution to stop, but I have never been successful.
 
I had a revelation about my inability to stop biting my nails recently. Biting my nails is only an outward symptom of an underlying, persistent problem in my life.  I bite my nails when I’m anxious – and I’ve been an anxious person my whole life.
 
While biting nails is a habit, and habits certainly can be broken, I’m starting to realize that it wouldn’t accomplish much if I did stop. I would have longer nails, but the anxiety that causes the habit would not go away. I would be solving for a symptom and not the problem. If you’re on fire and react by jumping around, a continual attempt to stop jumping is never going to change the fact you’re on fire.
 
Perhaps this is why so many people share the experience of failed New Year’s resolutions. Every year we keep trying to change something that isn’t the actual problem. When the problem remains, fixing the symptom is nearly impossible, and even if possible, it’s ineffective at making meaningful change in our lives.
 
Thinking about this has opened my eyes to the analogous problem of dealing with persistent sin. There are things in my life (my temper especially) with which I regularly struggle and wonder why no matter how much I pray, and no matter how many things I try, I can’t change. I despise the sin of being quick to anger because it impacts my kids directly. I feel a desperation to change yet find myself continually defeated.
 
Looking back at my attempts to change, however, I was always trying to stop reacting to the fire.  “Lord, PLEASE help me stop getting mad so easily!” But I never searched to find out why I was on fire in the first place. Then I started praying this instead: “Lord, please help me to understand WHY I get mad so easily. Give me wisdom to see what is under this tiny tip of the iceberg.”
 
Soon after, God answered this prayer and I saw very clearly what was causing much of the fire (I will share this in another post). I was able to change my perspective on some key daily issues and my relationship with my kids has changed significantly since I prayed for that wisdom.
 
If God had answered my prior prayers and had just taken away my anger, I wouldn’t have ever found the source. I’m grateful He let me struggle through it so He could answer the more valuable request for wisdom.
 
When you face habitual sin, pray for the wisdom to see the underlying problem. With that wisdom and continued prayer, you’ll be able to put out the fire . . . and isn’t that what you really want?

1 Comment

  1. Tracy on January 23, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    I have been thinking about this same topic a lot lately. I used to feel very defeated and angry.. I just recently (within the past year) accepted Jesus as my savior, and now I realize God has a plan for me, ALWAYS, and I need to be accepting and open to this. A lot of stress I once felt has faded.
    If you ever stop biting your nails, I’d love to know! I am and anxious biter, as well!