When our daughter Katie was a toddler, she could always be found holding Hannah, her stuffed bear. Those two were inseparable. Katie brought her wherever we went, whether it be to the store, to church, or to her grandmother’s house. There was never anywhere Katie wanted to be that Hannah did not make it better.
Later, I began to notice that Hannah didn’t accompany us as often as she used to. She sat sweetly on the dresser in Katie‘s room, relegated to a place of honor, but often left behind. Katie was older now still going many places and doing many things, but she came to prefer the company of her little sister and her friends during that stretch of her life.
Now, years later, Katie is rarely seen outside of the company of her new entourage. She is still going all kinds of places and doing all kinds of things, but her preferred company is no longer a stuffed bear, or even her teenage friends. Now she is seen in the company of our wonderful son-in-law and their adorable children. What happened? Why isn’t she still toting Hannah the bear along with her everywhere, and why isn’t she still hanging out with the same kids from her teenage years?
Of course we all know the answer. She is a girl who can recognize a better thing when she finds it. She very naturally has moved on to bigger and better things the older she has become. While a stuffed bear might be great company when a person is three years old, it cannot compare to real live flesh-and-bone friends during those teenage years. And friends, as amazing as they can be, cannot compare with the wonderful companion and friend that a husband can be when that girl becomes an adult. Just about everyone understands the idea that the only thing that can replace a good thing is a better thing.
Similarly, better things are also very good at replacing bad things. So often we attempt the impossible when we try to overcome the bad habits and behaviors in our lives. If someone has developed the bad habit of over-eating, they might attempt every diet out there. Some might eat only grapefruit for weeks, some try to subsist on one meal a day, some eat only meat, others eat only potatoes - the list is endless, but the result is the same! We end up just thinking about food all day every day, and eventually most people lose the battle.
Or maybe we have a worse habit; not just something physically destructive, but spiritually devastating. We might cry, we might pray, we might make vows, but too often we find ourselves returning to the same poor habit again and again and again. We try to rely on our willpower to overcome bad habits in our lives, but our willpower is never strong enough. It is as if we are a person in a dark room with no windows or doors. The room is completely black, and we try to do all that we can to shove the darkness out of the room. We push it, we drag it down, we punch at it, we kick it, and still the darkness stays.
By now, many of you reading this are thinking, “stop doing all of that! Why don’t you just turn on the light,“ and of course, that is the point.
In the same way that so many naturally move on from a good thing to a better thing , our bad habits can fall by the wayside, left behind forever when we just replace them with something life-giving. The best way to get something damaging or draining out of your life is to put something wonderful into your life instead. You are not stuck. Jesus has given us the power to be free and delivered, now we need the discipline to walk out that freedom and deliverance.
What is the habit or thought pattern or activity in your life that you wish to be rid of? So many people struggle with some thing that they just can’t seem to shake. I want to encourage you today to stop trying to shake it, and start right now replacing it with something that is really good for you. Whenever you find yourself reaching for or starting that undesired activity, have something positive in your life ready to go.
Here are a few great trades to consider:
Replace French fries with salad
Replace soda with water
Replace sitting around with going for walks
Replace playing games with living life
Trade destructive thought patterns for truth
Trade worry for prayer
Trade stress for trust
Trade fear for a sound mind
This is the most important exchange to make. A reality to consider with each area - physical, mental, and spiritual - is that no one can make a trade for nothing. It would be a very effective diet to eat nothing, and it would erase most mental problems to think of nothing, but both of these things are impossible. In the same way, many people think it would be ideal to worship nothing, but it is not possible. We were made to worship, and our hearts cannot be kept from it. In fact, this is the source of most of our most tenacious problems. There are so many things in the world to worship - money, power, sex, food, acclaim, other people and other gods - but just One who will set our lives in order and bring hope, freedom, and peace.
A minister named Thomas Chalmers brilliantly explained this reality…
The love of God and the love of the world, are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity - and that so irreconcilable, that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom. We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it; and thus reduce itself to a wilderness. The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one.
There is something better!
Trade your hopelessness for hope. Trade your despair for joy. Trade your frustration for purpose. Trade your worship of destructive things for the worship and adoration of the Lord and Savior of life. Let the love of God and the freedom and righteousness that He bestows fill your heart and life. May Jesus bless you and keep you, may He make His face shine upon you, may He look upon you with favor and give you peace.
The sermon quoted here is “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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