People often ask how change happens and how to move away from unhealthy traits. A good place to start is by understanding that change is a process and it occurs in three stages.

The first stage is to acknowledge what negative traits we want to let go of and recognize what strategies we’ve used to cope with fear and pain. Some of the more common habits to say good-bye to are rage, blame, overspending, overeating, emotional or physical affairs, chemical dependencies, and playing the ‘victim.’ The pain of letting go may trigger overwhelming feelings. This is normal and, although tempting, it’s not a time to give up. Instead of quitting, this is the time to press into God through prayer, His Word, and His people for comfort and encouragement.

The second stage of change typically brings with it a period of confusion. This is a disconcerting season where we’ve said good-bye to the old, but the new is not yet familiar. Things may appear worse instead of better, as others are also unaccustomed to our new ways. During this time we may be tempted to go back to old habits for comfort, but doing so will ultimately end in destruction. Instead, we need to remind ourselves of God’s grace through the changes that we’ve already survived. Our hope during this stage is dependent on our being rooted in Christ. He is faithful; and after the ‘shaking‘, we will be left standing on a firm foundation found only in Jesus.

The third stage is a time to embrace the new things in our life and to welcome the sense of relief, peace, and energy that are becoming a consistent part of our experience. We can begin enjoying the spiritual enrichment that the fruits of the Holy Spirit bring to our innermost being. And, although we still need to be intentional to make our new habits a regular part of our new life, as time passes, they will become a part of who we are. The result of this newfound fulfillment and satisfaction can also help motivate us to keep cultivating life-enhancing choices.

God will give us the grace to let go of those things that limit us from growing in His love and reaping the abundant harvest produced from abiding in Him. He is faithful to complete the good work He began in us through Jesus Christ.