Shaping Spiritual Growth: The Power of Habit in Christian Life

Have you ever stopped to consider the silent power of habits in your life? We often talk about the big decisions we make as followers of Christ, but what about the small, seemingly insignificant daily choices? The sum of these choices often becomes our life’s defining habits.

Just think about your morning routine. You probably have a specific order for showering, brushing your teeth, dressing up, and maybe even a prayer or devotional routine. All these are habits, actions you’ve repeated so often that they’ve become almost automatic.

The beauty (and challenge) of habits is in their ability to shape our lives without us even realizing it. For every positive habit that brings us closer to God, there might be a counterproductive one pulling us away. James Clear, in his insightful book Atomic Habits, defines a habit as “a behavior that has been repeated enough times to become automatic.” And when you start to observe your daily actions, you’ll quickly realize the immense power habits hold over you.

Understanding the Habit Loop

The process of forming (or breaking) a habit can be boiled down to four crucial steps:

  1. Cue: This is what triggers the behavior. It could be an event, a time of the day, a feeling, or even a place.
  2. Craving: The cue induces a desire in us, a motivation to act. It’s not just the action we crave, but the outcome it promises.
  3. Response: It’s the actual behavior, the action we take in response to our craving.
  4. Reward: The result of our behavior, which can be satisfying (positive habits) or detrimental (negative habits).

The intertwining of these steps creates what’s often referred to as the “habit loop.” By understanding this loop, we can better equip ourselves to create positive habits and dismantle negative ones.

Harnessing Habits for Spiritual Growth

However, as believers, we know that habits aren’t solely a product of neurological responses. They intertwine with our faith, our relationship with God, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s how you can leverage the principles of the habit loop for spiritual purposes:

  1. Cue: Start by recognizing what triggers your desired (or undesired) behavior. For example, if you want to spend more time in prayer, you might set your Bible next to your bed as a visual cue.
  2. Craving: This can be tricky. As Christians, our ultimate reward is in Christ. However, our human nature often seeks immediate gratification. Thus, we might need to find interim rewards to keep us motivated while our ultimate spiritual cravings take root.
  3. Response: Actions speak louder than words. No matter how deeply you crave spiritual growth, it won’t materialize without consistent action. Make these actions easier by setting clear goals and minimizing obstacles.
  4. Reward: Celebrate the small wins and stay committed to the ultimate reward – a deeper relationship with Christ. Remember, “we run that we may obtain him” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

Habits can be our strongest allies or our fiercest enemies in the journey of faith. By understanding their power and harnessing it, we can draw closer to God and lead a life that reflects His glory. So, as you go about your day, think about the habits that define your life. Let’s make the conscious effort to form habits that bring us closer to Christ, and diligently unlearn those that pull us away. The journey of faith is a marathon, not a sprint, and our habits can make all the difference in how we run our race.