The reason most habits are so powerful is they create neurological cravings. Most of the time these cravings develop so slowly we don’t even realize they exist, so we’re blind to their influence on our lives. But as we begin to associate certain cues (the smell of cookies) with certain rewards (sugar rush) a subconscious craving emerges in our brains and starts the habit loop spinning.
Cravings are what drive habits.
Advertisers understand this better than anyone. In order to sell toothpaste, deodorant, or Febreze advertizers work hard to create cravings in our lives. Cinnabon executives work hard to locate their stores in malls far away from food courts because want the smell of cinnamon rolls to waft down the hallways uninterrupted, so shoppers start to subconsciously crave a cinnamon roll. By the time you turn the corner and see the store you are already reaching for your wallet.
To change a habit, we have to uncover the craving that is driving the behavior.
Genuine change requires work and self-understanding of the cravings driving the behaviors. Changing any habit, of course, requires determination. You must find ways to replace self-destructive routines with healthier alternatives. But the most important step to changing a habit is to address the craving that is driving it.
The Greek word epithumiai is very common in the New Testament. The word literally means “inordinate desires” or “craving”. When Paul sums up the fall of humanity into sin, he does so by describing epithumiai.
In the beginning, human beings were made to (1) worship and serve God, and then (2) to rule over all created things in God’s name (Gen.1:26–28). Instead, we fell into sin. We refused to give God glory (i.e., to make him the most important thing) and instead chose certain parts of creation to glorify in his place: “[They] exchanged the glory of the immortal God…and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator... For this reason, God handed them over to the epithumiai of their own heart for impurity” (Rom.1:23–25).
We reversed the originally intended order. Human beings came to (1) worship and serve created things, and therefore (2) the created things came to rule over them. Every habit, every sin, is rooted in the epithumiai, the inordinate desire for something.
Why do we lie, or fail to love, or break our promises, or live selfishly? The New Testament teaches that it is because there is something besides Jesus Christ that we feel we must have to be happy, something that is more important to our heart than God, something that is enslaving our heart through inordinate desires.
The key to change is to identify the idols of the heart.
The key to changing a habit is to identify the epithumiai that is driving the behavior.
Because we placed ourselves and created things where only God deserves to be - we became slaves to our own cravings. But the gospel - shows us that Jesus placed himself where we deserve to be - so that when we receive Him we can become free from our cravings.
Because Christ died for us, rose for us, and will return again for us the moment we believe in him, trust in him, rest in him, we have new life and we can begin to flourish!
You cannot eradicate a bad habit. You have replace it with a new one.
You cannot eradicate a craving. You have to realign it in a new direction.
Only if the main engine of your life is the sweetness of God’s grace will your character, your behaviour, your thoughts, emotions and relationships begin to flourish!
“It is seldom that any of our bad habits or flaws are made to disappear by a mere process of natural extinction or by the mere force of mental determination. But what cannot be thus destroyed may be dispossessed. The heart’s desire for having some one object or other, this is unconquerable… The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.” - Thomas Chalmers