Psalm 128:1-2 (NLT)
How joyful are those who fear the LORD—all who follow his ways!
You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be!
Everyone knows that habits get us through life. If we could not reduce our routine activities to automated responses, we would be mentally paralyzed by the simplest challenges of daily life: eating, walking, driving a car, brushing our teeth. In fact, habits become so ingrained and necessary that we give them control of our lives without much conscious thought.
Habits can influence our lives for better or for worse, and this is never truer than in our relationships. How we treat others and how we perceive others’ treatment of us is largely habitual; that is, we have trained ourselves to receive and react to social stimuli in ways we hardly think about. Some habits, such as looking for the good in others, prosper our relationships. Others, such as dishonesty and backbiting, alienate people and weaken us socially.
Spiritual practices are God-prescribed methods of aligning our habits with the will and heart of God. Unlike most habits, spiritual practices are intentional, with a clear and conscious goal of making us more like Christ.
According to the psalmist, fearing God and following God’s ways are practices that lead to joy and prosperity. We can easily see how this truth plays out in our relationships. When we practice love and honesty and faithfulness with one another, we reap the rewards of joy and peace and healthy connections with family and friends, neighbors and coworkers.
Spiritual practices also help us to expose and replace the habits that hurt our relationships. For example, although we may not think of resentment as a habit, it is a learned behavior that may have become our automated response to disappointment. When we follow God and practice the way of patience, we begin to notice the damage and hurt that resentment is causing, and we give the Spirit room to correct us. Habits such as envy, rage, gossip, and dehumanizing others are likewise exposed and dismantled as we cultivate new habits that honor God and prosper our relationships.
FATHER, I know that your ways are best, yet I often wander away from you without realizing it. Help me to identify the habits in my life that lead to strife and alienation, and correct me with the discipline of new practices.
Psalm 1:1-3; Revelation 3:17
Make a list of habits that hurt your relationships. Then identify the spiritual practices that can help you overcome these habits.