Once again, I am committing to grow physically healthier this year. And once again, here comes that naysaying voice in my mind: “You tried before, and you failed. You went back to your old unhealthy ways. Why would this time be any different? Your tendencies to overeat and avoid exercise are never going to change. This is just something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life.” I wonder if anyone else can relate to that level of discouragement, bordering on defeat?
If another person talked to me that way, I would walk away. But it’s harder to walk away from myself. You see, I’ve broken my own trust over and over again. Every time I’ve started healthier habits and then stopped, a little more self-trust has eroded away. At this point in my life, I’ve amassed about 20 years of failure on this particular issue.
What I know in my head is that relapse is a part of recovery. Logically, I notice that each time I have relapsed, I’ve learned something new about myself or about healthy living. I’ve found a new piece to the puzzle, which means I’m getting closer and closer to finally overcoming. My rational side knows this is true. My emotional side fears disappointing myself yet again. My emotional side tends to shout more loudly in circumstances like these, and so a battle wages within me. “I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate…For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want…So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:15, 19, and 25). I’m so sick of the battle!
Here is the new puzzle piece I am adding. In order to start fresh, I need to forgive myself for the times in the past when I failed. The truth is that I did try, and trying matters. The truth is that I did fail, and that stinks. But I have also found the courage to try again, which is no small thing. The truth is that in those very moments when I was guiltily shoveling processed food into my mouth, when I rolled over and pulled the covers up over my head instead of jumping up and putting on my workout clothes, in those moments I was deeply loved. Jesus saw me hiding out in the pantry, opening the fridge for the umpteenth time, and He had compassion for me. He still has compassion for me, even now. And that will never change, no matter how many times I let myself down.
This year, I’m going to work on cultivating a fresh habit of compassion. I’m going to come into agreement with the Lord, that the way He feels toward me is correct. I’m going to work on reminding myself that “there is now no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). I’m going to allow my Savior’s words to permeate my self-condemnation: “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more” (John 8:10—11).
If a person talked to me that way, I would run toward Him and never leave!
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I want you to know something extraordinary. Whatever your hurt, habit, or hang-up, however many times you’ve tried and failed, Jesus looks upon you with compassion. Today, you can choose to come into agreement with Him and forgive yourself for those failures. Today, you can begin to establish a fresh habit that honors God and embodies the person you desire to be. Take hold of the compassion that Jesus offers you, and move forward toward a transformed life!