Self-Care: Changing Bad Habits into Good (part 3)

self careSELF-CARE: As you follow in step with Christ and make godly habits that come from a changed heart, you’ll also experience joy.

In case you missed them, here are part one and part two in this series. So far, we’ve looked at the role of the heart in true self-care (part 1) and the first three steps in whole health wellness: recognizing emotions, choosing godly thoughts, and acting on renewed beliefs (part 2).

In the final part of this self-care series, let’s consider:

  1. Making new godly habits and sticking with them.
  2. Experiencing the joy-filled life.

Making New Habits

Acting on my renewed beliefs a time or two isn’t enough to make a genuine difference in my thoughts, emotions, and actions. We need a fourth step: making new habits that stick.

I used to eat super healthy foods and was a vegetarian for 14 or so years, and exercised regularly too. In recent years, however, I believed the lie I was too busy for regular meals, exercise, and rest.

God helps you and me break ungodly habits, including things like critical speech, self-pity, worry, smoking, chewing fingernails, people-pleasing, pornography, and more. In my case, the bad habit of neglecting self-care came from a heart of pride.

Sinful habits are not disorders or defects. Jesus Christ gives us victory over sin. You and I no longer have to live in slavery to sinful thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and motivation. God himself provides the way out.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Putting off pride, renewing my attitude, and putting on humility: This is my new thought habit.

New Habit Plan, Detailed

To successfully change a habit, we need a plan. The more detailed, the better. First you’ll see an overview below. Then I’ll share a detailed plan a counselee and I wrote together.

  1. Put off: Identify the ungodly habit that needs change. For me, I was irresponsible with diet, exercise, and sleep. For a counselee I meet by Skype, she is quick to argue with her mother.
  2. Renew my attitude: Me — I agreed with God that I was sinning by erroneously thinking that I was too busy for self-care, as if God didn’t stuff enough hours in a day. My counselee agreed with God to honor her mother and to choose Christ righteousness over self-righteousness..
  3. Put on: Me — humility. I am not Super Woman! I need good food, exercise, and rest…just like Jesus when he walked this earth. My counselee also needed humility as well as determination to speak the truth in love.

Together my counselee and I wrote a plan for her that looked like this:

  • When mother says something mean, quietly thank God for an opportunity to practice the new habit.
  • Remind myself of James 1:19, which says, “… Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” and that I need to change my attitude, desiring most of all to honor God.
  • Then speak the truth in love. Depending on what mother says, I may say, “I feel hurt when you suggest I’ve put on ten pounds and am lazy. You know I am an honor student and my clothes fit as they always do. I want you to know that I’m making a new habit to speak the truth in love. This is what the Bible tells me to do.”
  • Proactively and regulary choose words that build up, saying something like, “Mom, I love you” or “Great to see you!” or “Just want you to know I appreciate that you want the best for me” or a simple “Thank you,” always with a loving tone of voice and friendly body language.

body languageWhen making a new habit pattern, we need to repeat it many times for it to take hold. In counseling others, I’ve discovered that this step of forming new godly pattern is challenging and part of the reason why we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to come alongside us and encourage us.

What bad habit does God want you to replace with a godly habit? What obstacles are in the way? How might other Christians helped you?

Receiving Joy in the Journey

What I learned in this self-care journey may sound kind of crazy. It’s counterintuitive. My avoidance of true self-care fed my sinful appetite to live self-sufficiently and was, in fact, self-indulgent. Does this make sense?

For me, counseling my heart has meant stopping to rest and eat well and exercise.

I thank God that my poor self care didn’t create a health crisis. Rather, fear crept in and settled in my heart and mind. This is equally bad, this unsettling. Yet it has resulted in my obeying God’s call for heart change, which is always good. He knows what you and I truly need.

A quick review of the biblical counseling journey:

1. Recognizing your difficult emotions.
2. Identifying your faulty thinking.
3. Acting on renewed beliefs.
4. Making new habits.

As I continue my journey, how may I pray for you? All of us need God’s help, and he’s faithful. How we handle our everyday problems reveals our hearts: our desires, our motivations, our beliefs, and our thinking.

When God shows us that our hearts are self-centered, he gives us everything we need to live life according to his plan, which is what any true Christian really wants, right?

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 1 Peter 1:2-4, ESV

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Self-Counsel: Counsel Yourself and Improve Emotions

self-counselSelf-counsel: When you counsel yourself with biblical truth, your emotions become more stable and you respond in better ways. Why? Because you’re speaking truth to your heart! This article by Heart2Heart Counselor Ellen Castillo appeared first here at BC4Women blog and is used with permission. Check out Ellen’s page in the Heart2Heart Counselor Directory.

A couple of months ago, I was in a car accident. My van was totaled, but my daughter and I were not seriously injured. Whiplash, bruises, and soreness have become our daily battles, but those things will get better.

Emotional Effects Post-Trauma

The emotional effects are the most difficult to overcome. I have counseled many post-accident and post-trauma victims. As biblical counselors, we know how to come alongside someone gently in the immediate days following trauma. We know how to eventually begin to target the heart when we see unhealthy and unbiblical responses to the trauma.

When the trauma is our own, do we know how to “self-counsel” our own hearts? There is no trauma too big or too small when it comes to the need for counsel.

When we find ourselves repetitively dwelling on and reliving the accident details, condemning ourselves for the guilt we might bear for the cause of the trauma or accident, having panic attacks at the thought of re-entering normal life again, getting behind the wheel, or seeing the place where the trauma occurred, we must cling to the good counsel we offer to others by offering it to our own hearts.

Goals of Biblical Counseling

One of the goals of biblical counseling is that the counselee would eventually be able to do self-counsel. Self-counsel means that when someone is struggling with sin or suffering, she can turn to God’s Word for answers. She can read, study, memorize, and pray as she seeks to bring the gospel to bear on her struggle.

One of the goals of biblical counseling is that the counselee would eventually be able to do self-counsel.

In that process, God can reveal her heart issues, and she can focus on mind renewal as she repents of her sin. This is how we are all to live, every day, as self-counselors.

Good Self-Counsel Helps for Trauma

As I continue to recover from whiplash as I write this, I have found these things to be most helpful. This is good self-counsel for someone who has recently suffered any kind of trauma:

  • Take every thought captive. Remember that every struggle we have begins with a thought. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to destroy the things in our thoughts that are not consistent with the gospel.
  • Focus on what is true. Philippians 4:4-9 is a passage to go to often and consider it as sort of a checklist. Run your thoughts through that Philippians 4:8 grid, and redirect your thought life.
  • Rehearse the gospel. This phrase is not a cliche, it is life-giving. Thinking on the gospel recalibrates our minds and reminds us that we are no longer under condemnation, that we have been given a new identity, and so much more.

Rehearse the gospel. This phrase is not a cliche, it is life-giving.

  • Fight the fear with the knowledge of God’s sovereignty. God is either in control or He isn’t, and I believe He IS. Yes, even over my car accident. I do not need to know the why’s or how’s in order to trust His promises. Romans 8:28 keeps me from dipping too deep into the “why me’s”.
  • Know when your natural initial responses are becoming debilitating, and ask for help. Low-grade temporary depression, for example, is common to most trauma victims. But debilitating depression requires intensive biblical counseling. If you are unable to function at home or on the job, spend most of your day isolating or sleeping, have turned to substance use to self-medicate, are unable to make decisions, or get along with those you love, then it is time to ask for help. God’s Word has answers you need, but we sometimes need someone to come alongside us and show us the way.
  • Some people say that “time heals” even trauma. I suggest that although that may seem to be true sometimes, it is only God who can truly heal a traumatized heart. Because of my self-counsel, I am struggling far less with the effects that the accident had on me.

How to Self-Counsel

To self-counsel, you must seek Him more intentionally, dig deep into His Word – read it, study it, memorize it. Keep a meaty prayer life, stay in the church, and in fellowship with Christian friends who encourage you (and also admonish you as needed.)

Serve in ministry at your church, putting others before yourself. And do not hesitate to call on a biblical counselor if you are stuck, and she will be glad to come alongside and offer help and hope. These are the things that helped me and I believe they will help you, too, regardless of your struggle.

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) “Fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,


Language: What You Say Reveals Your Heart


Your language matters! The words you say indicate what’s going on in your heart. And when you replace your words with biblical language, you can make significant progress. Observe how Heart2Heart Counselor Suzanne Holland listens to her counselee’s language and helps her find victory. Suzanne’s article appeared first here and is used with permission.


A counselee I was seeing for depression and anger issues once had this response when I asked her how her week went:

I really messed up this time. I yelled at my kids, and they didn’t even deserve it! I was so irritated with their behavior that I just snapped and started screaming.

I realized almost as soon as the first sentence came out of my mouth that I was blowing it, but I couldn’t stop. I was just so mad.

She continued to describe the incident, sharing with me about what happened when her husband came home:

Well, I had told the kids I was sorry, but I felt really bad about my slip-up. When my husband got home, I was irritable and snappy with him, because I was just so mad at myself. I had to apologize to him too, but that didn’t help either.

I went to bed depressed and cried myself to sleep. Sometimes I think I’ll never get this temper under control!

The Language of Truth

As I listened to my counselee, I was making notes about the words she had chosen to describe her actions.

Many times, the language our counselees use to describe their problems can give us a clue as to why they are not finding victory. I’ll explain what I mean by sharing with you the questions I asked my counselee about her word choices, using the quotes above as an example.

I really messed up this time.

Questions: What does that mean? What is the biblical word for “messed up”?  

Did my counselee make a mistake when she yelled at her kids? If I “mess up,” that might mean I forgot to carry a number in my checkbook, or I bumped the curb when I turned the corner.

Yelling and screaming at your kids is not messing up. Yelling and screaming at your kids (or anyone else) is an uncontrolled outburst of wrath, and it is sin.

I was so irritated with their behavior that I just snapped and started screaming.

Questions: What kind of behavior were you expecting? What entitles you to have what you expect? What is the reason that the behavior was not brought under discipline before it got to that point? Was everything calm and cool before you “just snapped,” or were there warning signs that you were becoming angry, which you chose to ignore?

Language Reveals a Deeper Problem

When someone tells me they are irritated with something, it’s a sure sign that they believed they were entitled to something else.

Any sense of entitlement is an attitude of pride. Also, at least in parenting, behavior that reaches the point where Mom wants to scream is usually a behavior that should have been addressed much sooner. This is often the result of distraction or just plain laziness on mom’s part.

With very rare exceptions, no one “just snaps.” There are always thoughts and warning signs leading up to a sinful outburst of anger. Mom may choose to ignore or stuff them, but they are there, and it is a decision she makes to either address or ignore them.

I realized almost as soon as the first sentence came out of my mouth that I was blowing it, but I couldn’t stop. I was just so mad.

Question: Was there an unseen force that took over your body and made you keep yelling and screaming?

This may languagesound facetious, but it gets the point across quickly. Obviously, this part of her report is a lie, whether or not she sees it. Of course, she had a choice to stop screaming, even in the midst of her angry outburst. Her decision to continue led to her sin.

Well, I had told the kids I was sorry, but I felt really bad about my slip-up.

Questions: How does the Bible teach us to express sorrow when we have hurt someone? Where in the Bible do people say they are sorry? What is the biblical word for ‘slip-up’?

Apologizing for a slip-up is not the path to reconciliation. Asking for forgiveness for sin is. My counselee “felt really bad” because she had not repented and received forgiveness from God and her children for her sin.

When my husband got home, I was irritable and snappy with him, because I was just so mad at myself. I had to apologize to him too, but that didn’t help either.

Questions: What do you think is the reason your apologies didn’t help your mood?

This is where we will begin to discuss the difference between messing up and sinning, between apologizing and repenting. She went to bed depressed (sorrowful without hope), and rightly so! There is no hope in apologizing for a mess-up. There is, however, great hope in repenting of sin and receiving forgiveness!

Changing Your Language–Wow!

The point of dissecting these few sentences is to show you the importance of using biblical language when you address counseling issues. Most counselees aren’t even aware that the language they use to describe their sin makes a difference in whether or not they will overcome it.

Let’s rephrase my imaginary counselee’s report, to see if it makes a different impact:

I really sinned this time. I yelled at my kids, and they didn’t even deserve it! I was so entitled and prideful about their behavior that I just ignored the warning signs that I was becoming sinfully angry, and made a decision to start screaming.

I realized almost as soon as the first sentence came out of my mouth that I was grieving the Lord, but I held fast to my decision and exercised my will to continue. I was just so sinfully angry!

And about her interaction with her husband…

Well, I had told the kids I was sorry, but I felt extreme guilt about my sin. When my husband got home, I was prideful and sinfully angry with him, because I had not received forgiveness for my sin. I had to apologize to him too, but that didn’t help either.

I went to bed sorrowing without hope, and indulged in self-pity. Sometimes, I think I’ll never get this sinful anger under control!

Biblical Language Pierces the Heart

Do you see how using biblical language shines a very bright light on sin, and makes it crystal clear what needs to happen to bring about change? My counselee certainly did!

As she learned to use biblical language to describe her temptations and sins, her heart was more readily pierced, and she began to hate even the idea of knowingly sinning in these ways. One thing she said in this quote was probably true: Thinking and speaking the way she was about it, she likely would never have overcome it.

There is no hope in “feeling guilty.”

When we have sinned, the only way to freedom is repentance. If I don’t know or acknowledge that what I have done is sin, how can I be forgiven? How can I be restored to a right relationship with the person against whom I have sinned?

I will continue to sin, apologize, and feel bad forever if I don’t understand and apply the truth of Scripture to my behavior.

Are there areas of your life, or perhaps your counselees’, where you think using more consistently biblical language could help in overcoming a pattern of sinful response?

Reply in the comments, and let’s talk about it!

An Offer from Lucy

Are you struggling? I invite you to sign up for a 15-minute phone consultation — it’s free — to ask questions and discover if biblical counseling is right for you. (We can Skype no matter where you live or meet in person in greater Chicago.) Contact me.

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Sharing Hope with Your Heart,



Becoming an Excellent Woman of God!


You can become the excellent woman of God. 

Sound impossible? The word excellent seems lofty, like pinning a star in the sky.

But the bible says the excellent woman is mighty, strong, and virtuous. She is no wimp!

She smiles at the future. The latest fashion? Not her thing. Rather, the excellent woman attends to her inner self and has a reverential awe of God. For a description of her, read this.

Are you living in a way that displays your love for God and for others?

Or have the life’s troubles gotten in the way? Are they pulling you down? Are you trying and trying and trying but failing? Are you weary?

God Knows Your Needs

God cares for every woman.

Mary of Bethany sat at the feet of Jesus, a student before her teacher Jesus. A thinking woman, this Mary had sass. Sure, she skipped out on helping her hospitality-gifted sister, Martha. But when Martha complained to Jesus–

‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

–did he send her to the kitchen? No. He said she “has chosen what is better.”

Mary reminds me of a former counselee, also an excellent woman! Head down, shoulders slumped, she described her exhaustion and depression to me while balling tissues. After listening, I asked her, “Do you want to get well?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“It’s going to require you to complete assignments.”

“Anything!” she insisted, her eyes sparkling with hope.

Counseling the Word

Do you also want to become an excellent woman who possesses these qualities? 

  • Secure in Christ
  • Confident in Christ
  • At peace with Christ

Who wouldn’t? Almost every counselee I’ve known desires godly families and friendships, a close walk with her Creator, and freedom from the junk: bad finances, addictions, sadness, fear, anxiety, loneliness.

The counsel of the Word makes all the difference.

While pastors preach the Word (i.e., sermons), only some counsel the Word to hurting people in their congregation. Often pastors refer their hurting people to mental health professionals who counsel by psychology. Psychology focuses on getting your “needs” met or your “love cup” filled, among other things. Its founder, Sigmund Freud, was an atheist who founded a secular, godless philosophy.

In contrast, counseling the Word is biblical counseling!

It is motivated by love and saturated with the timeless truth of scripture. It is a process where believers encourage, instruct, comfort, and correct other believers with the goal of growth in their love for God and their neighbor–for God’s glory.

Some believers, like myself and and women listed in the Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, have sought formal training in biblical counseling and counsel others in person and by Skype. It’s our calling.

Scripture Is the Cornerstone  

Would you like to know how biblical counseling helps you become an excellent woman? When I first meet with a counselee, I usually share 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

At later sessions, I hear her story, reveal the role of the heart in spiritual health, help her identify the root cause of her problem, and design an action plan. God himself helps you reach the goal of overcoming sin and living a life of loving Him and others.

Would you like to be an excellent woman thoroughly equipped for every good work? May I invite you to contact me? On staff of Biblical Counseling Center, I counsel hope to the heart of the hurting.

SPECIAL: I’d love to send you a FREE guide called “You Are Beautiful.” To get your guide, click HERE. Please put “I Want Wholeness” in the subject line.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart, 


New Tool: Thought Journal!


The new “Transform Your Thoughts Journal” is a simple, effective, and biblical way of journaling your thoughts. As you change your thoughts, you change your heart and your life.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to part of the thought journal I developed for my counselees. You are welcome to download the article and the journaling pages. Next week you’ll find “Transform Your Thoughts Journal” under the “For Counselors” tab at my website:

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12:2a, NLT

Transform Your Thoughts Journal shows you how to replace life-sapping thoughts with uplifting, God-honoring thoughts. As the Holy Spirit transforms your thoughts, four things happen. You’ll–:

  1. Become aware of life-sapping, ungodly thoughts.
  2. See a connection among your thoughts, emotions, and actions.
  3. Exchange uplifting, God-honoring thoughts for ungodly thoughts.
  4. Experience better emotions and actions.

Your Thoughts Reveal Your Heart

Hand in hand with thought transformation are these two truths:

  • Your thoughts flow from your heart, which is the seat of your deepest desires.
  • A healthy heart is Christ-centered; an unhealthy heart is me-centered.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7, NKJV

Your heart reflects what is within you. It exposes your deepest desires.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heartand an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45, NIV

From your heart flow your thoughts, emotions, and actions. The influence of your heart on your thoughts-emotions-actions is powerful. A healthy heart is Christ-centered and has healthy, godly thoughts. An unhealthy heart is me-centered and has unhealthy, ungodly thoughts.

Your thoughts become part of your beliefs which form your desires. Your beliefs remain until new thoughts challenge them, and new beliefs result. Thought transformation is NOT behavior modification; it is renewal of your core BELIEF system.

Are you seeing the importance of thought transformation? And how your heart exposes your deepest desires?

How to Use the Journal

First, describe a difficult circumstance. Ask, what was going on? Here is an example.

“My husband and I have argued a lot ever since our teen got new, sketchy friends and began using marijuana and drinking alcohol.” This is the description of the circumstance.

Next, write your thoughts, emotions, and resulting actions. You may think your emotions come first. Thoughts do. Emotions and actions follow thoughts.

Your journal might look like this:

“I’m a horrible mother.” Anger, fear, sadness Yelled at teen. Took away her phone. Cried.

Now select a real circumstance from your own life and try it yourself. You’ll benefit the most when you actually do the work of thought journaling. Reading about it isn’t enough. You need to learn this method. The best way: do it..

Below is a blank “page” for you to get used to this new method. hen you’ll get to move on to Part 2 of thought journaling. In Part 2 you’ll learn how to replace life-sapping thoughts with uplifting, God-honoring thoughts.

Your Turn

Difficult Circumstance (i.e., what was going on?): ___________________________________________________________________________________


How did Part 1 go? Were you able to select a difficult circumstance and identify your thoughts, emotions, and actions? Your have started to become aware of your life-sapping thoughts and see a connection between them and your emotions and actions. This is a big step in the right direction!

Before you hop into Part 2 and exchange life-sapping thoughts for uplifting, God-honoring thoughts, would you mind doing a warm up?

Think of a happy circumstance in your life and jot it down. Then identify your thoughts, emotions, and actions that naturally flow from it. Did you notice that from a happy circumstance naturally flowed positive thoughts, positive emotion, and positive actions? The happy thoughts, emotions, and actions flowed naturally from a happy circumstance.

But real life has twists, turns, and potholes, doesn’t it? Your car breaks down during your vacation, your child is cut from the team, you get laid off. How do you conjure up happy thoughts in difficult circumstances?

In your own power you cannot. In God’s power, you can find supernatural peace and contentment, calm and happiness. He gives you everything you need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). The apostle James writes,

“Count it all joy, my brothers and sister, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4, ESV)

Turn Your Thoughts Around 

Christians are joyful because we are saved and God is using your difficult circumstances to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ. Dr. Frank Crane, minister and essayist, wrote, “Growth is God’s plan.”

Try to think of your difficulties as growth opportunities. Now let’s turn your thoughts around. 

In Part 2 of thought transformation you’ll see how to exchange a life-sapping thoughts for uplifting God-honoring thoughts. Let’s start with the “I’m a horrible mother” thought. The circumstance remains the same. You and your husband are arguing a lot ever since your teen began using marijuana and drinking alcohol with her sketchy friends. This was your primary thought, emotion, and action.

Ask if your thought is true. Is it a fact that you are a horrible mother? Chances are, you are a loving, stressed-out mom who feels scared, angry, and overwhelmed, searching for solutions to help your teen.

However, if your thought is true and you are a horrible mother – perhaps you consistently neglect your daughter or you consistently slice and dice her with jagged words, then confess your wrongdoing to the Lord and to your daughter, and repent.

Replace the life-sapping lie “I’m a horrible mother” with an uplifting biblical truth such as, “Even though my daughter’s choice to do drugs upsets me, God promises that he is with me, guides me, and comforts me. He is trustworthy.”

Begin your new thought with something like, “Even though _________________,

God promises __________________________________________.

New emotions and actions replace your old emotions and actions.

Here’s what it looks like:

Even though my teen has made poor choices, God promises to give us wisdom when we ask for it and to be with my family and me. Peace, hope With your spouse, pray and ask God for wisdom.

Thank God.


Transforming your thoughts is absolutely necessary to live the Christian life!

Friend, if this tool helps you, may I encourage you to subscribe to my blog so you can get updates, new material, and a free eBook: Putting Your Past in the Past. . .and Keeping It There? Thanks!

 Sharing hope with your heart,




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