Getting Serious About Change This Lent

by Amber Nicole and Amber Goodloe, LPC

“Over time, our hearts and souls, when left unattended, get messy. Lent invites us to deal with the mess. This is not about quickly cleaning things up and pretending they were never there, nor is it about ignoring the mess. Lent invites us to roll up our sleeves and sort through the debris of our lives.” – Michael Hidalgo, “Lent Should Still Matter to Christians”, Relevant Magazine

We are currently in the season of Lent, traditionally a time in the Christian liturgical calendar for fasting, reflection, repentance, and preparation for the coming of Easter. It’s a concrete, set aside time to purge unhealthy habits and refocus our attention on Christ. For many of us who get caught up in the daily needs of life, work, and ministry, it’s easy to let other seemingly less important areas, or even coping strategies that once worked ok for us, slip into unhealthy habits or areas of sin. But instead of beating ourselves up for how we’re falling short, the early church fathers wisely gave us a regular invitation that says, “yeah, we know you have messed up, because you’re human. So let’s set aside regular rhythms in the year to take a look inward and refocus on God.” 


Too often in counseling, we see people with good intentions to make positive changes in their lives fall short of breaking a habit. Then, they fall into cycles of despair, worsening habits or sin, until they try yet again to make change happen on their own. But to really get rid of these unhealthy pieces, we have to replace them with healthy ones, and most often, we just simply aren’t made to make those changes in isolation (i.e. We need people.)

Where do you find yourself? It might be that you have a real desire to overcome a porn addiction, or stop responding in anger to your teammates or national neighbors that just drive you crazy, or you really want to work on the comparison and envy you feel as you mindlessly scroll through social media (again). Or perhaps it’s a positive desire to want to take regular sabbaths or develop a habit of daily prayer and reflection, but things just keep getting the way. Consider something in your life that the Spirit is prompting you to look at, and ask the following questions: 

  1. When was the last time I really got intentional about getting rid of an unhealthy or unwanted habit in my life? 
  2. Is there something that is hindering my ability to thrive in my life and ministry overseas?
  3. Am I using this habit as a crutch instead of going to God with my needs and worries?
  4. What do I think might change inside me or in my current circumstances if I actually took the time and energy to address it?
  5. What is keeping me from accomplishing this?
  6. What positive thing could I add in to replace this unhealthy habit?
  1. Where do I need a fresh practice that draws me closer to God or makes me healthier?
  2. Who could I ask to come alongside me to encourage me as I try and incorporate this practice into my life?
  3. What might change in my life long-term if I added this new practice?
  4. What might I need to let go of or readjust so I can make space for this new healthy habit in my life?

As you identify these areas to address in your life, we want to acknowledge that life overseas can make change even more challenging. Higher and more frequent transitions occur, the daily stress of cultural misses, language barriers, and government paperwork take a toll. There’s a myriad of reasons why what started as a coping strategy (good or bad) during seasons of stress can be extra hard to stop when you continue to live with a higher level of stress and uncertainty. 

To add to the conundrum, workers are often more isolated from faith community, lacking the tighter relationships and accountability known in one’s home culture. These were the natural spaces where friends or close family members were close enough to you to speak into those unhealthy pieces of your life (whether you really wanted them to or not.) But now? It’s likely that you can hide things a little easier if you want to. 


Curt Thompson, MD, says it well: “We need others to bear witness to our deepest longings, our greatest joys, our most painful shame, and all the rest in order to have any sense at all of ourselves.”

We weren’t made to live this life alone – and will perpetually struggle to make lasting changes (especially to deeper sin issues) if we try and do it all alone. So in addition to considering the area(s) you want to really address in this season of your life, consider who can come alongside you.

  1. Do you have people in your life who know you well enough to see your unhealthy habits?
  2. What would it mean to invite someone into those not-so-shiny pieces of your life with the distinct intention of finding accountability?
  3. If you don’t feel like you have anyone you can find community and relationship like this with, what might it take to find it? Where might you need to readjust your life to make space for real, vulnerable community with other believers?

As you get intentional through Lent to leave behind the old, and look ahead to the new, may it draw you deeper into a relationship with Jesus, whose life here on earth brings forgiveness for all of our sins. May this Easter bring one of hope and healing in your life, dear child of God. And if you’re like us, you might find a visual exercise helpful in getting started! 


For some people it might be overwhelming to try and figure out how to change habits or your way of living.  This activity uses a simple idea to help you think through how to make wanted, maybe even necessary, changes in your life.  

Start by drawing 6-8 boxes on a paper, like a story strip or comic strip.  In the first box draw a picture of you now, including habits or feelings you don’t like: staring at a phone or computer, exhausted, sad, yelling, etc.  In the last box draw what you would like to be / feel like: smiling, enjoying nature, time with God, relaxed, etc.  Then go back to the first box and take out one small, negative element and draw that in the 2nd box.  Repeat this process in each box, taking out and adding in elements, until the picture has transformed into the final picture you drew. 

Once you’ve completed this exercise, consider an in-person friend, teammate or trusted person that you could share this with. Ask them to walk beside you in this season of Lent (and beyond!) as you seek to make positive changes in your life. If an in-person accountability partner isn’t available, then reach out to a trusted person online and ask them to regularly check in for the next 3-6 months to see how you’re doing. 

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