When Jesus saw a paralyzed man sitting by a fountain, He asked something I initially found very surprising: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6).
When I first read that, I remember thinking to myself, “Huh? Why wouldn’t he want to get well?” After all, this man is unable to walk. He is spending time by a fountain that people would go to in order to get healed. Yet, rather than just reaching out to heal this man’s body, Jesus first asks if he wants that to happen.
After years of being a counselor and also observing my own struggles, I am beginning to understand why Jesus may have asked that question. The truth is, as crazy as it seems, we don’t always actually want to get better. We don’t always want to be free from that familiar habit that’s holding us back from growth. And this is the even crazier thing: We don’t always know that we’re resisting at all.
You can hate a bad habit, or be sick and tired of a situation in your life, while there is a part of you that still wants it. You may even be praying earnestly for something to change, but deep down you’re holding on because of a core belief.
For example: Someone plagued with worry may not want to let go because if he does, he wouldn’t be “safe” or “prepared” for what could happen. He may hate the anxiety it causes him, he may even logically understand that his thoughts are unfounded, but if part of him believes he will be in danger without them, well, he’s not going to choose to put them down.
A woman who wants to forgive herself but is still struggling to do so may believe she has to be punished in some way. Part of her knows about the grace of the cross, but another part of her believes God wants her to experience guilt for a while. So no matter how much she wants peace from her inner torment, she can’t allow herself to let it go.
God won’t force even a good thing upon us if we ask for it in one moment, and then put up our hands against it in the next. They key is to uproot those false core beliefs in order to get the whole of ourselves (or the majority) to want to move forward.
Sometimes, this starts with letting ourselves hear that core belief inside that’s causing us to hold on, and then bringing it into the light to see if it’s true.
Perhaps that man by the fountain had lived paralyzed for so long, he had gotten accustomed and comfortable with it. Maybe he was scared of the uncertainties of a new life, or maybe he was unsure about losing the attention of his family—anything is possible. But if he prioritized this “comfort” over seeking a new beginning, he would have refused Jesus’ invitation for healing.
What to Do With Your Core Belief
One way to identify core beliefs that could be hindering you, is by filling in this statement: “The problem with letting this go is ______.” Or “If I let this go then ______.”
It’s important to let any thought come up without judging or analyzing it. Let it pop up to the surface automatically, without overthinking it. Then you can see what’s really there.
It is vital that we not only become aware of the false beliefs we have, but also that we meet them with compassion. Ironically, we won’t be able to let them go if we keep them bottled up because we think it’s wrong to have such thoughts. The pain and fear that fuels those thoughts will not be healed by condemnation, but by love. Only when we are gentle with ourselves will we hear ourselves honestly.
Once we do, we can start to redirect that core belief. Look for evidence that proves it false—like the goodness you deserve as a child of God, or the hope and protection He keeps on your future. Ask for God’s influence to help you feel it and seek it. Look for appropriate Scripture verses to meditate on or a book on the topic.
Spend focused time in prayer asking God’s healing presence to come into that place inside you that created that false belief. Invite Him into the memories of your past experiences and the messages you took from them. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring “truth into your inmost being.”
And you don’t have to do this alone. You need others speaking into your life, reminding you of what is true.
The great news is, our minds can, in fact, be renewed, just as Scripture says. Neuroscientist and author Dr. Carolyn Leaf states that research shows biological changes in the brain when thoughts are changed. She explains that negative thoughts look like dark branches in brain scans, and positive ones look like light-colored branches. Every time a thought rises from our subconscious into our awareness, we have the choice to continue supporting it or to challenge it—we have the ability to change it altogether. At this point, the dark branches can actually vanish, and the new healthy branches will appear. Amazing, right?
Treat your inner change with priority and excitement, because even the decision to renew your mind is a beautiful and hopeful thing. But also understand that this is a process—it can take time for us to release ingrained thoughts and absorb new, truthful ones. Celebrate every step forward—when you get an insight, believe truth more deeply or act in a healthier way. Continue to seek God and remind yourself of what you’ve learned. And if you have the desire, seek out a counselor to walk alongside you.
Lastly, tell yourself that you are able to peacefully let go of what hinders you. You see, no matter what part of us resists it, God’s perfect will for us—His freedom and abundant life—is best for us. And it’s always available for us.