So, I'll just take one thing at a time. Something I think God has been trying to teach me for years is that it is so easy to have something be an idol in my life. That sounds awful as I re-read that. Let's think about it. From the moment I was in Sunday School, it was always, "God comes first, you should have no other thing take His place." Okay, easy enough, right? That's not hard to follow. Of course I'm not going to kneel and worship a bronze statue. Wrong. I don't think we realize how easy it is to have something take God's place. It's not always a bronze statue. It's something we base our life off of. It can be an idea, an ideal. We can always say, "Well, of course God is always first. I always give him the glory, and He is always foremost in my mind." Let's be real with each other, with ourselves...that's not always the case. I've done this with a few things in my life. And, with each one, it's not until it has been going on for awhile that I realize it has consumed me. Idolatry seems like something you can easily avoid, but it almost is an insidious onset. You don't realize you're doing it until it literally consumes you. Let me just list some things that I think about as being idols sometimes so maybe you can have something in mind as we talk about this...
Your present job.
Your future career.
Your performance in your sport.
Your desire to find a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Your focus on your future wedding and not actually looking towards the future.
Your friends' acceptance of you.
Perfect appearance 24/7.
One of those things hopefully reverberated within you. In high school, my idol was swimming. I've discussed this in a previous blog post. If you look back on whatever it was that you held as your idol, let me ask you, what did God do with that? Perhaps you're still in the middle of making that thing your idol. Perhaps God took it away from you. God took swimming away from me in college. That is, he didn't take it away, it just didn't work out, and I couldn't understand why for the longest time. The more I didn't swim, the more I realized it was bringing me away from God, not bringing me closer.
"Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them."
- Jonah 2:8
"All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame...Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, 'Is this thing in my right hand a lie?'" -Isaiah 44:9,20
How about those verses, huh? Pretty powerful. And, make no mistake, sometimes it's hard to realize you are making something an idol. But, ask yourself this. Is there something that occupies your thoughts much more than you ever intended it to? Are your feelings of self worth coming from the success or failure of that thing? Is it taking away from your time with God? If you answered yes to any of those, be cautious and aware. And, you have to be honest with yourself. Otherwise, this doesn't work and it just gets swept under the rug and you're enabling the problem to fester.
I also think the concepts of love/relationships are huge. So many of those idols I listed above come from wanting to be/feel loved. I think it's amazing that even though we struggle with idolatry (name me one person who hasn't) God pursues us and wants us back. He wants us with Him. He wants us to have a fulfilling relationship with Him, first. He wants us to be happy. Think about it, when you are following an idol, and it falls apart, you're not happy, right? You feel awful, you feel like a failure. You feel shame. You feel unworthy. That does not come from God. That does not come from God. Be aware of your idols. Be in prayer about them. If that means God taking it away from you in some way, you will be better off. Read the verse below. This is in John, and it is a prayer from Jesus for all believers. Jesus is praying this for US, as he prayed for his disciples in the previous verses.
"'My prayer is not for them [His disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world...'"
God prayed for us to be with Him where He is. He wants us with Him. He wants nothing to take us away from him, and that's exactly what these idols do. If you're struggling with something like this, do something about it. Talk to someone you trust. Pray about it. Separate yourself from that thing. Let someone keep you accountable. It's hard, but once it is out in the open and you begin dealing with it, your heart will feel lighter and you will re-experience the unconditional love God has for you. That's what has been on my heart.