It hurts, you know; giving up what you’ve wanted for all your life really hurts.
It might be a petty dream or an expectation for how things were “supposed to go”, but when our hopes and dreams are left unfulfilled and our idols come crumbling down, it hurts. Many of us don’t want to give up our boy-craziness, obession with how we look, our addiction to screens, or (fill in the blank) – in fact, we can’t imagine life without our idols.
We waste our time thinking about guys, looking in the mirror, or spending hours scrolling through social media. Your idols may appear to be harmless, excused with “that’s what teen girls always do”, but maybe you know the truth deep down inside: that your obsession is distracting you from God.
What comes before God in your life? Instead of blatantly worshipping a statue, idolatry often seeps into our lives before we really know what has stolen our hearts, energy, and time.
What do you take your joy in? What in your life can you not imagine letting go?
Think it through. Pray for God to show you if you have anything coming before him. If/When you admit to yourself something is coming before God in your life, ask him to free you from it.
My prayers in this area have been answered faithfully by God. Very faithfully. You see, God is willing to take you through pretty much anything to wean you from your idolatry. And it hurts to give up your “joy in life”, the thing that took up precious hours of your time and distracted you from God. Idols often become a happy part of our lives and it is so very hard to trust God when that happy thing is rooted out of your heart.
It occured to me recently that these things that seem “little”- reading the Bible consistently, praying, obeying God even when you don’t want to etc. – add up to total surrender to God. Every time we put God before our desires, we die to ourselves. And every time we die to ourselves, God draws us nearer to him. The martyrs we remember didn’t live for themselves and then decide last minute to die for Christ. In a sense, they put Christ before their desires so many times that they had already died a thousand deaths. Their lives were a buildup of putting obedience to God before their most cherished dreams. Their lives echoed what Paul says in Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20, ESV
And though Jesus did not have idols, he too had to die to self. In the Garden of Gathsemane, when he said “not my will, but yours be done”, he gave up everything: his desires, his friendships, his comfort – everything. We share in that death.
Giving up idolatry is just one of those things we must do to “die to self”.
But then comes the good part. Whenever I give up my idols, God does something really amazing. First, he draws me to him. The hurt drives me back to him. It drives me back to my purpose in life: not to satisfy myself but to enjoy and glorify him. When I give up my idols, I can live for God without distraction.
And there’s a second thing God does. When I give up idols, God shows me how I can find joy in him. I sometimes get a new idea for ministry, a new vision for life, or a new outlook on my relationships. It’s like a door opening: the way seems small to get through it, but the world totally opens up to me after I go through.
After Jesus gave up his life, God did the most amazing thing in the world and reconciled sinners to himself. The pain was great, but by giving up his life, Jesus opened the door to something greater. We share in his death, but we also share in the new life he freely gives. Remember that truth as you celebrate his resurrection tomorrow.
Don’t be afraid of leaving your idols. God will show you how to give your heart back to him. Having him as the joy of your life is the best thing possible. Though it might seem stifling or painful at first, having God as your first love is the most refreshing thing I know.
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