Potty training. It’s going to be the end of me. Those “no fail potty train your kid in 2 seconds” pins on Pinterest have failed me. I was praying (okay, begging) that this potty training thing would click when the Lord gently reminded me that this whole potty training thing was consuming my thoughts. Potty training had become an idol in my heart. It consumed me and affected how I felt about myself as a mom. And this reminded me of another time where something not-so-obvious became an idol in my life. (Disclaimer, I’ve had part of this post typed up for a while and even thought up longer than that. But I haven’t clicked “post” because if I’m being honest, I feel a little vulnerable putting this out there. But the Lord keeps reminding me of this, so maybe someone out there in internet-land needs to hear this? Okay, Lord.)
I struggled with so much when Mom had cancer- worry, anxiety, trusting in the Lord, etc. Allow me to be real with you about one of those struggles for a minute. Just like potty training had become a heart idol of mine the past few days, Mom’s cancer was a heart idol of mine. I’m sure, at first, this statement doesn’t make much sense, but let me explain. Let’s start at the basics…
Is idolatry a sin?
YES! This might be obvious to some of you, but I think it’s important that we state this from the very beginning. We can see God’s command against idolatry in the very first 2 commandments of The 10 Commandments. We can also see this countless times throughout Deuteronomy, and I mean countless. I recently read through the book of Deuteronomy and I remember thinking, “How many times does Moses need to tell the Israelites idolatry is a sin?!” Then, I remembered that just like the Israelites, I need this reminder a lot, too.
How did the struggle with idolatry look in my life during Mom’s cancer?
Some background information: Jimmy Needham is one of my favorite artists. I love the style of his music, but even more so, I love the theology behind his lyrics. His theology is strong, which leads to convicting lyrics. One of his songs is entitled, “Clear the Stage.” Listen below:
From start to finish, the lyrics are really convicting. I was driving home one day while listening to this song, and suddenly, these lyrics hit me like a ton of bricks. Here are a few lines that really hit me hard:
Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol
Anything that I give all my love is an idol
Let those words sink in. We hear things like this a lot, but rarely do we think about what they mean. For me, these words hit me as Mom was battling cancer. I wanted Mom to be physically healed SO badly. This is not a bad thing at all. Where I went wrong is that, at times, my desire for Mom to be physically healed was all I thought about and all that my heart wanted. Let’s dig into these lyrics a little deeper…
“Anything I put before my God is an idol”- As I’ve written about a while back, I did a lot of worrying while Mom was sick. In my worrying, I wasn’t fully trusting Christ. I was allowing the fears of what might happen to my mom to rule my life. Therefore, my worry was an idol.
“Anything I want with all my heart is an idol”; “Anything that I give all my love is an idol”- Jesus tells us that we are to love Him with ALL of our hearts (Mark 12:30). Our love for Him should be an all-consuming kind of love. Jesus should be our magnificent obsession. Wanting anything else besides Jesus with all of our hearts in that kind of all-consuming, obsession kind of way is just plain wrong and is idolatry. This is what I was guilty of. At times, my heart was consumed with a desire for Mom to be healed, instead of consumed with a love for Jesus.
“Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol”- There were times when all that I could think about was Mom being physically healed. Would this treatment finally work? I wonder if the doctors are right? What will life be like if she isn’t physically healed? It would consume my thoughts, put me in these quiet/weird moods, and cause me to loose sleep. This consumed my thoughts more than Jesus did, and that is why it was an idol.
Was it wrong for me to want my mom to be physically healed?
No! Wanting my mom to be physically healed is not where I messed up. Please hear that! If you or someone you know is battling an illness, and you want them to be physically healed, that is okay (or if you want your 3 year old to finally stop peeing in their pants, that’s okay too!)! Jesus obviously desired the physical healing of people because we see Him miraculously and physically healing people all during His life (just read any of the Gospels!). Where I went wrong was when I made my desire for Mom to be physically healed an idol. It became an idol in my life because I wanted it with all of my heart instead of wanting Jesus with all of my heart. It became an idol in my life because it consumed my heart and my thoughts instead of letting Jesus consume my heart and my thoughts.
So, what happened next?
Honestly, I can’t sit here and tell you that after being convicted of that, I never sinned in that way again. However, that day made me realize my sin, repent of it, and try to fight against that temptation. I still wanted my mom to be physically healed, and I still prayed for it, but what I tried not to do was to let that desire and that worry consume my heart and my thoughts. I knew that Jesus was and is the only person or thing that should be consuming my heart/thoughts. It was in God’s perfect plan for my mom to not be healed on this earth. I miss my mom SO MUCH, but I am not angry with God, and I know with everything in me that even though it doesn’t make sense to me at times, His plan is perfect. I also do not believe that God did not answer my prayers; He answered them by healing Mom even MORE than she could have been healed on this earth. I am so thankful that Jesus helped me get rid of the worry and the idolatry during this time, because I believe that it helped me enjoy my time with my mom and my family more fully. Jesus gave us abundant life during that time, just as He promises in John 10:10.
What about you?
Idolatry is such an easy sin to fall into. I mean, I let potty training consume me, for goodness sake! Idolatry does not just mean creating golden calves like we read about in the Old Testament. Like we’ve been discussing, idolatry is putting anything before Jesus. Idolatry is allowing anything or anyone to consume our time, thoughts, heart, mind, etc. other than Jesus. In today’s time, we can have lots of idols and not even realize it. Our phones can be our idols, entertainment (TV, Netflix, movies, etc.), even relationships can be our idols. None of these things in and of themselves are bad, but when they consume our lives instead of Jesus, they are bad. How do we combat this? First, ask Jesus to reveal to you what your idols are (warning: this might step on your toes a bit, but Jesus only disciplines those He loves). Then, practically think of ways that you can consume your life with Jesus and put Him first instead of these things. Here are some ways that we can start putting Jesus first:
- One summer, Jesus really convicted me that if I could spend 3 hours a day watching Netflix, then I could spend more than 30 minutes reading my Bible. So, I’ve tried to cut back on my Netflix watching. Yes, I still watch, but instead of doing that FIRST, I spend time reading my Bible. I have fallen so much more in love with God’s Word and have developed such a hunger for it after spending so much more time with Jesus!
- Sometimes, it’s easy to put our kids before Jesus. To love our children best, we must love Jesus first. Talk with your spouse about when both of you can take time with the children so that the other can have their quiet time. Maybe one of you handles mornings while the other does their quiet time, and then you switch at nighttime.
- Turn that cell phone off! When it’s time for you to spend time with Jesus, put your cell phone on “Do Not Disturb,” off, in another room, etc. Don’t let that constant buzzing of a text or notification be a distraction.
- If any relationship you’re in is coming before Jesus whether that be boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, etc., then re-think that relationship. Is that relationship causing you to do not glorify Christ? If so, it’s probably time to end it. If that relationship is with a godly person, then maybe you just need to cut back on the time you spend with them so that you can spend more time with Jesus.
We all know that I can go on and on of how idolatry can take shape in our lives and the things that we can do to combat it. What are some ways that you have combatted idolatry in your own life? No matter what your idol is, the only cure is Jesus. Repent from your sin, and turn back to Him. Let Jesus consume your life and be your magnificent obsession.