Something happened the other day, and all I could think about was how it affected me.
I stewed. I simmered. I was like a crock pot filled with sin and anger and replayed grievances. Wouldn’t want to open that lid, trust me; what I was cooking in there was not at all appetizing.
A set of circumstances played out in front of me, and without praising God for giving me another day of breath, without thinking deeply about what the other people around me might need or how I could serve them, without realizing how my own wickedness was the very moisture creating this thick, black cloud in my heart and mind, I thought. And thought. And thought.
I revisited every way that I had been wronged. I kept chewing on the things that I needed that I wasn’t getting. All I wanted was _____________, I thought. That’s it! Come on, I’m not asking for much! Minute after minute after minute of self-centered, self-focused ingratitude.
Can I tell you something from experience? The more you dwell on yourself, the less happy you’ll be. I’ll concede that it may not apply universally, but my yesterday and my Bible tell me it’s true in the way that proverbs are: Most of the time for most people.
At any one moment in this 24 (or so) hour period, I could have stopped obsessing over what had happened to me and picked up my Bible and asked God to amaze me with who He is as I read about Him. Did you know God loves to startle His children with His own beauty? He will joyfully, tenderly give His overpowering Holy Spirit to those who ask in faith. The God of Jesus Christ loves to give good gifts to His kids, and the greatest gift in the universe is Himself. I could have taken a deep breath, laughed off how seriously I was taking myself, and said, “All right, God, I’m sorry. I apologize for thinking so, so much about myself and so little about you. Can you help me change that? I’m going to pick up your Word in faith, Father.” I could have.
But I didn’t.
So minute after minute became hour after hour. I went to bed angry and bitter and feeling wronged. That, of course, led to waking up with thick, palpable shame hanging over me as I threw the blankets off. That shame ended up bringing me to repentance, thankfully, later in the morning. But I had wasted hours of my life obsessing over myself and my grievances. I hadn’t praised my beautiful, all-satisfying Abba. I hadn’t been a joyful and forgiving husband, father, and friend (much) because I hadn’t meditated on my God and His Gospel. I had wasted a day on morbid, compulsive self-focus that could’ve been spent enjoying Jesus and caring for others.
I hadn’t been joyful because I hadn’t meditated on the only thing that gives real joy: The sweet, awesome, breathtaking glory of Jesus Christ.
The emotions of my mind and heart reveal what I’m worshiping. If I get bitter, angry, or despairing, I’m almost certainly worshiping an idol. Those are the emotions of a heart clutching and clawing for something that can be taken from it, a created thing rather than the Creator. I get bitter because I didn’t get the free time I worshiped. I get angry because I didn’t get the attention I idolized. I despair because I don’t see any way I’ll get my hands on the romantic affection or pay raise or recognition I’ve set all my hopes on. Negative emotions spring from worshiping idols because idols can decay and be stolen.
But if I’m exuding peace, joy, faith, and above all love, I’m worshiping and finding my identity in the unchanging love of my Savior. Worshiping God never produces sinful emotions or sinful actions; worshiping idols always does.
Now, if someone had told me all this while I was in the midst of my simmering yesterday, I would’ve either lashed out or I would’ve hated their guts quietly, internally. That’s what my idol-clutching, self-obsessed flesh would have reacted with. But once God’s grace softened my hands, once my fingers dropped from the idol that following morning, I’d been humbled to the point where I could (at least somewhat) honestly say, “Yeah, I need to love God more and my ____________ less. If I was satisfied by Him and in love with Him as much as He deserves, I wouldn’t be stewing, here.”
So, if this is you, don’t lose a day of your life like I did. There’s no guarantee this day won’t be your last. Don’t waste any more time stewing, thinking about the ways that things you’re worshiping were taken from you, or not given to you the way you wanted, or have never been given to you at all. Let the idols drop from your hands. Lift your eyes up from looking inside yourself. Stop simmering on all the ways you have been wronged. Instead of all that, ask God to amaze you with His glory, which will outshine all your favorite idols and can never be taken from you.
It’s early in the day. Look to the Lord in faith. Make this one count.
It’s a freeing and joyful thing to drop an idol and look to Jesus for meaning and identity, instead. The thing’ll tell you need it, but just put your fingers in your ears and let it fall to the floor.
Idols always lie.