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The Idol of Happiness

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We tend to think that “idolatry” means someone bowing down to a statue and praying to it in a shrine. It’s really easy to dismiss that practice as not even remotely a temptation to us today in our culture and to discount everything the Bible says about idolatry as being irrelevant to us. Big mistake! Idolatry was one of the most offensive sins that God’s people committed against Him in the Old Testament times and it is one of our most offensive sin against God today, too.

“The human heart is an idol factory.” – John Calvin

I don’t know if y’all realize this – but happiness is one of the biggest idols in our culture today.

An idol is anything we put above Christ in our hearts. It is something we worship, are desperate to have, will give anything to try to obtain, will sin in order to get, will give up lots of money and time to pursue, will sacrifice all other relationships for and believe we can’t live without. It is something we believe will bring us true fulfillment and satisfaction that is not God. If we are desperate for something/someone, are terrified to go without that thing/person and are willing to sacrifice anything to have it – and that thing is not Jesus – it is time to do a very deep spiritual evaluation of our motives.

How many times have you heard someone say (or have you said to yourself – consciously or unconsciously):

  • Well, I am just not happy in this marriage, I feel unloved right now, my needs are not being met – so I need to get out.
  • I’m not happy, so I am totally justified in treating my husband this way (sinning against him – disrespect, name calling, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, control, contempt, hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, malice, gossip, slander, violence, sabotage, flirting with other men, adultery, etc…).
  • I’m not happy in our marriage, so it’s ok if I destroy my family, no matter what the price may be to my husband and our children and extended family (and ultimately, to myself and to my relationship with God).
  • I deserve to be happy. If I’m not happy, then my husband must do anything and everything I believe he should do so that I am happy. My happiness is entirely HIS responsibility.
  • I have the right to demand things from  and control my husband as much as I feel is necessary until he submits to me and makes me happy. I have self on the throne of my life and I demand my husband must bow to me, as well. I will have my way.

Let’s remember, there are only a few biblical reasons for divorce that may possibly be justifiable (and still, divorce is never a command for believers).  Unhappiness is not one of them!

Some trials may be quite painful and difficult, absolutely. I don’t intend to minimize that some struggles in marriage, and in this life in general, are HARD. They are. And, in very severe situations, there are times when a wife may need to separate from her husband, at least for a time, praying for God to work and for reconciliation.

We have a COVENANT before God and our husbands in our marriages. God can and will use our greatest trials to help us grow and mature in our faith and become more like Christ. Nothing can touch us that has not passed through His sovereign, loving hands. When we love Him wholeheartedly, He promises to use ALL things for our ultimate good (by His definition) and His glory (Romans 8:28-29, and, see the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-39).

No fault divorce may be legal in our culture today – but it is not of God, my precious sisters! And it is sin. No fault divorce hurts and destroys everyone it touches. God hates divorce.

If you have never read about what a covenant truly means, please check out this guest post – Brides and Butchers. Or, please read John Piper’s two part series on the marriage covenant “What God Has Joined Together, Let Man Not Separate.” There are several interpretations about what believers should do if they are already remarried – Piper explains his position in Part 2. There are other possible interpretations to prayerfully consider, as well. But most of all, I pray we will each seek to listen to God, His Word and His Spirit. (If there are very serious issues in your marriage – adultery, drug/alcohol addictions, severe pornography addictions, actual abuse, uncontrolled mental illness – please, please seek godly, biblical, experienced, wise counsel and compare everything your counselor says to the Bible. If you are not safe, please seek help right away! I do not condone abuse in marriage of either spouse. Please click here for the National Domestic Violence Hotline)

OTHER IDOLS OFTEN COME WITH THE IDOL OF HAPPINESS

As we idolize happiness, it has been my observation that we also tend to idolize self, feelings, romance and control (having our way).  This leads us to pride, self-righteousness, disrespect, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, ungratefulness, discontentment, arguing, complaining and all kinds of other sin. When we are involved in idolatry of any kind, we tend to trust our own wisdom instead of God. We tend to focus on “ME” instead of obedience to God and dying to self. We easily rationalize and justify our own sin in order to get what we really want – HAPPINESS! All the time! We want what we want when we want it. God becomes more and more distant. We won’t let anyone get in our way of us getting what we want. If we hurt someone else in the process, oh well … we need to be happy.

As long as we are happy right now this moment, that’s all that matters in the universe, right?

Do we ever stop to realize – this is the mentality of a two year old? I had this mentality for a long time, myself. When God finally showed me just how sinful my attitude and my motives were, I was MORTIFIED! I spent weeks on my face before God repenting of all the sin He revealed to me. This is NOT the mentality of a spiritually mature, godly woman! We have unknowingly absorbed some of the most ungodly messages ever from our hedonistic, humanistic, secular culture!

The scariest thing to me is that I didn’t even see my own sin. Not at all – for many, many years. How could I have been so blind and deceived?

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MY HAPPINESS AND EMOTIONS?

Sadly, as we idolize our own temporary happiness, we also tend to make other people responsible for our emotions and happiness instead of taking responsibility for our own emotions and spiritual well-being. Here are a few questions for us to ponder:

  • What if my husband is NOT responsible for my happiness?
  • What if each person is responsible for himself/herself emotionally and spiritually?
  • What if my circumstances are actually a tool in God’s hand – a chisel –  to help me mature and grow?
  • What if my circumstances are a spiritual test for me to learn to respond to with a godly attitude through the power of God living through me?
  • What if only Christ Jesus can give me real contentment, peace and joy and things/people of this world can never bring me true satisfaction?
  • What if I am expecting my husband or marriage to meet needs that only Jesus can actually fulfill and satisfy?
  • What if I can have contentment right now in Christ no matter what my situation may be?

What if my temporary happiness is not God’s biggest goal in my life?

GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

As believers in Christ, we can see clearly in the Bible that:

  • Happiness is not the greatest and most ultimate goal in life, our knowing God is the greatest goal and our becoming holy and more like Jesus, being totally submitted to Him, obeying Him, loving Him and bringing great honor and glory to Him are to be the ultimate goals in our lives (John 17, Matthew 22:38-39, John 14:22-24).

The amazing thing is, as we focus on obeying and loving God and others with all our hearts, and as we fully yield ourselves in total submission to Him, He fills our souls with His Spirit – and the results ALWAYS are His supernatural: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:19).

Paradoxically, when we seek God first, He blesses us with real joy and supernatural peace that are so much more fulfilling than any temporary happiness that this world or anything in it could ever offer.

We CAN choose to be content as we focus on being thankful, focus on the good and the blessings God has given us and as we allow Christ to empower us.

  • Rejoice always, pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
  • I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11b-13

FROM A PRECIOUS WIFE:

I bought the lie and worshiped it for so long, never bothering to notice how the more I pursued happiness, the harder it was to attain. I find it is much easier to simply be content with what God has given you and where He has placed you…..to find and celebrate His goodness and blessings every single day.

As I practice contentment, I experience happiness.

Isn’t that interesting? I spent so many years chasing happiness, instead of being content, I failed to enjoy the blessings God had given me and missed out on so much. I know for a fact, it was this attitude that led to the breakup of my first marriage. Make no mistake…

Seeking your own happiness will eventually hurt everyone around you.

My heart breaks for the hurt I caused my daughter and first husband, but I know that God is changing me and I trust Him with that process and the healing He is bringing to all I have hurt in the past.

I was just talking with one of my friends yesterday about the idol of self. It’s so easy to slip into that mode of worshiping self and doing whatever self tells us will make us happy. My theory is that it’s a natural human, survival mechanism…..maybe something that we’ve been stuck with since we we tossed out of the garden of Eden and had to fend for ourselves in a rough world?  (From Peacefulwife – this is our sinful nature!) Even then, in God’s infinite  grace and love, He is there for us…..He fights the battles for us when we can’t do it. All He wants is for us to give it to Him and let Him do it. I think sometimes, He allows difficult situations in our lives so we will give up and give it to Him. That’s how he strengthens our faith.

 

SHARE:

Have you had happiness as an idol? How did God reveal this idol to you?

How did you repent?

How did you learn to look at life differently in a way that honors God?

What have you learned about the sufficiency of Christ and finding all of your contentment in Him if you have been on this journey for awhile?

We’d love to hear your insights and the gems and pearls that God has shown you through your trials.

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE:

I hope to be able to respond to comments this evening. 🙂 Y’all are welcome to discuss as much as you would like. I will join in when I can.

RELATED:

The Real Secret to Contentment Is Having Jesus Christ as LORD of My Life

A Huge Key to Contentment! By Still Jennifer

How to Make Your Husband an Idol

The Idol of Control

How to Stop Idolatry and Truly Live for Christ

“My Secret Idol”

 

Today’s guest post is by Robyn.  Check out her blog at www.upwithmarriage.wordpress.com

First I’d like to say thank you to April for the opportunity to share on this subject of how we make idols in our lives; even the good things.

It was a good and righteous prayer; an honest prayer.  “God please save my husband.”  But diligence and fervency turned my heart inward instead of outward.  I lost sight of why I was praying.  As the heart is turned more and more inward it fails to see the cosmic picture – God’s view.

My view was narrowed over the years until I saw only lack, the lack of answered prayer and how it affected … me

The good prayer for my husband’s soul had morphed into a demand to make my life easier.  I had made his salvation about me.  If I was a better wife, or mom, or Christian than he would surely see that God is real.  If I was a better daughter to God – He would answer this prayer.  If I was a better daughter to God He would … (wait for it) … (here it comes) … Give me what I want.

It happens silently and ever so subtly, very much like the frog that is sitting in cool water and as the water heats, the temperature builds but; isn’t noticed.  And before she knows it, her own flesh is cooking and peeling – and she’s blind to it.  Really, how can anyone even tell you?  From the best intentions of the closest friends, “Robyn, do you realize that you pray for your husband too much?”  Doesn’t sound like something you’d hear from a Christian, right?  Praying too much? And who wants to be the Christian to say that?

You can see from April’s list that all of our idols root to the same foundation:  Give me what I want.  We allow focus into our own little dramas (which are short sighted and temporary) rather than growing into the bigness that is required for God’s plan.

All God’s promises became elusive to me:  Joy, contentment, power, peace, discernment, strength and love.  On and on it went.  My head became full of knowledge – desperate to alleviate the lack:  Lack of God’s presence and intimacy.  My unhappiness grew in parallel to the knowledge I gained.

And this was the key that God used to back me into the corner of using my own strength.  When you’ve exhausted every avenue within your power and you still don’t have what you are praying for – the thing that will make you happy.

This is how you know that you’ve built an idol:  You refuse to be happy where you are at.

In 1 Samuel 1:8, Hannah is asked by her husband:   And why are you grieving?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?

The key word was grieving.  I hadn’t been praying in belief, trust and expectation of the Lord; but in my own strength.  My words sounded like belief, trust, and expectation – but God showed me that my heart was not joyful – in Him.  You cannot be happy and grieve at the same time.  Hannah wasn’t getting what she wanted and her grief was affecting the relationship with her husband.

I wasn’t getting what I wanted – and it was affecting my relationship with God.

I had prayed to God and added my own conditions to those prayers.  Just like the frog from earlier – I didn’t know that I had stepped from faith into death.  When you get to this place of blindness you must be bound in order to see the true condition of your heart.  But as it was with Job, God doesn’t want to bind to hurt us, He wants to help us get beyond ourselves to see the real Him:  I had heard of You [only] by the hearing of the ear, but now my [spiritual] eye sees You. (Job 42:5)

When I was at my lowest point with nothing left, God confronted me:  “What if My plan for you is to be married to an unbeliever for your whole life?  What will you think of Me then?  Am I not worth more to you than your husband’s salvation?”

Whatever it is that you are praying for; that thing that you so desperately want, you have to ask yourself:  Is it worth more to me than God?  Or, can I be joyful in Him … without it.

What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God….  ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’  Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and He will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  James 4:1-10

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