Idols of the Heart (Part 1)

Idols of the Heart (Part 1)

I walked into my garage after spending hours on my knees in mulch bedding plants next to the house. As I put my tools away, I have to sidestep my golf clubs, proudly displayed and easily accessible for when I can get back to the course for a few hours of quiet. I place the tools next to the water toys, fishing rods, dumbbells, and bike, which each whisper to me as I walk by them that they’re waiting for me to spend time with them.

At the same time, I am brainstorming this very article. I’m in the middle of so many things in my world that I find myself drawn to that are, of themselves, lifeless objects—but I still let them interfere without much of a fuss with the permanent relationship that is my lifeline: my walk with Jesus. If I’m really honest, it’s too easy for me to focus on something for my identity or pleasure even if it affects my fellowship with the Father.

Sometimes, idols are tricky to identify. They don’t always look like a set of golf clubs or a new car. I’ve spent years working with individuals and couples in counseling, and have found that there are a couple of idols that seem to get swept under the rug: hurt from the past and worry of the future.

Hurt From the Past

I doubt that anyone reading this has not been hurt by something in their past. Some may be stuck with the trauma from a relationship with an alcoholic mother or father, a demeaning sibling, or an abusive significant other. When counseling people through these kinds of issues, I ask questions about relationships like these and always see immediate emotional responses.

Once an angry husband and father told me that he had a great family and that he was blessed how his parents took care of him. I asked him a pointed question about his relationship with his parents and, after only a few moments, he was in tears and describing being beaten with belts while his friends watched.

Another time, a young wife was suspicious and angry at her husband who was at a loss for how to love her. Only later, after talking about her alcoholic mom and the way she was responsible for taking care of her siblings, did she realize that she had never forgiven her mom—and that the unforgiveness she harbored had led her to be an angry woman.

So often, things that happen to us in the past have a tendency to consume us. They affect our relationships with the people around us and with our Heavenly Father.

So often, things that happen to us in the past have a tendency to consume us. They affect our relationships with the people around us and with our Heavenly Father. Click To Tweet

Worry of the Future

Some might not find themselves in this boat, though. In addition to those stuck in the past, I’ve counseled with others who were so focused on control of the future that they let the idol of worry and anxiety overtake their relationship with the Father.

I’ve found myself from time to time becoming obsessed with playing out scenarios in my mind to make sure I have all the possibilities for the future covered. While having a plan is not in itself bad, it is entirely too easy to put more of our faith and effort into developing our own plan that we forget to spend time with our Father and trust in His sovereign, loving rule over us.

Every one of us, if we are honest, has allowed the toys of this present world, the pain of past, or worry about the future to take our eyes off Jesus. So how do we follow Paul’s instruction to “Set our minds on things above,” (Col 3:2) or “Don’t worry about anything,” (Phil 4:6) or “Walk by the Spirit and not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16)? How do we combat the “Idols of the Heart,” when the enemy does his best to convince us that these things are absolutely necessary for our survival? How do I walk with God in a way I can live in that peace that passes understanding?

Every one of us, if we are honest, has allowed the toys of this present world, the pain of past, or worry about the future to take our eyes off Jesus. Click To Tweet

We will wrestle together with those questions next week in “From the Heart.”

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Russell Irwin is the Recovery and Member Care Pastor at Long Hollow.