Learning To Long For God Alone
All night long I tossed and turned. I was anxious and afraid but didn’t know quite why. Specters of failure and probable loss danced mockingly on the edges of my thought. I sought to close my eyes to terrifying visions but couldn’t keep them out—they were inside me. How will I function tomorrow if I don’t get sleep tonight?
“Oh Lord, what is this? Why am I so afraid?” I prayed.
I feared that if I didn’t rest that night I would face a continual battle the next day against complaining and anger—and I would certainly lose. “What is this fear all about? Lord, please help me,” I prayed. Does this situation sound familiar?
How about this one? Out of my mouth spewed a torrent of words that shocked not only my listeners but myself as well. “Where did that come from?” I wondered. It wasn’t that I shouldn’t have said what I had—it was the vehemence with which I had said it that was alarming. I had said too much. I had said it too strongly. People were hurt. There was a lot more heat there than even I had anticipated. Something was going on in my heart. “Why am I so angry, Lord? Why can’t I get a handle on this?”
Have you ever asked those kinds of questions? Most of us have. Like the apostle Paul, we do things we don’t want to do and don’t do the things we’ve purposed to do (Romans 7). Our hearts seem completely dark to us, like murky labyrinths we never quite understand. And yet the good news Jesus offers infuses light into those dark caves, bringing peace in place of fear, gentleness instead of demandingness, and joy even through tears. We believe that, yet there still seems to be a disconnect between what we’ve been given in the gospel and how that truth is played out in our daily lives. Could it be that we have divided hearts? Are we worshiping more than one God?
Though we love the Lord and His Word, the truth is that we all have divided loves, hearts that sincerely worship the one true God, yet love and serve other gods . . . gods of our own desires, wants, and expectations. These other gods are referred to as idols in the Bible, but they aren’t carved of stone nor do we offer them bowls of incense. They are gods that exist in our hearts . . . deep within their labyrinthine recesses. They are the things we long for and fear, the motivations that deceive us into sinning . . . just this once. They whisper lies to us, falsely promising happiness and riches that only the Lord can give. They leave us empty and enslaved.
As formidable and elusive as idols are, they can be put to death by the power of the gospel as we remember over and over again the love that we have been given in Jesus Christ. The only power strong enough to overcome a false love is a true one, and it’s that love that has been lavishly bestowed on us in Christ.
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick is a retreat and conference speaker, including the 2017 Called To Counsel Conference, and is the director of Women Helping Women Ministries. She has authored numerous books, including Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone and Comforts from the Cross: Daily Celebrations of the Gospel. This article is reprinted with her permission.
Posted on September 20, 2016