One evening a while back, I was ranting to my husband about some slight annoyance that had transpired over the course of my day. As I did, a sentence slipped out of my mouth that caught me off guard. I can’t even remember what I had been complaining about, really—perhaps someone had asked me for an inconvenient favor, perhaps I was trying to avoid an undesirable task, or perhaps I just felt like I didn’t have enough time in the week. Whatever it was, after going on about it for several minutes, I finally threw my hands in the air and said, “It just bothers me because I don’t want to be inconvenienced.” I paused, took a breath, and then for good measure, added, “Like, ever again.”
Those words ran off my tongue with the full weight of my frustration. But seconds later, my husband started laughing. And then, I did too. And it turned into one of those moments when you start laughing and just can’t stop. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what a ridiculous thing that had been to say. Not because it wasn’t true—believe it or not, I really don’t like to be inconvenienced. But because it was so selfish. And so unrealistic.
But also, because it revealed my heart.
The more I examined my words, the more I didn’t like what they represented. I realized my words revealed something I hadn’t wanted to notice before. They revealed that I had made an idol out of my own comfort and convenience.
And I’m not alone. According to LifeWay Research, 67% of Protestant pastors believe comfort is an idol that has significant control over their congregations. This is closely followed by control and security (56%), money (55%), and approval (51%). At some time or another, I think I have made an idol out of almost all of these things. What about you?
- Do you prioritize yourself and what feels good over what others might need? Do you avoid opportunities to serve others so that your desires can be met?
- Do you obsess about your future, trying to control any potential outcomes so that you can feel secure and safe?
- Do you only feel OK when you see a certain number in your bank account? Do you find yourself resisting opportunities for sacrificial generosity because you’re too busy doing anything you can to protect this number?
- Do you replay past conversations in your mind, wondering what that one person really thought of you? Do you spend hours obsessing over how you look? Do you strive to have a perfectly curated Instagram feed?
These tendencies can creep into all of our lives. And while they can sometimes be benign, over time, they may start to reveal an area of idolatry in our hearts.
What is idolatry?
Simply put, idolatry is when we value anything more than we value God. While we often think of golden calves and shrines when we hear such a term, idolatry can also refer to the false “gods” we let into our hearts—the things we allow to take the place of God, the things we worship instead of Him. Idolatry happens anytime we worship a created thing over the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
For me, I realized I was valuing my own comfort over what God had called me to. As I examined my choices, I realized I had allowed extra sleep to get in the way of consistent quiet times. I had allowed my desire to relax and watch TV at the end of the day to get in the way of fulfilling certain responsibilities and opportunities to care for others. I complained about how there were so few hours in the day while spending many of those hours frivolously. Now, don’t get me wrong: relishing in extra sleep, relaxing in front of the TV, and enjoying uninhibited free time can be wonderful gifts in their proper context. But what I was facing was something different. I had put my desire for comfort over my willingness to serve God and others.
How God can use moments of inconvenience for our sanctification
While it is certainly true that many of us don’t want to be inconvenienced, what if it is in those moments of inconvenience that God desires to grow us? What if He plans to use these interruptions to slowly teach us love, peace, and patience? What if there are gospel opportunities waiting for us in these inconvenient moments?
When we’re tempted to pursue selfish desires over service to God and others, I pray we can remember that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). I pray that we can learn to “adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:5–7a).
May we be the kind of women who ask God to search us and know us, revealing any idols in our hearts (Psalm 139:23–24). And when He does, may we be quick to repent and return to Him, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Thankfully, this is not a task left entirely up to us, for Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to help us grow in our faith. The Holy Spirit helps us put God in His rightful place, above all else in our lives. Slowly, the Spirit helps us become more like Christ until we reach glory—and we can have full confidence that He will be faithful to finish this good work (Philippians 1:6). Thanks be to God.
More Resources on Idolatry
Want to go deeper into the topic of idolatry—and learn how you can grow to love God more than anything else?