Sometimes when reading the Old Testament, I have to remind myself not to be too hard on the Israelites. Even though I often want to shake my head at their antics, I realize that the same sinful tendencies that drove them to trade a relationship with the Living God for senseless sacrifice to foreign idols are far too often present in my own life as well. I may not bow down to a golden calf, but just like them I am tempted to put lesser things in the place where only God should rightly occupy. I am tempted to sacrifice my relationship with Him for temporal satisfactions.
Usually, in modern day conversations of “idol worship” we hear talk of the things that the world acclaims – prestige, fame, money and comfort. These are all things that many have been lead astray by, just like the Israelites were swayed by the gods of foreign nations. However, there are less obvious, perhaps even more insidious “gods” that we worship. One of these is the idol of “what should have been.”
You might not be familiar with this idol by its name, but you are probably more familiar with the acts of worship that its followers initiate. It’s the bowing down to our hopes and dreams – placing them as central importance in our lives. It’s the fight we have with the living God when His plans do not conform to our own. It’s the railing against our circumstances instead of the thankfulness for His gifts.
It’s a tempting god because in our culture we are taught from a young age that we should “reach for the stars.” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question that we ask children long before they have the capacity to truly think through that answer. “Dream big dreams” we’re told, and we celebrate those who do. And those dreams may be good. But if they are contrary to what God has planned for our life, we must be willing to sacrifice them for the glory of our King. Our hopes and our dreams aren’t what are most important – He is. Yet too often, we’re willing to set aside our worship of our Savior in order to celebrate and esteem our carefully orchestrated plans.
And we may not even realize that we are doing this until those dreams don’t become a reality. Naturally, we fill short-shifted, like somehow we had done our part but God hasn’t done His. We tell Him that we’ve done all He’s asked yet what we’ve really done is what we wanted. Because if we were worshiping Him, and not what should have been, our circumstances wouldn’t change the object of our esteem. When things turn out differently than expected, we would be celebrating what He’s doing, not fighting for what we desire. We would still be worshiping Him, not complaining that our circumstances have changed.
It’s often hard to resist bowing down to the idol of what should have been. It’s a tempting idol especially in our culture, in this day. Yet, we should rightly worship the God Who Is, and put our hopes and dreams into His loving hands.
How do you make sure you are worshiping the living God and fight the temptation to worship the idol of what should have been?