I often add things to my happy list thinking they’re holy things. I know God is all I need to be happy, but I also know God gives me good things. I like things. I like food and good beer. I like comfort and ease. It feels good to have everything I need. I like little gadgets that make life simpler and more efficient. All the good things I have come from God. Each meal, every drink, all my stuff, my family – they’re all gifts from God. Lately, as the Spirit peers into my soul and searches my heart, I’ve been realizing that these blessings have been fashioned into little idols. The idol factory of my heart has been working overtime. When I think about what I need I think about these things.
One of my favorite Psalms says, “There is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25-26). I am amazed at my own ability to memorize these words yet live so far from them. I say them to myself and my kids quite often, but my life is oriented in the opposite direction. I say God is all I need, but when I’m hungry, life isn’t worth living unless I get to eat what I want. Some days, my two-year-old is more mature than I am. When she throws these tantrums, I sternly hold her shoulders, look her in the eye, and tell her to stop crying because she has everything she needs.
When I was in college, my favorite band had a song that I could never sing. It said,
“Greater suffering is to come, if You don’t break everything.
Destroy the compromise of our flesh. Come and break everything.
Bring with You liberty for the captives. Savior, break everything.
Break everything in Your path..”
I was so afraid to sing these lyrics and mean them because I was afraid of the suffering God might bring into my life to make me more like Him, to make me put down my idols. Sometimes it takes years of sinning to get to the point of desperation, the point where you’re willing to say those words and mean them. I need the loving hands of the father to firmly grip me, look into the eyes of my soul, and burn away all the vestiges of idolatry. I need him to take away my dependence on things so that I depend on Him. Oh, how I wish I could say and mean “there is nothing on earth I desire besides you.”
The Psalmist doesn’t mean he never has an appetite, or that he doesn’t care much for his family. He means that, when compared to God, nothing comes close. This is why Jesus commands allegiance that trumps the ties of family. Not even the law itself can keep us from following Him. He demands ultimate and all-encompassing faithfulness.
This is such a simple lesson. I remember learning this in grade school. I’ve known it for decades – if you want to follow Jesus, you have to be willing to give up everything. All the “needs” of life have a way of working their way into our hearts. Jesus spoke of the “leaven of the Pharisees” – that subtle, hidden message, unheard by the ear yet felt in the heart, that slowly, inch by inch, pulls us away from true faith. “You need rest. You need comfort. You need ease. You need pleasure.” These little arrows pierce our hearts, lodge deeply and turn into: “I deserve vacation. I must have a bigger house. I will not do that work. It’s not necessary to resist this temptation.”
I pray, for me and for you, that our hearts would burn again for the glory of God and the good of His people. Father, would you help us to become so obsessed with You that the world’s trinkets fade into the background? Would you make us really believe that we need nothing on earth besides you? Open our eyes to the beauties of Christ. Make our souls drink deeply from His love. Take us by the hand and guide us in your council. Make us to feel you and flee from sin. Help us to be so desperate to follow you that we are willing to see our idols burn if only it means we get more of You. Immerse us in the wonder of your love. If your love is like a storm, let it break the boundaries we put between us and it. Give us courage to be men and women like Jesus who had no place to lay His head, and His food was to do the Father’s will, and His family deserted Him, yet He had more joy than any human being ever. Give us that Joy.