The older you get, the more you realise how inadequate another person really is at fulfilling your every need, be it physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually, which in my opinion, is a great realisation. Why? Because it points you to the One who can fulfil you in every way possible, and then some! Honestly, the earlier in life you realise it, the better!
The thing is, when we hold someone at such high esteem, placed loftily on a pedestal, with the whole weight of our unrealistic expectations and responsibility to be our “everything” resting precariously on their shoulders, we eventually end up getting hurt and disappointed. More often than not, they too end up hurt and disappointed. You see, when we look to people as our principal source of happiness, comfort, or identity, our priorities are way off kilter and we never feel truly satisfied. Our contentment becomes conditional, and it is time to take a step back and ask ourselves, “Have I made this person or relationship an idol in my life?”, or better yet, as David put it, “See if there is any idolatrous road in me, then lead me on the everlasting road!”(Ps. 139:23).
People are commanded many times by Yahweh to not make worthless idols. Abstain from the pollution of idols (Acts 15:20); Beloved, flee from idolatry (1 Cor 10:7); Turn to God from idols to serve a living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9); guard yourself from idols (1 John 5:21)—to name but a few! God even describes Himself as Jehovah Qanna, meaning “jealous God”. Not in the green-eyed monster, envious type of way, but the “His people are His people, and He knows other gods and interests are constantly working to distract and win the affections of His people and take them away from Him” type. Rightly so, nothing and no one should be placed before Him, figuratively or literally. Nevertheless, some forms of idolatry can be subtler than others, and we must be vigilant in our efforts to reject them all—for idols come in many guises, not just your stereotypical stone, wood, or precious material, inanimate object; they can also be made of flesh and blood.
It can really sting when you look back on your life and realise you may have elevated an individual, or a relationship with a created being, over your relationship with the Creator, be it consciously or unconsciously. We’re called to love one another as ourselves, right? Not “love one another as our gods”. So why then do some end up looking to religious leaders, pastors, government officials, celebrities, family members, or significant others as their sole provider and primary source of perfect peace, security, wisdom, joy and more? Doesn’t the Bible say, “for all the gods of the peoples are idols, but Yahweh made the heavens.’ (1 Chron. 16:26)
It took some pretty painful events in my life for me to finally wake up and realise that I was forming toxic attachments and putting impossible, ungodly expectations on certain people. This caused me to finally repent and let God work in my heart, as well as personally work on the condition of my heart myself by steering my focus, devotion, affection, and love back to the One who not only desires my dependency and faithfulness, but Who unfailingly surpasses my expectations time and time again.
Something happened to me when I finally made the choice to put my relationship with God above everyone and everything else in my life. My earthly relationships got better. They felt easier to me. That’s not to say they were without struggle – there is no perfect relationship – however, this acquired pressure that I used to feel was lifted. I felt peace and assurance that wasn’t from anything the world or people gave.
Much to my irritation, I tend to feel emotions pretty intensely, best described as a tough, sensitive soul. I was the type of child who meticulously gave all of her stuffed toys a place on the bed so none of them felt left out, yet at the same time wasn’t afraid to engage in fisticuffs if anyone messed with my twin sister on the playground (18 minutes older and proud). I choke up at most movies – happy or sad; I get an excitement rash on my neck on special occasions. You’ve pretty much won me over if you make me cry laughing; and I feel deep anguish in my gut when someone I love is hurting. I guess one verse that has come most easily to me in life is Romans 12:15.
To say I’ve had to work on taming the more unwelcome/overwhelming emotions in life, whilst maintaining a healthy balance between a soft heart and thick skin, would be an understatement. I used to think there’d be something missing if the feeling I felt in a relationship wasn’t an all-consuming pit-in-stomach, anxiety-inducing, I-can’t-live-without-you movie feeling. It wasn’t until I wholeheartedly put God first, and then later on entered into a God-honouring, loving relationship – where that past uneasiness was absent and had no control over me anymore – that I realised my priorities were in order. Indeed, I could live without this person, but I’m choosing not to. The Ones who I truly can’t live without are my Father God and my Saviour Jesus Christ. No matter how much I love someone, I know that the One who sustains me and completes me is not another person, it is the Sustainer and Giver of life, Who is love Himself.
God had become my obsession, and I was consumed with a longing for more of Him over anything else.
There is a freedom when you don’t obtain your value from anyone other than God and the Lord Jesus. It means that even when someone disappoints us, there’s space for grace. Even when someone doesn’t meet our expectations, we remember they too are an imperfect human. Even when things aren’t good within a relationship, God is still good and our relationship with Him is always good. You begin to realise that everything that lacks in earthly relationships, is everything you gain in relationship with your precious Heavenly Father.
Someone doesn’t see your worth? God does. You are worth precisely one sacrificed, sinless, only-begotten Son of God (your salvation was costly). (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8, 1 Pet. 3:18.)
Someone doesn’t want to be in relationship with you anymore? Guess what? —God still does. So much so that He worked out a master plan of reconciliation before the foundation of the world, which He laboured to achieve over thousands of years until the perfect moment. (Gal 4:4, Eph. 1:4, Eph. 1:11, Rom. 5:10, 2 Cor. 5:18.)
Someone lied to you? Guess what? —God never lies. (Num. 23:19, Tit. 1:2, Heb. 6:18)
Someone left you by walking away or in death? God never will, He is always with us. (Deut. 31:6, Josh. 1:5, Isa. 41:10)
Is there any relationship that could beat this? Nope, never, not even close! A godly relationship is supposed to model God and the Lord Jesus in the way we love each other, but it is never meant to replace or come before them. This is not to say that it is at all bad if someone makes you happy, brings you joy or comfort, or that you can never rely on someone; those are all such blessings in life from God, that He would make it that we do not have to go through this life alone. But our number one love, above all else, should be the Blesser, not the blessing.
Does this mean we completely remove the person we may be idolising? No, we make a conscious effort to love them with the love of God, but to seek and crave God first and foremost, loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is only then, when we take God off the back burner so to speak, that we are able to love this person the right way: holy, healthily, and idol-free!