Recently the four of us went to Disney on a couple of the coldest and rainiest days of the year. You might be thinking that we made the most of it and had a great trip anyway---we were at “The Happiest Place on Earth”, after all---but we did not. We were miserably grumpy almost the entire time. Smiles were scarce, and kind words were lacking. As we were driving back home in the nasty weather, scowling and seething, Peter broke the bitter silence with an enlightening thought:
“I think the reason I was so upset during this trip is because I was expecting it to do more for me than it ever could.”
He elaborated that, at least for him (though I was totally in the same boat), he hadn’t been finding satisfaction in Jesus so he was looking to a mini-vacation to fill that void. And it couldn’t. So he was angry.
Fast forward to a few days later. A couple of things had been piling up and I was mad at my husband. I threw myself a major pity party because I felt that he wasn’t leading well enough or studying the Bible enough or serving me enough. In my opinion he was on his phone too much and slacklining too much and eating snacks too much. (Wow, my “issues” look so much more petty in writing.) I was overwhelmingly furious that he can be selfish sometimes.
Then he graciously pointed out to me what was happening in my heart. I was looking to him to meet all my wants and needs in ways he never ever could.
These epiphanies reminded me of Deuteronomy 4:15,16 : “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure…”
Moses was reminding the people of what happened in Exodus 32. Moses had been on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, and the Israelites grew impatient so they told their stand-in leader Aaron that he needed to make some gods to go before them. He proceeded to gather any gold they had, melt it, and fashion from it a golden calf. The Israelites then said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” and built an altar and worshipped. God was not pleased.
These are the same people who had just been mightily delivered from slavery. They had seen plagues of frogs and they walked right through the Red Sea, for crying out loud. But I totally get them. The human tendency is to demand the tangible. They couldn’t see God’s form so they felt it necessary to make one up, thus incurring wrath.
I do the same thing. It’s because I have forgotten all that I have in Jesus that I look to my husband or my kids or Disney to do things for me that they never can. It’s too much work to trust God when I can’t feel Him, so I put my hope in things that I can see.
I must remember, however, that all these deep longings in my heart for peace and joy and acceptance cannot be met by someone who has those same longings (or something that was made by people with those same longings.) I make a golden calf out of my husband, who is neither savior nor lord, because I expect him to be those things for me.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m idolizing something because I don’t even like it. Can I really be worshipping my husband in those moments when I’m really unhappy with him? Yes, because when I throw a fit that he’s not being everything I feel like I need him to be, I’m looking to my husband as god, rather than to the only all-powerful, all-knowing, all-sufficient, perfectly loving LORD.
The gospel frees us from having unreasonable expectations of others because our satisfaction and confidence comes from the only One who has actually met every perfect standard.
Only Jesus can say, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
This completely changes my day to day.
The gospel replaces my road rage with gratitude because I can hit all red lights and still say “God didn’t even spare His Son from me for my good; He will not keep any good thing from those who walk uprightly.” (Romans 8:32 and Psalm 84:11)
The gospel opens me up to be with others even when I’m insecure because I can have a really embarrassing moment in front of important people and still say “Jesus presents me before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy.” (Jude 24)
The gospel frees me up to serve because I can help ungrateful people and still say “My spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, so I don’t need any kind of pleasant reaction from others.” (1 Peter 2:5)
The gospel liberates me to calmly cherish my misbehaving children because I can receive a toddler’s angry glare and still say “I have peace with God through Jesus.” (Romans 5:1)
The gospel grants me to remain cheerful with my friends because I can have a boring hangout and still say “I have fellowship with Christ and in His presence is fullness of joy.” (1 Corinthians 1:9 and Psalm 16:11)
The gospel welcomes me to live simply because I can walk past a store with empty pockets and say “My greatest need is to be saved from the wrath of God, and Jesus has met that need; those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.” (Romans 5:9 and Psalm 34:10)
The gospel allows me to love my husband when he say something really hurtful because, even in my pain, I can say “I am precious and honored in God’s sight. My Bridegroom rejoices over me.” (Isaiah 43:4 and 62:5)
So be encouraged, dear Christian, to remember the good news of Jesus every day. I’m not saying that preaching the gospel to ourselves every day will keep us from being unhappy; sorrow is not of the devil and even Jesus wept. But if our security is in Jesus, He will guard our hearts and minds when we’re tempted to fret (or be grumpy) and give us a peace that doesn’t make sense (Philippians 4:7.)
What are some other ways the gospel frees us? There is benefit in discussion!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a rad guy, and raising three little people ages 1,3, and 5...and I'm now expecting my fourth. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today