A few weeks ago, I attended a women’s retreat at Camp Harvest and had a wonderfully refreshing weekend with some beautiful women. The main speaker, Beth Freeman shared a series on our identity in Christ. And, while much of what she shared was encouraging to hear and challenging in it’s refreshing of my soul, her personal testimony is what has been resonating with me for the last few weeks.
Beth shared how she and her husband chased a dream, a good dream, to the point that it nearly cost them everything. She told us that even when a desire is good (i.e., ministry pursuits, the desire to be married or have children, success, etc.), if it is in the wrong place in your life, it is an idol. The way she said it has been echoing in my mind:
“If you would sin to get it or sin because you didn’t get it, it’s probably an idol in your life”
I’ve been mulling those words over in my head and finding them so true. If I would lie, cheat, steal, or otherwise sin to get something, it has far more importance in my life than it should. If I would become bitter, jealous, angry or forsake the Lord because I didn’t get my way, that desire needs to be uprooted. There are things that Nick and I are pursuing, good desires, but we want to make sure they never get out of balance in our life. We have been very mindful of that lately and this timely word from Beth was such a good reminder. The Lord gives and He takes away and we bless Him through it all. It’s hard to do from an human perspective, but when thinking eternally, it’s the only thing that makes sense.
I had the opportunity to surprise my Mom for her birthday the week before the retreat and spend some time with my family in Georgia. It was a really sweet time and I’m grateful for a husband who encourages me to make trips like that one. In discussion over some decisions my parents have made over the last few years, my Dad asked, “Did we do the wrong thing?”. My answer to him at the time was that if his heart was clear before the Lord and he was obedient, then yes, he had done the right thing. I’m encouraged to see that he continually checks his heart, but truly, obedience to the Lord is all that matters. Even when it is the most excruciating thing you think you’ll ever experience, I am convinced that it is far less painful than disobedience.
As I have reflected over that conversation with my Dad and the wisdom from Beth, I was encouraged to have even more insight into whether my parents’ pain is worthwhile. In my parents’ situation, there have been many people who have told them that should do whatever it takes to make it better, even if that means lying. (Huge red flag, right?) While my parents’ desire is a very good and noble one, “If [they] would sin to get it or sin because [they] didn’t get it, it’s probably an idol in [their] life“. Our God is a jealous God and He started out with the number 1 rule saying “You shall have no other god before Me” Exodus 20:1-3. We have a lot of “Rule #1’s in our house” and this one couldn’t be clearer: Rule #1 of Following God – Always put Him first! It has so helped to have this black and white way of looking at how a good desire can become an idol and how to identify when things are out of balance.
I’m so grateful that Beth shared her story in a truly transparent way. It was beautiful to hear. I’m grateful that the Lord has brought her to that place where she can use those lessons to encourage and teach others. Our prayer is that we would always remember her simple words and use them as a litmus test in our lives. No matter how good the desire might be, if we would sin to get it or because we didn’t get it, it has risen above our love for the Lord and must be torn down.
What good desires are competing for the allegiance you owe only to the giver of all Good things? (Rich Mullins)