What are you trusting in?

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Egypt has been puzzling me for months.

I was reading 2 Kings 18 and was caught by this verse: “Behold, you are trusting now in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it.”

I knew there was something profound in that verse for me. But I wasn’t sure what.

So I began praying about it. Noticing where God mentions Egypt in Scripture. Pondering why it was a place of independence from the Lord.  A place where the Israelites fled when they wanted to take care of themselves. A place where they stopped trusting God.

Isaiah 30:1-2 says,

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and to make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!

“What is my Egypt?” I kept asking the Lord. “In what am I trusting instead of You, that will pierce my hand when I lean on it?”

And then finally, after praying for months, I saw it in Scripture.

I was reading the story about the healing of the disfigured woman (Luke 13:10-17). Trying to put myself into the narrative. Whom did I identify with most? It would be natural to see myself as the woman who had been disabled for 18 years, yet the one I most identified with was the synagogue leader.

This leader wanted to keep his power. He wanted the people’s approval. He wanted those in the synagogue on his side.

He was more interested in looking holy than anything else.

So am I.

Then it hit me.  The approval of others is my Egypt.

I lean on it instead of God. It promises deliverance, satisfaction, fulfillment. And it fills me. Temporarily. But it never really satisfies.  

I identify with the Pharisees who “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43).  

I seek others’ approval. I want respect. I thrive on people’s praise. And too often that matters more to me than being holy.

If I were asked to choose between being righteous, but appearing unrighteous to everyone else, or being unrighteous, while appearing holy to everyone around me, I’m not sure what I would decide.

As I look at the life of Mary the mother of Jesus, I see a woman who loved the praise of God far above the praise of men.

She, a righteous young girl, was called to bear the Savior of the world. What an incredible honor.

An honor that was wrapped in a most scandalous, humiliating package.

She was asked to look like an immoral woman, an unwed mother, an unfaithful betrothed, offenses punishable by public stoning in that day. Nothing she could ever say or do would change that in the eyes of her peers. That stigma must have followed her all the days of her life.

And yet to Mary, the praise of God was well worth enduring the scorn of men.

Mary’s faithfulness humbles, convicts and inspires me. I want to be indifferent to the praise of others and to live for God’s praise alone.

And as God gently showed me through Scripture, He wants that for my life as well.

I cannot worship approval and God at the same time. He is calling me to tear down this idol.

While it may sound easy to destroy, it is not.

Not for me. Not for any of us.

We depend on our idols; we value and prioritize them inordinately, often above our relationship with God. They may be good desires, but when they are placed above God, they become idols.

Idols are our way of trying to be satisfied by things besides Jesus.

But ironically, our idols will never satisfy us. They promise pleasure. But that pleasure is fleeting at best.

And then what idols deliver is pain. Or continual dissatisfaction. Because we’ll always want more.

Worshipping idols, relying on Egypt, is like drinking salt water. When I am thirsty, it seems like any water will satisfy my thirst. So I take a sip.

But one sip only makes my desire grow stronger. Soon I want it, crave it, feel I can’t live without it.

But somehow satisfaction always eludes me. I always want more. And just like salt water, drinking it is actually destroying me.

When someone praises me or my work, I’m excited. But then I’m looking for the next milestone to cross, or the next person’s approval. And when I don’t get it, I feel depressed and defeated. I want to know what I did wrong and how to fix it.

And the more I want people’s approval, the less concerned I am with God’s approval. His still small voice is drowned out by the praise of others.

I wish I could easily change these desires myself, but my life has been tightly wound around my need for approval.

But I know that God brought this stronghold to my attention, and He alone can transform me.

I must confess my sin to Christ daily, pray for grace, and ask Him to reveal the root of my idolatry. As I see the source, I must ruthlessly cut off everything that feeds it.

Breaking idols requires vigilance. And prayer. But most of all, the Holy Spirit must undergird all of my efforts. I am helpless without His power; I cannot do this work alone.

So what is your Egypt? What are your idols? What do you turn to besides God to fulfill you?

If you don’t know what your idols are, consider what you think about in your spare time. When you are free to focus on anything. When you are alone with your daydreams.

Inevitably, these idle thoughts will expose your idols.

And when God reveals your idols, don’t despair.

Gently offer them up to Jesus, and ask for His grace as you tear them down together. Rejoice, because He who began this work in you will be faithful to complete it.

He is offering His living water so that we will never thirst again.

What an incredible gift. For He alone can satisfy.

 

 

photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar
  • November 13, 2015 - 11:50 am

    Trudy - Thank you for this insightful post, Vaneetha. I’m afraid I, too, have an idol of wanting approval from others. It’s so hard not to go back to that default mode. “But most of all, the Holy Spirit must undergird all of my efforts. I am helpless without His power; I cannot do this work alone.” Amen.ReplyCancel

    • November 13, 2015 - 3:45 pm

      Vaneetha - This is such a tough idol, isn’t it Trudy? It’s crazy how big it is in my life and I definitely can’t begin to tackle it without the Spirit!ReplyCancel

  • November 14, 2015 - 7:38 am

    Laura - Thank you for being genuine, and helping me to do the same. Blessings to you!ReplyCancel

  • November 14, 2015 - 11:36 pm

    JD - I loved reading this, especially the image of being pierced while I lean on an idol. I don’t often see in myself the idol of seeking others’ approval. I usually seek security and comfort. Yet, this post shed light on an area where I’ve been dreading scorn. I have no doubt this is God’s work in my life, but I know with certainty that I will receive a range of mostly negative responses. Your example of Mary was very helpful. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • November 15, 2015 - 3:38 pm

      Vaneetha - You’re welcome Julie. Mary’s example has been very convicting for me.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2015 - 9:35 am

    loren lee - Recently realized too that this is one of my idols! My friend calls it approval addiction that needs to be detoxified out of my system! And only the Holy Spirit can do that! In fact, He has started doing that for us by exposing it!

    Sharing you my prayer..

    “Lord, YOU alone are my God. Forgive me for doing or thinking otherwise. I know it will be painful, but please remove anything or anyone in my life that hinders me to see and love you as my NUMBER ONE. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

    To tell you the truth, I feel really scared whenever I pray this prayer knowing that God will truly act on this and realizing how painful it might get for me. But through faith, I believe He loves me and wants to give me His best. I trust Him to do what is best for me.ReplyCancel

    • November 15, 2015 - 3:38 pm

      Vaneetha - Love that prayer, Loren. Thanks for sharing it.ReplyCancel

  • November 17, 2015 - 6:01 pm

    Sheshallberadiant - “If I were asked to choose between being righteous, but appearing unrighteous to everyone else, or being unrighteous, while appearing holy to everyone around me, I’m not sure what I would decide.”

    As I’m also a people-pleasing and an approval-seeking person, I’m not sure what I would decide either.

    Thanks for being so open and honest with your writings. It has been so refreshing to read them and know that I am not alone in the things I struggle with or think about.ReplyCancel

    • November 18, 2015 - 8:13 am

      Vaneetha - You are definitely not alone in people pleasing. I’m still not sure what I would choose if left with those two choices…but I’m praying God would lessen my desire for the world and increase my desire for Him every day.ReplyCancel

  • November 17, 2015 - 7:21 pm

    Debbie - I came across your blog while passing time. I never thought about the my idol being approval, but totally believe my idol is my business and the success of my business. I feel God leading me to give up on that idol. It’s so hard to do because now after reading your blog I can see my idol is really approval from my father and family members to have started and run a successful business. I have been working on this for 20 years now. It’s never been what I would call successful. I am praying that I am able to let go and let God lead me into the next phase and that I am completely willing to take the path He has planned. Loved your thoughts on Mary. How lovely to not think of yourself but truly what the Lord has for us.ReplyCancel

    • November 18, 2015 - 8:14 am

      Vaneetha - So glad the Lord used this in your life, Debbie. Oh, to be like Mary and focus solely on pleasing God…ReplyCancel

  • November 21, 2015 - 2:07 am

    Titra - I thank God for you. The article on ChurchLeaders site “Is My Suffering Meaningless” led me to your blog. I know this is not a coincident. It just so happens that our ministry’s Bible Study topic for the past two months has been on Spiritual Warfare: Strongholds. The Lord has answered my prayer through this blog.

    I am going through a storm at this very moment. My family has fallen apart, my husband and I are separated, and I have found myself living in my mother’s basement with my 18 year old daughter. I am on disability, but trying to get back into the workforce. I have never felt so worthless and low in all of my life, yet, I continue to do the work of ministry. I asked the Lord to reveal and expose my strongholds. I find as He is doing that He is also showing me my Egypt and my idols. I hear the Lord saying that “my marriage – my Egypt and my idols – my husband and children! Your questions: “So what is your Egypt? What are your idols? What do you turn to besides God to fulfill you?” And this statement, “If you don’t know what your idols are, consider what you think about in your spare time. When you are free to focus on anything. When you are alone with your daydreams. Inevitably, these idle thoughts will expose your idols.” This led me to the truth about this storm I am smack dead in the middle of!

    I truly need the Holy Spirit to help me because all I think about is my husband, our relationship, my children, and how things were until October 2014, that’s when everything around me started falling a part. I prayed this morning that the Lord would help me to stop thinking so much about my husband, the marriage, if we are going to reconcile, and how things used to be the last 20 years. Our 21st wedding anniversary is fast approaching (Dec 10, 2015) which causes me to think about everything even more. I haven’t spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s without my husband since we became husband and wife other than when he was sent to Korea on his remote tours.

    Please mention my name in your prayers and be in agreement with me that I will be forgiven and delivered.

    I will continue to follow you on this blog.
    May God continue to bless you!ReplyCancel

    • November 22, 2015 - 9:49 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Titra, it sounds like you are in the middle of a storm. I am praying as I write this that you will be able to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and that he will deliver you from the strongholds in your life. I know you have been forgiven if you have confessed your sin, since Scripture says if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness. Jesus is faithful, Titra – hold on to Him.ReplyCancel

    • December 9, 2015 - 7:12 pm

      Eric - It’s hard to believe that something as wonderful as marriage can be an idol, but it is for me. My identity was husband. Father. Not son of God. I thought my 20 plus year marriage was what made me special. Us special. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I let God’s gifts take the place of Him. I worshipped my marriage and my wife. Then when she quit, I was left with nothing. I struggle constantly with this loss. But her leaving, made room for Him. While I miss her and love her, I have to believe that God can and will make me whole again someday. I never dreamed that this is where I would be, but here I am and He is here as well. I will be okay someday. He promises me that and I believe Him. ReplyCancel

      • December 10, 2015 - 10:59 am

        Titra - Yes, we will be ok. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is a process that hurts…acknowledging that I had all these idols. Putting people and things before God can happen so subtly. I thought I was doing what God wanted me to do when it came to my husband and family. I never thought of it as “having other gods before Him”. I am so truly sorry for it. I believe I have been forgiven and I am chasing after the Lord. He is so good and faithful. He is healing me from so much and I now “all of this is working for my good”.ReplyCancel

  • November 25, 2015 - 3:12 am

    Barb D - Soooo await your posts. I recently found out what my idol was. I failed at it after twenty years of strenuous attempts to be successful. However, God had His hand in it all the while. God’s Word says to “love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with your Lord”. Today I’m mostly on the other side of my failure – my idol. I’m grateful to walk humbly by His side. I never would have been there otherwise. God is good and merciful. Thanks for what you wrote.ReplyCancel

    • November 25, 2015 - 9:42 am

      Vaneetha - Its always so convicting when we recognize our idols. Its half the battle. But the other half, actually dethroning it, takes prayer and diligence. So thankful that He is able! Thanks for writing, Barb!ReplyCancel

  • December 11, 2015 - 5:20 pm

    Iris - I came to your blog from one of the recent articles on desiring god.org. Bless you for being obedient to God’s calling in reaching out to many through your writing. I suffer with many idols but this is the one idol that has shattered my early twenties – the belief that marriage would give me an identity in life and that it would make me complete. Thankfully for the grace of God, Christ lead me to knowing Him for real, I have been a christian all my life but it really meant nothing until the Holy Spirit started working. I still struggle with many idols that the Spirit of God reveals to me and I rejoice in recognizing them because that is the proof that The Holy Spirit is at work in my life and as the scripture says, He who begun His work is faithful to complete it.
    Thank you for sharing the wisdom of God, please pray for me as i battle through my weaknesses in this world. I began praying for you sister Vaneetha, I would continue to.ReplyCancel

    • December 13, 2015 - 3:26 pm

      Vaneetha - Praying for you as I write this, Iris. We are all in a battle for our hearts, but I rejoice with you that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.ReplyCancel

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