Have you ever caught yourself saying,

“I have to have ____ or I’m just going to die.”

“My life isn’t worth living unless I have ____.”

You’ve just uncovered a heart idol.

Elyse Fitzpatrick says we all have them.

Desperation is not a bad thing – but when it’s focused on a temporal possession or relationship instead of on God, it can lead to idolatry. Elyse draws a parallel in the Old Testament story of Rachel, Jacob, and Leah.

Sisters Rachel and Leah were prone to rivalry. Both sisters ended up married to the same man – Jacob. Rachel, the younger one, was known as the more beautiful one, but Leah was able to bear children. In that culture, a woman’s fertility was her value.

“The bearing of children was the primary identity of a woman. Everything she was was tied to whether or not she had children… particularly sons.”

Rachel felt inferior, perhaps for the first time in her life. In her desperation, resentment, and jealousy, she declared these words to Jacob:

“Give me children or I’ll die!” Genesis 30:1

Sometimes we feel that same urgency. If we’re longing to be married, or for financial security, or to be somewhere we’re not, we can easily forget that God is our source. Yet time and time again, when we finally achieve what we’ve been working toward, that sense of desperation and discontent remain.

That’s what God wants to redirect.

Jacob wisely recognized Rachel’s motives and told his wife,

“Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Genesis 30:2

Life and death aren’t found in having children, becoming financially stable, or achieving a certain body weight. They’re found in God alone.

Elyse names other ways to recognize our idols in her book Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone.

The takeaway is clear – choose to live by faith instead of by fear. Rachel let her desperation drive her, with sad results.

“She really saw her identity not as a woman who was loved by God, but rather as a woman who needed to produce children in order to maintain her place in the family.”

God looks at you now and doesn’t see your fertility, body type, or financial success as your worth. None of those things can bring salvation, and we can get too focused on our goal to present God with a pure heart of worship. Ask yourself – what am I desperate for today?

Key Scriptures: Matthew 22:36-39; Exodus 20:1-3; Galatians 5:6

Featured Songs: God and God Alone by Chris Tomlin; Everything is Mine by Christy Nockels; Glow in the Dark by Jason Gray

Highlight : Our desperation reveals what we worship

Idols of the heart

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