Spouses Make Terrible Gods1
I knew I loved and wanted to marry Eric only a couple of months after we had started courting. We were playing a card game at his apartment with his roommates and he accused me of cheating. He wasn’t playfully accusing me, either. He was legitimately upset, and although he didn’t call me an outright liar, I remember looking across at him and thinking, “I love him.” Now, I know that is strange. Realizing that you love someone while they accuse you of cheating at a card game is odd, but I knew I loved him because he was essentially calling me a liar and I wasn’t angry. I was amused. (To this day he still thinks I was cheating! And I still think it’s funny.)
We were married May 7th, 2011. Our courtship and engagement lasted only 10 months. Those were some fun, enchanting, magical months. The year following that day was extremely fun, yet extremely difficult.
It started when I got sick on the honeymoon. We still had fun, yet even after the honeymoon I continued to struggle with illnesses; nothing too serious, and most likely due to a new job at a hospital, a new home, and a new husband. I had also sprained my ankle playing basketball, and had to wear a fracture boot at all times, even while sleeping. All these new things were starting to build up into stress and anxiety as I tried to juggle them all at the same time. I wanted to perform well at work, please my husband, and make our home perfect.
I began to think I was crazy. My emotions were all over the place. I adored my husband, loved cooking him meals, loved decorating our little apartment, and enjoyed my new job, yet I found myself wanting to just sit down and cry. Little arguments we had would send me into bouts of depression. If he didn’t acknowledge that I did his laundry, I would remind him so that he would thank me, and then get mad at him for not noticing.
As I analyzed what I was feeling, it boiled down to feeling inadequate, imperfect, unloved, and rejected. I knew I was being irrationally nitpicky, yet I found that I couldn’t control my depression when Eric didn’t treat me perfectly, respond to my struggles with complete compassion or mercy, or even say the right thing at the right time. My poor husband was walking on eggshells around me.
My joy in God was quickly waning. I didn’t want to read His word, or pray. I felt guilty for not desiring these things, and often cried to Eric that I was miserable and had no idea why. And of course, if he didn’t respond perfectly in those moments, I would get even more upset! It was a vicious cycle.
I was homesick, I felt alone, and severely depressed.
How that thought makes me grateful! But God remembered. But God saw. But God reminded.
It was during this season of severe depression that Eric suggested I read When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper. It was also during this season that we had a very honest conversation. And it was during this season when my dad preached a sermon called “Idolatry: Moving God to the Periphery.” (Listen to that sermon here).
First, I read When I Don’t Desire God. I believe it was the first chapter when the lights went on for me.
I idolized my husband. I might as well have made an altar and worshipped at it. Functionally, I had set him up as the most important thing in my life and placed God on a lower shelf, below my husband. At its core, this is idolatry, and it is a temptation common to man -- whatever we functionally place as more of a priority than God, whether it is politics, sports, friendship, our spouses, preventing abortions or same-sex marriage, LeBron James or Facebook, is an idol.
Piper writes, “Sin…opposes by making other things look more desirable than God. And it perverts by making me think I am pursuing joy in God when, in fact, I am in love with his gifts.” That is exactly what I had done. I had set up His good gift to me, namely my husband, as more important than Him.
Second, we had a conversation in which Eric told me that he felt my expectations were crushing him. It hurt for me to hear this, but it was relieving to hear, as well. It was true! It confirmed what God had already started to reveal to me, that my idolatry of my husband was why I was so miserable. And when he said that, I instantly felt peace because I knew that he was right, and that there was a remedy for all of my depression. I finally had an answer.
Thirdly, a couple months after I had started to really think about and work through these things, Dad preached a sermon about idolatry. Isaiah 44:6-20 talks about the absurdity of fashioning idols and worshipping them, when in fact God offers Himself.
There it was. God offering Himself as the answer. Again, how relieved I felt! These three things brought me to my knees, overwhelmed at my own sin, yet also overwhelmed that God not only revealed what my problem was, but also provided the solution to my problem.
Do you struggle with idolatry? It could be your spouse, your children, your career, or something as mundane as Facebook. Eventually they will fail you. They will fail because they were never meant to fulfill your deepest needs and desires. Those deepest needs and desire can only be satisfied by God Himself, offering all He has to you. Can I plead with you, as a friend would, to turn to Him? John Piper again writes, “…the only freedom that lasts is pursuing what we want when we want what we ought.”
We should want to pursue God. He will never disappoint us. He will never fail. He will always say the right thing at the right time. And the most mind-boggling thing about it is that He is the One who gives us the desire to want Him in the first place! He will give us the desire to smash our idols at his feet, and then worship Him, and only Him, in utter freedom.
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