I’ve often heard idolatry described as having something more important than God. This is a pretty good description. Since physical idols aren’t prevalent today, it helps remind us that values and pursuits can be idols too. So, wealth can be an idol when it is more important to us than God. I don’t see many people bowing before carved statues, but in our society, I see people devoting their life to getting rich.
While this definition of idolatry is good, it isn’t complete. It captures the idea of an idolatrous life. However, I don’t struggle with this. But, even as a follower of Jesus, I have moments of idolatry. Let me explain.
I stopped drinking alcohol in February this year. I know, there are passages in the Bible that speak about alcohol, but my decision had nothing to do with this. I noticed whenever I was highly stressed I would grab a drink. If it was too early, I would remind myself I could have one later. As a result, what developed was an unhelpful pattern.
I want to be clear. Alcohol wasn’t a problem for me. I was not an alcoholic. I never get drunk. Drinking wasn’t an everyday thing. I actually didn’t drink very much – it was less than a standard drink. In and of itself alcohol wasn’t the problem. I was.
I had developed a routine where I looked to something other than God when I felt stressed. God was still more important to me, but I had made myself a ‘stress crutch’. What I made it from wasn’t important. For me it was a quick drink. What is it for you?
- Seeking pleasure?
- Risk taking?
These things can easily become idols. Not the kind of idol we build our life around, but one we look to in moments of crisis. This was the case for me. My response to stress wasn’t to look to Jesus but to look to a drink.
Some may say it was a coping mechanism. I disagree. It did help me cope, but I was effectively saying that I didn’t need to look to Jesus at that moment. I am okay on my own. To me this is a form of idolatry.
What Did I Do?
If you can relate to any of this, I have good news. You can overcome this. Here’s what I did.
1. Notice What’s Going On.
I observed I responded to stress with a drink. Is there a pattern that you can see? Maybe chocolate?
2. Find Grace.
God is faithful. He knows we let him down. He forgives and restores us.
3. Take Action.
God’s faithfulness is great but often we also need to do something. I decided to stop drinking altogether. I could have changed my response to stress, but stopping drinking worked for me. What action do you need to take?
4. Let Others Help.
I immediately told my wife Megan what was going on. She asked if I wanted to stop drinking as well. I didn’t, I just needed her to understand why I wasn’t. Who do you have around you who can share your journey?
What This Means For The Future?
I noticed I had an issue developing. Rather than looking to God when I was really stressed, I opted to look elsewhere. Consequently I sought God’s grace and took action. I stopped drinking alcohol altogether. However in the future this may change. Maybe I’ll be able to enjoy a glass of wine. In the meantime I’ll continue to deepen my relationship with God. How about you?