We have all felt the desire to do something significant. But when we did it, we experienced momentary happiness, only for it to give way to the disappointing realization that it was only temporary.
As a result, we often try to replace that momentary happiness with other promising joys. In the end, however, such temporary and fleeting pleasures only leave us empty and unsatisfied. No matter where our hearts seem to lead us, the potential pleasures we find disappear like vapor.
The human heart is an amazing thing isn’t it? We typically think of the heart as a powerful muscle which pumps blood throughout our body. But the Bible uses the word in a different context other than the physical. The heart represents the inner person, encompassing one’s thoughts, motives, and desires. The “heart” is the rational, emotional and volitional center of a person. Yet the Bible also says that the human heart has now become a fountain of evil because of our sin (Mark 7:21).
Enjoy God? What a concept...
This was not the case at first. When God created all things, He made humanity after His own image or likeness (Genesis 1:25). God made us with a specific purpose, that we might glorify God and enjoy a relationship with Him forever. To glorify God means to honor, love, praise, cherish, and revere Him. What an incredible purpose in life! We were designed to delight in God. As a result, the human heart is only satisfied if it accomplishes what it was created to do — to glorify and enjoy God forever.
The tragedy is, however, that every human being has failed not only in accomplishing this end, but even desiring it.
Our rebellious attitude against God, whether manifested actively or passively, refuses to benefit in participating in our God-given purpose.
Instead, we search for substitutes.
We look for anything that will fill in the hole left in our life because of our sin. These substitutes are what the Bible calls idols.
Do Idols Still Exist?
A quick analogy. Lawn mowers are designed to cut grass. If a lawn mower had a mind of its own, and it decided to shift from cutting grass to cutting gravel or water, disaster would ensue. The blades of a lawnmower are made to cut grass. That’s what a mower does. But when it deviates from the very object that it was designed for, namely grass, and begins mowing stones and puddles, it only hurts itself and others.
Similarly, on a much more personal and complex scale, humans were made to glorify God and to enjoy Him. We were designed to worship, and worship God alone. But we have exchanged our God and Maker for idols.
Even though God is to be the sole object of our worship, we constantly turn away from Him, forfeiting our God-given mandate and rebelliously beginning to search for a new purpose in life. But we still find ourselves doing what we were designed to do — worship. Only now, the object of worship has changed. We have moved from green grass to mud puddles and jagged rocks, from God to idols.
As Romans 1:21-25 says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened....
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
The various puddles and rocks of this world that we choose in substitution for God are endless and invariably devastating. Anything that attempts to take the rightful place of God in our lives is understood to be an idol. This exchange of God for idols is idolatry and lethal to the human heart.
Types of Idols and Addictions
Idolatry is not a practice isolated to ancient cultures. It is very much prevalent in our culture. We see its manifestation through addictions.
We see its fatal effects everyday. We seek the thrill of drugs to give us happiness, only to drop into the shaky depression of addiction. We view alcohol as the answer to wash away our cares and give us courage, calmness, or prestige, but inevitably it leaves us painfully hungover and abused.
Careers and occupations are admirable goals but they too can become elevated to the point where one eats, drinks, and breathes the job.
Similarly, as a student, grades can become everything, all is sacrificed for study, and the rest of one’s life is left in shambles.
Likewise, relationships are a common substitute for God. We put friends, mentors, partners, spouses, or even children on pedestals they were never meant to be on. It doesn’t even have to be a human being.
Sadly, many skip the whole person and simply desire an act or service, as in the case of prostitution, pornography, and most dating relationships and marital affairs.
In all these cases, something or someone is sought after, desired, and idolized. In some cases, addiction results. In every case, an object is pursued in the hope of finding lasting joy.
Finding Permanent Satisfaction
The major problem is that what is being pursued was never meant to give unending joy. It was never meant to take the place of God, in whom alone do we find unending joy, peace, and satisfaction.
Created things never substitute well for the Creator.
They were never supposed to. Whenever we place a created object, whether it be good or evil, on the personal pedestal of worship within our heart, we inevitably are disappointed and left unsatisfied. It’s like trying to make a square block fit into a round hole — it just doesn’t work.
Blaise Pascal once said, “There’s a God shaped vacuum in every heart.” How true he was.
“Our souls are restless until they find rest in God,” said Augustine. Only God can satisfy."
But how do we turn from our idols and addictions and turn toward God?