What We Have and What Has Us
What has you in its hold? Don’t rush to answer. Stop and give this question some consideration.
What do you feel you can’t live without?
What has the ability to make or break your day?
What has the power to make you very sad?
What can produce almost instant happiness?
The loss of what would leave you a bit depressed?
What do you tend to attach your identity to?
What tends to control your wishes?
What do others have that causes you to envy?
If you could get just one thing, what would it be?
The absence of what tempts you to question God’s goodness?
What does your use of money tell you about what’s important to you?
What fills your fantasies and your dreams?
What would the videos of your last six weeks reveal about what has you in its hold?
What physical idols tempt you most?
What relational idols attract you the most?
Is there a place where you’re asking the creation to do what only the Creator can?
Lent is an important tool in the inescapable battle that rages in all our hearts between worship and service of the Creator and worship and service of the creation. Lent calls us to remember once again that sin reduces us all to idolaters somehow, someway. It gives us a season to take time and reflect on things that have taken too strong a hold on us, things that we have come to crave too strongly and love too dearly. It reminds us that often things that we are holding tightly have actually taken an even tighter hold on us.
Here’s the core of the struggle: as long as sin still resides in our hearts, we will have an inclination to ask the physical creation to do for us what the Creator alone is able to do. Everyone is in search of true and lasting joy. Everyone wants peace of heart. Everyone wants to be content. Everyone is searching for life. Everyone wants to be deeply, fully, and perfectly loved. Everyone wants a heart that is satisfied. So everyone is on a quest to find these things even when they don’t know they are. Everyone looks for identity. Everyone searches for something that will give them meaning and purpose. Everyone searches for something to hook their hope to. In this way everyone is born searching for God. They just don’t know it.
Because creation is so obvious (you can see it, you can taste it, you can feel it, and you can smell it), it’s tempting to look to it to deliver all the things for which we are all searching. But satisfaction of our hearts is not the purpose of the physical creation; it actually has a much higher purpose. Creation was made to point us to the one who alone has the power to satisfy our longing hearts. He is the bread that will satisfy our hunger. He is the living water that makes us thirst no longer. With every vista, on every day, with every new experience and each new look, creation has been designed to point us to God.
As long as sin still resides in our hearts, we will have an inclination to ask the physical creation to do for us what the Creator alone is able to do.
But there’s even more to think about here. Looking to creation to do what it was not meant to do will not only disappoint us; it will enslave us. Idols never just disappoint us; they addict us as well. Because the buzz of joy that creation gives us is so short, we have to go back again and again, and soon we’re convinced we cannot live without the next hit. What we tightly hold onto takes hold of us, now commanding of us what only God should ever command: our hearts. And what holds our hearts will dictate our words and behavior.
It is possible to think that you are a God-worshiper because he is the object of your formal religious worship, but when it comes to the day-by-day affections of your heart, something or someone else could be in control. And it’s not always that we are under the control of evil things. Often good things have control over us that they should not have. As I have written elsewhere, good things become bad things when they become ruling things.1
So how about letting yourself suffer loss for a season? Let go of things you tend to prize. Let this season of sacrifice loosen your hands and free your heart. Let go of some of your comforts, things that have perhaps comforted you too much, so that your heart is free to seek a better Comforter. Pray that a season of going without will refocus your eyes and reposition your heart. God is good at using seasons of suffering to cause us to let go of our dependency on created things and reach out in dependency to our Creator, Savior, and Lord. May this season’s discomforts lead us to find lasting comfort in him.
- Paul David Tripp, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 20), 81.
This article is adapted from Journey to the Cross: A 40-Day Lenten Devotional by Paul David Tripp.
Mourning sin—past, present, and future—is the first step in seeking and celebrating the hope of divine grace.
Our culture is obsessed with wealth and riches. Why, then, does Jesus call the poor "blessed?"
Why would anyone ever fast? What is to be gained from giving things up?
It’s good to mourn, it’s healthy to be sad, and it’s appropriate to groan. Something is wrong with us, something is missing in our hearts and our understanding of life.