How do we know if we love something too much? Where is the line between a healthy enjoyment and an idol? Idolatry is often subtle. It can creep up on us in the form of good desires, like getting married or excelling in the work place. You may have created idols for yourself if:
You are crushed when you don't get what you want. When that end of the year bonus you have been anticipating for months is taken from you, does it shatter your joy?
You stake your happiness on getting what you want. All of your friends are finding their soul mates and getting married, and you can't even find a date. Do you resign to bitter hopelessness in your singleness?
You grumble and complain when you don't have what you want. Are you angry with God for not creating you with the supposed external beauty that everyone around you seems to have?
You demand what you want. Have your humble prayers for healing from a physical ailment turned to angry demands of God? Do you feel you deserve to be healed?
When good gifts (like marriage, beauty, healing, or money) turn into idols, they become terrible and consuming masters. To destroy these idols, we must put them off by the power of the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us a deep love for God that drives out all lesser loves and gives us power over our idolatrous desires, in both our thoughts and actions. Through the Holy Spirit, we find contentment.
If we have made an idol out of something good that does not need to be driven from our lives entirely, such as a desire for children, repentance comes in the form of prayer. Stop demanding that God give you children, but rather pray humbly, offering your requests to God but submitting to his all-knowing plan for your life.
This article is adapted from chapter 4 of The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge.