You ever realize how unhealthy your past relationship was until you get in a healthy one?
I can relate.
Better yet, this is my story of coming to Christ.
I didn't think people were so bad until I realized how good God was, which accidentally (but, thankfully) unveiled an ugly truth about how I was living much of my life.
In the place where I should've been revering God, I realized all too clearly that I was revering people instead. But, let's just call it out for what it was:
I was living with idolatry—
which...doesn't mean what you probably think it means.
My idolization of people didn't mean I was bowing down to their figurines every night, that I decorated my room with their bobbleheads and offered sacrifices to them.
Instead, my idolatry looked more like...wanting people to like me more than accepting God's love for me. Or, finding peace in everyone's opinion before taking a moment to ask the Lord for His. Or, feeling a bit of success when people gave me their thumbs-up instead of resting in the fact that God already gave me His approval.
My idolatry was in little, subtle moments of putting people in the place where God should've been all along.
And, you want to know how that turned out for me?
Let's just say I had put so much practice into treating people like gods that I confused their opinions, perspectives, and emotions for God's. So, if my relationship wasn't working out with a person, it felt like my relationship wasn't working out with God. If someone was upset with me, it felt like God was upset with me. If I felt myself growing distant with a person, it felt like I was growing distant with God.
And, so on and so forth until it quite literally felt like God withdrew His love for me.
This is the danger of making people God.
You take a flawed, imperfect human being and mistake their behaviors, thoughts, opinions, and feelings towards you for God's, making the perfect, holy, faultless God into a moody, sinful, untrustworthy human being.
And, the worst part?
Many times, you don't even realize it.
But, it does explain all of those moments where praying feels just as difficult as making friends with your rude coworker. Or, where worshipping God feels similar to fawning over the friend you're afraid you've offended. Or, where trying to get to know God via the bible feels just as boring as trying to make conversation with your boyfriend via text.
Because you've made the rude coworker, the friend, the boyfriend...God.
I could provide more examples, but I trust you get the point. (I've harassed you about your people-pleasing long enough, you're probably thinking.)
So now, the question becomes:
What's the cure?
How do we remove these idols from our hearts?
What's the solution?
The answer is simple.
Maybe even a little too simple.
1) You've got to know the Lord for yourself.
2) You need to put people in their place.
You've bought into the lie so often—and for so long—that God is rude or God is hateful, many of those opinions coming from online, if you're honest. To see Him as good, faithful, kind, patient, unbelievably loving, humble, and gentle seems impossible when you've thought of Him as anything but.
But, the reality is that you've only been confusing the truth about God with the truth about the people you've worshipped—whether you've realized it or not.
In other words, God isn't a grouch.
The person you've spent all that time seeking validation from is.
God isn't short-tempered.
The coworker you're trying to impress is.
Because you've come to know God as who He isn't, you need to take intentional time to find out who He is.
And, you'll come to realize very quickly that He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalms 103:8). You'll see that He is Love Himself (1 John 4:8). You'll discover that He is good, and everything that comes from Him is good (Genesis 1:31). And, yes—even when you decide to study the "controversial" verses you usually skip over, you'll find new layers of His heart that will make you love Him even more...
...which makes it easier to do the next step:
Put people in their place.
When you see how good and kind God is, you'll feel deeply convicted about the many years you've spent subtly giving your worship to people rather than Him. (Believe me—I'm speaking from experience.)
When I put God's character up against the people I was trying to please, I was 'bout near disgusted with myself that I didn't give God my full heart sooner! How could I continue putting people's opinions over God's when He loves me this much? How could I prefer people's validation over God's when not nearly one of those people laid down their life for me?
It's silly when you think about it!
But, it's powerful when you consider the freedom you experience when you put people in their place.
Ezekiel 11:18-19 says it better than I ever could.
"18 When the people return to their homeland, they [God's people] will remove every trace of their vile images and detestable idols. 19 And I [The LORD] will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, ..."
A tender, responsive heart?
That sounds like a healthy person to me!
Not to mention, singleness of heart—meaning, you won't spend your days dividing yourself into fractions, trying to please whoever you end up giving each piece to! Singleness of heart means you have one love, one desire, and therefore, you can be a whole, healthy, free person who only has to report to the One who loves you more than any god ever could.
Big sigh of relief.
That's the life I want to live.
And, something tells me that's the life you want to live too.
You want to be free from idolatry.
You don't want to be enslaved by what people think too.
If that's the case, you oughta do what Ezekiel 11:18 says to do.
Remove every trace of your idols.
Or, as I'm phrasing:
Put people in their place.
Eradicate every trace of people's lordship over your life by giving your full self—your true self—to Jesus. He died and rose again for this kind of exchange. You can trust He'll be the loving God you've been looking for.