Joel Chose Counterfeits
Christ desires to be relevant to our relationships and to every area of our lives. When we live independently from God, we search for a substitute as our validating source. Without a desperate dependency on Him, we establish a counterfeit connection with people, positions, and possessions in our pursuit of validation. We extract love from illicit relationships to prove that we are lovable, to establish our significance, and to enable us to feel secure. But in actuality, we suffer loss because people, positions, and possessions are incapable of fulfilling us.
Ultimately we are left unfulfilled, dissatisfied, and incomplete as the result of pursuing God substitutes. The delusional sense of satisfaction that stimulates and sedates us eventually fades, and we are left wanting more. In our vain attempts, we explore other counterfeits that may promise temporary contentment but only provide mutually satisfying exploitation and manipulation to empower our identity.
This is how Joel tells his story.
I have been a Christian since the age of five. I had been very active in the church my whole life. But there were two things I wanted out of life. Since kindergarten, I wanted to be married, and I wanted to be a soldier. I was actually listed in the city newspaper on Valentine’s Day for having the most girlfriends in my school, in kindergarten, because that’s what I’ve always wanted—a relationship with a special woman. You see, I believed there was a person out there who would complete me and that I could complete her.
Then, I was introduced to a beautiful, wonderful woman and within a year asked her to marry me. I found the full realm of everything that interdependence had to offer. She was drop-dead gorgeous and made me feel loveable, significant, and secure. I attained my goal.
My job gave me my identity.
I also believed my job could give me an identity. So I signed up to be a soldier at the age of seventeen (actually, my parents had to sign me in through the Delayed Entry Program). I can’t even describe how I felt when I graduated from basic training. I had made it. This was my purpose in life. The military. Strong. Proud. Full of honor. I had a place to belong. Kids looked up to me. People thanked me. I was honored. I had love, significance, and security. In my opinion, I had it all.
Because my title of soldier was in my God place, I sacrificed myself for my god. Physically I was pushed by my unit and pushed myself to the point that I sustained many permanent injuries, and for a short time, I couldn’t even walk. After cycling through recovery and re-injury, I continued to drive myself even with my limitations. Following many visits to doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, and twelve surgeries, the military said I was no longer fit for service. At twenty-six years of age, I was medically retired from the only career I ever wanted. I was filled with anger, frustration, and pain.
But no matter how bad life got, I was convinced I would be okay because I still had what really completed me, my wife. People were awestruck by our marriage. Friends admired us and were jealous of our relationship. I’d like to say I forgot about God because I figured that since I was a Christian, He would just bless off on what I wanted. The truth is, He just wasn’t my priority.
Relationships can leave you empty.
Then one of us was no longer interested in “till death do us part.” To say I was crushed would be like saying the ocean is a drop of water on a small pile of dirt. Emptiness resulted.
But that didn’t mean God took His rightful place. That wasn’t what I really wanted. What does it matter if God loves me? My wife doesn’t love me. I can’t serve in my beloved military anymore. I was empty. There was no human love that mattered, no value, no worth, no purpose, no security, no fulfillment. Nothing mattered, nothing was safe, and nothing was secure. There was nothing to keep me going, no reason for living.
Although God had been God all my life, there was little to no evidence of that in my life. I had dedicated my existence to the idolatry of God substitutes, depending on something that’s not God. Because God is who He is, He can bring good out of evil. But that doesn’t mean He will give back our God substitutes. In His proper place, God can foster love, value, worth, security, and significance.
God Uses the Crisis
God will meet us in our pain if we allow Him to. To be honest, I’m not so sure God doesn’t welcome pain in our lives. Not because He’s sadistic or cruel, but because He knows He’s big enough to handle it, and He is enough to bring us through it. The pain just happens to give God a very tangible opportunity to prove it.
God’s love will do what you can’t fathom. God values me. My life has worth. His love fosters security. God’s got me. I fully expect to go through more hard times in my life, but God will be there before them, after them, and most importantly, through them. He will provide what is necessary for my life. I must evaluate my life and my responses to what happens in life. I should be concerned and afraid if He is not filling the God place in my life. Therefore, I must continuously beg Him to protect me from what I am and weed out the nonessentials that desire to be idols in my life.
Counterfeit Gods Disappoint
Joel looked to people, positions, and possessions to empower love, significance, and security in his life. His gods enabled him to feel complete and contented for a time. But it is the compulsion of any of us to become reliant on whomever we reverence. And when what we reverence becomes the defining entity in our lives, our god, we live in service to what will ultimately disappoint.
Jesus said, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”Luke 14:26 NLT
Make Christ Relevant to Your Relationships
The God place of our souls is designed for Jesus. Boundaries should be built around this sacred place to assure that none other but Christ resides there. It should be guarded by our fear of God with our appropriate view of God serving as the sentinel. The highest of all that is lofty should be ascribed to Jesus so that He fully attracts our hearts, minds, and souls, capturing our strength with the truth of His glory and virtue. Then Jesus becomes central because He is preeminent. We come to see Him in truth as He actually is—Lord, Savior, lover of our souls, champion of our hearts.
Excerpts from Desperate Dependency by J. Kirk & Melanie D. Lewis.
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