[I’ve been working on this post for quite awhile now, trying to express something that God has challenged me with lately.  It has been difficult for me to articulate what has been a pretty big concept for me to try to grasp.  I apologize in advance if this post seems too abstract.  Hopefully those who can relate will be able to understand the direction I’m going with it.]

Ironically, my Bible study is currently completing a workbook study that I dug through on my own last fall during those crazy months.  The point of the study is to identify and get rid of modern-day idols in our lives.  But of course, that term conjures up all kinds of images in our minds about people way back in the day who built statues and carved images.  We like to think that we don’t have much of that going on anymore among God’s people.  The author borrows a term (“functional gods”) to illustrate how the issue surfaces today.  These idols function as gods in our lives, even if we don’t acknowledge them as such.  We often believe the lies they tell us, give them authority over ourselves, and hold onto them with an airtight grip despite the leanness they bring to our souls (Psalm 106:15).  

It has been interesting for me to look back through my responses to questions and prayers from the first time I went through this study, knowing full well that some of the issues I faced then are still being worked out now.  But something completely new occurred to me a few weeks ago – that my life can, at times, serve as a functional god for me. 

I think it’s important to say here that the author of the study bends over backwards to stress that functional gods in our lives are not necessarily bad things.  They can be really good things that we just want too much.  Good things that become ultimate things.  And they were never meant to be ultimate.

Keeping that in mind, I return to my original revelation – that my own life has functioned as a god for me at times. 

When I speak of my life, I certainly mean my living, breathing existence.  I do mean the fact that I woke up this morning and have more time on this earth as a result of it.  But I also mean the expectations and experiences that I have for and in that living, breathing existence.  Here’s the deal – like anyone else, there are things that I really love about my life and people that I really love in my life.  And I also have expectations and hopes about how my life will turn out.  So my living, breathing existence also consists of my fears of what may or may not happen in my life.  And there have been times when the sum of all of those things together has almost consumed my thoughts. 

There have been times when the preservation of the life I think I want and need has become ultimate in my mind.

And it was never meant to be so.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it … (Matthew 16:25a)

A white-knuckled grip on life – whether in behavior or in thought – is just not going to preserve it. 

Do I think we should lead wise and meaningful lives?  Yes.  Do I think that God cares deeply about the lives that we lead?  Yes.  Do I think He wants us to enjoy the life He gives us?  YES!  But do I think that we should allow ourselves to slip into thinking that we can control things over which we will never have full authority?  No.  And do I think that trying to pour all of our energies into concern over this life could mean we lose out on some of the rewards in the next?  Yes.

Thankfully, God doesn’t ask us to let go of something without giving us something else – or rather Someone else – to grab onto.

… but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  (Matthew 16:25b)

We will find true Life when we stop seeking it within our own.  (John 14:6)

The Hebrew word that is often translated in the Psalms as “trust” is “batah”.  The Old Testament Lexical Aids in my Bible provide this definition of batah: “to attach oneself, trust, confide in, feel safe, be confident, secure…”

To attach oneself.

I like to think of this like a little kid who latches onto his dad’s leg and holds on while Dad keeps walking ahead.  Like glue, that kid will not let go.

I’ve had an image in my mind lately of a gripped hand.  Most of the time it’s been gripping onto something that’s slipping away.  The tighter the grip, the more the thing starts slipping.

But sometimes it has been an image of a hand holding onto something that is constant and permanent.  Something that is immovable.  Something that is unshakable. 

And remarkably, there’s no tension in that grip.  Just peace.  And Life.

They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death …  (Revelation 12:11)

… that they might take hold of the life that is truly life.  (I Timothy 6:19)