A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

When Your Burden Becomes An Idol – A Confession

July 26th, 2010

The following is a confession. I’ve apologized and asked forgiveness of the offended Party. Now it’s time for that “confess your sin to one another” part of the process.

In a sentence…I have allowed my burden to become an idol.

For my readers who don’t know me, four years ago my spouse chose to walk away from our marriage. I didn’t want that. My daughters didn’t want that. We were (and continue to be) left bouncing in the wake of the consequences created by her decisions.

The burdens I’ve been carrying since; burdens of abandonment, betrayal, loneliness, starting life over from scratch without a network in a new state is but a short list of what has dominated my thoughts. Not to mention the constant fear she would again someday pick up and relocate our children again. I have allowed these burdens, by the amount of time spent fretting and obsessing over them, to become an idol. By definition, an idol is something to which time and devotion are paid. I have paid too much time and far too much attention to my burdens of the past four years. They have become idols at the expense of time and attention focusing on God’s sovereignty over my life.

Are my burdens real? Absolutely. I can’t begin to describe the profound loneliness of beginning life over in a place you never wanted to live where you know no one, leaving behind 14 years of deeply invested friendships, ministry, network, jobs and every good thing that feeds your soul. Add to that the burden of single parenting, a job God never intended in His original design of family, cover it all with a daily feeling of being “on the outside looking in” and it’s a small start in communicating what a head-banging process this has been.

My burdens are real. They are heavy. And they may not go away anytime soon. Yet in focusing on them, both knowingly and unknowingly, I have allowed these burdens to become an idol. Like a man examining a stain on his necktie, my vision has become myopic. I’ve become oblivious to the larger environment around me, the environment over which God is fully sovereign. Focusing on my burdens has created in me a spirit of fear. I’ve been waiting and worrying over the next bad thing that could happen instead of acknowledging God and His perfect love that casts out fear. To, even in one’s mind, relegate God in any way as subject to one’s circumstances is sin.

One would think a seminary graduate would have this figured out. But there is a big difference between head knowledge and heart assurance. At some point all of us will experience a life event that forces us to decide whether or not we will “own” our theology. When life is full of everything happy and circumstances are favorable, it’s easy to pay lip service to the goodness of God. When life kicks you in the head and takes away most or all of what you value, the question is unavoidable. Is God still good when life is not?

In the wake of my spouse walking away, my friend Jerry Sittser told me, “In God’s big-picture drama, people who walk out of your life are small players. As painful and horrible as this situation is, there is nothing anyone can do to thwart God’s purposes for your life. Or for the lives of your children.” This is a true statement. Yet in my pain I lost sight of this. God, in my mind, became subject to the decisions of my ex-spouse. Instead of rightly seeing God as in control of His universe (and mine) in the middle of my awful situation I viewed Him as subject to my rotten circumstances instead of sovereign over the details of my life.

Psalm 34 calls us to “magnify the Lord and exalt His name” and that in doing so God will “deliver us from all our fears.” In allowing my burdens to become an idol, I’ve done the opposite. In magnifying my fears I have minimized God. That in itself is grievous. Yet the arrogance of this sin is magnified by the irony that my spirit of fear has been cultivated while surrounded by God’s blessings. I’ve lamented to God the burden of moving to and surviving in a place where I knew no one, while across the room sits a cabinet full of customer files, every one of them a stranger until God brought them into my life. I’ve lamented to God the burden of leaving behind the bonds of an established church family, while the members and friends at Turning Point Church, many of whom don’t even know me that well, have consistently prayed for me and cared for my daughters as if they were their own. I’ve lamented to God my burden of loneliness, and in doing so treated God as if He hasn’t been here for every tear and every sleepless night.

While I’ve been guilty of treating God as though He is subject to my circumstances, true to form God has been incredibly patient and kind with me. He has, in ways big and small, used these same circumstances to remind and encourage me that He transcends everything I can see and imagine. He really does “cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”. After disappointments in my job, He surprises me with unexpected sales. Or sitting in church, missing all my friends and ministry in Arizona, a hand on my shoulder and a voice saying, “You’ve been on my heart a lot. Let me pray for you.” Or in moments of deeply felt insignificance someone saying, “Thanks for what you said in your sermon. God really used it in my life.” And even in ways far outside the box like a guy named Bob at Sam’s Club in Roswell, New Mexico who offers to pray for me while filling my car at the gas pump.

If I’d spent as much time looking for God in the details as I’ve spent focusing on my fears, how different would my life look?

So there you have it. My confession. And my resolution to stop living from a spirit of fear. God’s arm is not too short to save. There’s nothing that will happen in my life that He’s not already aware of. The fact that I am still here is proof of His provision. He promises to give me a hope and a future. He promises not to quit working on me. And He promises to “restore all the years that the locusts have eaten”. I have no idea how He will do that, but I look forward to seeing it.

In the meantime, my burdens may not get lighter. My situation may not change. It may get worse. But it doesn’t matter because God is on His throne. He loves me. I don’t know why. But He does. And His promises are bigger than my fearful circumstances.

Or as He says, “If I (God) am for you, who can be against you?”

Todd A. Thompson – ASliceOfLifeToGo.com