When we hear the word “idol,” most of us immediately picture a goggle-eyed statue from ancient times, something made of wood or stone. While people of ages past (and even present day) worshipped these images, idols don’t always take a physical form. An idol is anything that takes the place of God in our lives.
This means idols can even be good things, like a great career, financial stability, or—in the case of today’s post—marriage. Each of these things are blessings from God. They are gifts to be celebrated and enjoyed! But when we desire them more than we desire Him, we’re worshipping at a different altar.
Jonah 2:8 says: “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” This verse illustrates the core problem with idolatry. When we fix our eyes on an idol instead of on Jesus Christ, we’re putting our hope in something that can’t save. That might sound a little abstract, so here’s how this might look in real life: You are frustrated by work, school and adult life in general. To deal with the difficulty, you have a choice: Go to the One who promises peace and rest, or idealize your future. Too often, we choose the latter. We fantasize about marriage and relationships, going to this same place in our minds whenever life gets difficult. A future marriage and husband becomes our mental “savior” when life gets hard. This is what idolatry looks like!
We can stop idolatry of marriage before it consumes us, but we have to know when we’re falling into these unhealthy patterns. Below are three ways you can know if marriage is your idol.
It Consumes Your Thoughts
If you think about getting married several times a day, that’s a sign your mind is consumed by the future—not fixed on the present. In order to fulfill God’s will, you must be fully engaged with the place where He has you today. This is harder than it sounds! You can’t transform your mind by your own power, either. So what do you do?
Start by renewing your mind through God’s Word and prayer (Romans 12:1-2). God’s Word is important because it’s how He reveals Himself most clearly to us. Prayer allows you to ask God to work in your mind, protecting you from idolatry and helping you engage with your present responsibilities. Make a habit of turning each marriage-centric thought back to Him. Tell Him your desires (He already knows!) and then release them into His hands so you can be “all there” in your current place.
It Dominates Your Dreams
Another way to know if marriage is your idol is if it dominates your dreams. If all you want out of life is marriage, it’s time to take a step back and look at your ultimate purpose. God didn’t create you simply to be a wife. He created you as an image-bearer, a disciple-maker and a woman. You will answer to God for how well you stewarded those roles.
Dream bigger than marriage. Though marriage is probably in the future for you (most women do get married in their lifetimes), dwelling on it won’t speed up God’s process. Think about what you can do for the Lord here and now. Think about how you can draw near to Him, form community and teach others about His truth.
It Dictates Your Emotions
Finally, you might be idolizing marriage if the thought of not getting married sends you into an emotional frenzy. If you cannot imagine a future without marriage, you’re holding onto a dream that is not within your control. You haven’t surrendered completely to Jesus; you haven’t embraced what it means to “come and follow.” Now, I’m not saying you aren’t saved! But I am saying that you’re placing an earthly relationship above your most important relationship. Only by relinquishing control and allowing God to lead you will you find freedom from anxiety, rest in God’s guidance and eventually acquire the wisdom you need for a godly relationship.
Idolatry makes us desperate and dependent. Worship makes us confident and restful. God is a good Father; He loves to give good gifts to His children in due time. But we have to stop worshipping at other altars, clinging tightly to our dreams with white-knuckled fists, and let Him do His work.