If you’re anything like me, you’ve experienced a mix of emotions each day that your life has been disrupted by COVID-19.
My vacation to California was cancelled. I miss seeing my 8th graders in class every day. I teach over a screen now. Our school trip to D.C. was cancelled. I can’t meet in person with my Bible study anymore. My husband was excited to start coaching middle school golf and was saddened when the season quickly halted.
Yet we’ve all found fun ways to connect online. We’ve engaged in Zoom parties and weekly FaceTime calls. For many of us, technology has been redeemed in our lives as we’ve started using it for the purposes of growing community and maintaining friendships.
Neighbors are finding creative ways to love each other. Families are spending intentional time together.
We’re experiencing a mix of emotions that are hard to process.
Most of the messages posted online are messages of hope, laughter and encouragement for us to use this time for good. The entire world is coming together to make the best of this time of suffering.
But there is a danger we must be aware of in all of this.
The messages of encouragement and hope are not sweet enough—and will truly come to nothing—if we miss a key step in all of this: repentance.
Repentance from Idolatry
Now, it may be easy to assume I’m talking about how God has unleashed COVID-19 on us as a sort of punishment, so we must repent in order to make it right.
That is a lie–fostered from a wrong understanding of the Gospel.
We are living under God’s grace given to us in Jesus. Our full punishment was taken upon Jesus and there is no punishment left on earth for our sins.
No, we need to repent because our lives have been “cancelled” and thus, the idols in our lives have crumbled. And when our idols are stripped away, we see our idolatry for what it is: sin.
An idol is when we replace God with people or things in our lives.
We idolize when we love something more than God or look for love outside of God. We idolize when we look for happiness and joy outside of God. We idolize when we try to find fulfillment outside of God. We idolize when we live to please someone else instead of God.
Idolatry of today is not like it was in Biblical times. Instead of building golden calves and worshiping them, we’re building lives filled with activity and worshiping that.
School, jobs, sports, theater, dance, worldly comforts, vacations, money, proms, graduation ceremonies, communities, writing, time with friends, church, youth group, relationships—we look to these things to find life and in doing so we turn away from the Father.
They can all be idols.
Now, all of this has been stripped away and we are left to sit in the ashes of what used to be.
And just like we cannot fully accept the gift of God’s grace given to us through Jesus without first repenting of our sin against God, we cannot accept the gifts that this season has to offer without first repenting of the fact that we were living in idolatry.
How to Find Your Idols
To determine what may be an idol for you, take a look at your life before and during COVID-19.
What are you always thinking about? What causes anxiety, worry or stress?
What do you love? What do you center your life around? What can you easily spend your time doing without getting bored? How do you react when you don’t get to do it? Are you upset or angry or irritable? Are you sad and apathetic?
We can find our idols when we look at the people or things in our lives that cause a wide range of emotions. When are you your most anxious, hurt, sad, upset, angry, frustrated or defensive? That might be the arrow pointing to idolatry in your life.
Idols promise to deliver the freedom we were made to experience. They promise full life and happiness, contentment, and love. But we will find, as we give our lives to idols, that we end up more exhausted and spent and emotional than we ever expected.
When we discover an idol in our lives, it is very important to repent of our worship of something or someone that was not God. We must repent of running away from God to try to get what only God can give us.
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:20-21).
We are in Jesus Christ. Our life is hidden with him and he is eternal life. Why would we run to idols?
As you sit in the destruction of what was your life, look around. What has been destroyed that needed to be destroyed? What were you idolizing?
God has graciously used this time to destroy idols’ holds on our lives, but we will jump right back into idolatry if we do not recognize idols for what they are and repent.God has graciously used this time to destroy idols’ holds on our lives, but we will jump right back into idolatry if we do not recognize idols for what they are and repent. Click To Tweet
While we may be developing new and healthy rhythms now, it’s easy to fall back into old habits if we aren’t intentional about repenting and moving toward Jesus.
As we come to Jesus in repentance, we see that Jesus’s death was enough to cover our sin. We can freely pour out all of our sin at his throne, knowing that we will receive mercy and grace in our time of need.
We do not meet Jesus at the cross and walk away guilty. We meet Jesus at the cross and walk away transformed.
Come to the cross ready to repent of the ways that you have been searching for life in all the wrong places and walk away transformed. When the craziness of COVID-19 settles, you will enter back into your life with a new heart—worshiping Jesus in all areas of your life.
Only then will you experience the fullness of the joy and renewal that God has for us in this time.