Do you love to laugh?
I enjoy laughter, but for some reason I don’t laugh often enough. I feel and empathize deeply with others, and I most often respond emotively to touching moments with tears. They may be tears of joy, but still they are tears, not laughter.
I am more comfortable allowing myself to respond to something touching, poignant, or beautiful, rather than something joyful, lighthearted, or cheerful. Perhaps I suspect that joy is fleeting? I go thorough periods of time where I am burdened by serious, important concerns, and laughter is in short supply. Can anyone relate?
For this reason, I have spent years pondering Proverbs 31:25, a verse that describes a woman of noble character: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (NIV)
What does that mean, God? What conditions of heart enable her to laugh? What conditions of heart steal laughter?
One of the conditions of heart that deceptively thieves laughter is idolatry. I can always tell when I’m allowing something besides God to creep into the center of my heart. It becomes demanding and I begin working harder and harder to maintain the standard I desire.
God’s burden is easy and His yoke is light (Matthew 11:30), but an idol is the exact opposite.
Psalm 127:2 describes the striving condition that is the curse of one who steps out of the will of God: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat.” (NIV) This is what it feels like when you focus your effort and affection on serving a false god.
One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief afflictions of the heart. When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it.
If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic. When it is threatened, we do not say, “What a shame, how difficult,” but rather “This is the end! There’s no hope!”
Because I am God’s child, I tend to idolize good things like my marriage, my children and their behavior, education, even health and physical strength. As soon as I start to love these things more than God himself, these good things lose their goodness and instead become idols.
When any part of my life becomes dry and difficult, when I lose what little bit of laughter I have, I start asking God to show me if I have made an idol out of any good gift from Him.
Do I love the gift more than the giver?
Let me give you an example of one of my most tempting false gods: me! Let’s face it. I am my own favorite idol. I’m the counterfeit god that I love most.
I share with you in my video devotional how God showed me that we needed to make space for Christ to be at the center of everything. I described the chaos it causes when each of us is trying to be at the center, and my son’s elated exclamation when he realized that now his mother would no longer be at the center. To be honest, I thought that this revelation was for the children – they needed to work on their selfishness, not me!
I mention how the Lord led me to Philippians 2. As I meditated on the words of God encouraging me to seek humility and to consider others as more important than myself, I recognized Jesus as my example. I hurt for what it cost Him to humble Himself. He bent low and chose to make Himself a servant which qualified Him to be exalted to the highest place. I sat still pondering the mysteries of God’s upside down kingdom. . . .
And then I started to laugh. I laughed out loud, as I began to see the text transform before my eyes, imagining how absurd it is to idolize myself, how ludicrous it is for Mindy as mother to pose as savior of the world to her family.
I imagined how the verses in Philippians 2 would sound if, instead of describing Jesus, these verses described me! I hope you find the humor in this and do not find it to be sacrilegious or disrespectful. This is very much tongue in cheek, and provided here to inspire laughter, and perhaps you might just notice something familiar:
“Therefore God has highly exalted her and has freely bestowed on her the name that is above every name, “MOM.” That at the name of MOM, every knee should and must bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, especially the children that call her MOM (and even the husband who has made her a MOM)”. (The Word of Mindy, suspiciously inspired by Philippians, Chapter 2, verses 9-10)
It is good to laugh at yourself.
However, when good things become idols we can easily become confused, and we can even feel frustrated with God because He is not blessing our idol!
So how do we know if the good things in our lives have become idols? Just ask!
God wants to show you what is going on in your heart. He wants to reveal if you have any gods before Him (Exodus 20:3). If He shows you that you have become entangled in idolatry, the best response is to throw yourself on Father’s mercy and simply repent. He loves to forgive us, to welcome us back from false lovers, and to return laughter to our lips.