Equipped to Love: Building Idolatry-Free Relationships by Norm Wakefield“Every relationship is an opportunity to love, and every situation is an opportunity to trust.”
In honor of it being Valentine’s Day week, I thought I would repost my review of this excellent book. No matter how much we love someone, it’s hard to always love them the way we ought to. And we can never love others perfectly as God loves.
John Calvin is quoted as stating, “Our hearts are idol factories.” An idol is something or someone to which we look to supply what only God can supply. From the day we are born, we naturally seek to have our needs and our desires met, when and how we want them to be. Before knowing God, we only know to look to our parents and our surroundings to make us feel satisfied, happy, and secure. Without realizing it, we have begun the process of manufacturing idols in our life, controlling and manipulating others around us in order to get what we want. Of course no one but God can completely and perfectly meet our every need, so inevitably we become frustrated, dissatisfied, disappointed, or resentful. Eventually we turn to new idols, but mostly we make an idol out of Self – depending on our own wisdom, strength, etc. to get what we want for ourselves.
Norm Wakefield calls the behaviors that we do to get others to meet our needs and demands “carving” – just like what ungodly, pagan societies have done for centuries with wood and stone. Carving may be done using positive behavior, like complimenting or giving gifts; it may be carried out in the form of negative actions, like insulting or withholding affection. As I read through the initial chapters, I became aware that there have been many times that I resorted to negative carving when positive carving didn’t produce the results I wanted, particularly with my children. Children do it to their parents; spouses do it to one another.
So what does all this talk about idolatry have to do with being “equipped to love”? Wakefield explains that when I set up people as idols in my life by looking to them to meet my needs, I am not able to love them with God’s love. I am using them for my own selfish purposes; this is the world’s kind of love. Wakefield observes that a person “under the influence of the spirit of idolatry seeks to fashion the person or situation to supply self-centered desires and comfort.” I came to see that so much of what I do is primarily for myself. I had not realized that my happiness was often contingent upon my loved ones responding favorably to my desires or expectations, and when they failed to do so (which they often did), I became unhappy, angry or discouraged. When we put anything in the place of God, “we give that person, object or circumstance the power to make us miserable.” Additionally, as we carve on the people we are called to love, we actually drive them away from us and alienate them. I began to see how I had allowed this to happen in my own life, especially.
And what about our relationship with God? How have we “carved” on God – tried to control or manipulate Him into responding the way we want Him to? Do we believe that God saved us because of our decision? Do we pray to Him so He will grant us our wishes? Are we obedient to God’s Word so that He will reward us? When things don’t go as we would like, do we assume that God will fix the situation and make it better to suit us? Are we yielding to His will, or are we expecting Him to yield to ours?
Equipped to Love has given me a new, liberating perspective on my relationships, including my relationship with God. Wakefield quotes a friend of his: “Every relationship is an opportunity to love, and every situation is an opportunity to trust.” It was a revelation to me when I realized that EVERY difficult person and situation in my life comes from my Heavenly Father for His glory and His purposes in my life. This includes disobedient children, mean bosses, hurtful friends, loss of employment, and health problems. That person or situation to which I may be reacting sinfully is the very thing or person that God has placed in my life to show me my weakness and my need for Him. This is when I must depend on Him to love and to trust; I cannot do it on my own. How many of these opportunities have I wasted? What a thought!
When I am faced with the challenges of life, who or what do I seek for help and wisdom? In every situation, no matter how difficult, I must remind myself that everything I have, at each moment, comes from God. “And my God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory” (Phil 4:19). He has all the power AND resources, and He will supply all I need to glorify Him in the current situation. I need look nowhere else.
When I sense a lack of or need for love, acceptance, comfort or security, do I turn to the creature or to the Creator to supply that need? II Peter 1:3 reminds us that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness; do we truly believe it? Colossians 2:10 says, “In Him you have been made complete.” This is the secret to true contentment! Wakefield remarks, “As long as you feel that you are lacking something… you will be vulnerable to making an idol for yourself.” I will always be looking out for my own interests and trying to fulfill my perceived needs in my way. But Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This doesn’t mean He will give me what I want. It means that as I grow closer to God and allow myself to be filled with Christ, God’s desires will replace my own selfish desires and His love will fill me. I will no longer be enslaved by idolatry and will seek His desires and purposes. As a result, I will be freed and equipped to love with God’s love, not the world’s love.Note: This book is included on my list of non-fictional works I believe every Christian should read (actually, every person should read it!)
Equipped to Love and a free downloadable study guide are available from Elijah Ministries (www.spiritofelijah.com).Have you ever struggled with depending on something or someone other than God to meet your needs or desire for happiness, comfort, acceptance or self-worth? Share your thoughts!
- Naming False Securities (spurgeon.wordpress.com)
- How to Make Your Husband an Idol (peacefulwife.com)
- Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation? (altruistico.wordpress.com)
- Moving Evangelicals Beyond Idolatry (pjcockrell.wordpress.com)
- True meaning of Idolatry (revivalfire99.wordpress.com)
- What are you putting before Him? (livingmoreabundantly4christ.com)