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How to Know if Your Desire for Marriage Has Become an Idol

At what point does our desire for a good thing (like marriage or children) become an idol?

Idolatry is sneaky. We know in our heads that only Jesus satisfies, but sometimes we don't believe it in our hearts. Instead we set up a shrine to our future husband and look wistfully to him to come along and make us happy. We take our eyes off of Jesus and look to a man to fulfill us. Elyse Fitzpatrick says in her book, Idols of the Heart:

"Idols aren't just stone statues. No, idols are the thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in the place of the true God. Idols cause us to ignore the true God in search of what we think we need."

Remember, it's not a sin to desire the good gifts God has created, such as marriage and children. It's actually a beautiful thing to desire, and you should not be ashamed of it or afraid to ask God to bring it to pass! But sometimes our desires for a good thing can take a wrong position in our hearts. So how can you know if your dream of a future husband has become the object of your worship? Let's look at four questions to unpack this:

1.) Where is the desire for marriage positioned in your heart?

If you knew the Lord was coming back today, would you be disappointed because you didn't get married before He returned? Is there a part of you that hopes He delays His coming until after you get married? This is a sign that marriage has become an idol. We should desire nothing above the Lord.

If God needed you to stay single in order to draw you into a closer walk with Him, to accomplish a work through you, to bring revival, or just to bring greater glory to Himself, would you be willing? Do you desire His will more than your own?

This can be a heart-wrenchingly difficult place to come to. But if we aren't willing to put our desires into our loving Shepherd's hands and let Him have His way - even if that means never getting married - we may be harboring an idol in our hearts. Ask God to help you trust Him enough to turn your desire completely over to Him. He will help you surrender!

2.) Does it dominate your thought life?

Is your desire the object of all your thoughts or is God? "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts." Psalm 10:4

Start observing your thoughts as if they were clouds passing by your bedroom window. Take note of the content and the frequency. What is the object of your worries? How often do you daydream about what you desire? Do your thoughts lead you to a spirit of praise, thanksgiving and joy or to longing, despair and discouragement? If God is not in all your thoughts, check for idols.

3.) Does your desire for it cause you to sin?

If you would be willing to disobey God in order to get what you desire, then that desire has become an idol. In the case of idolizing marriage, that might look like being willing to date/marry someone who is not a Christian (unequally yoked), or committing fornication.

In her book, Ftizpatrick takes it one step further, saying that when not getting what we desire causes us to sin, that is also idolatry. For the single woman this could look like envy, bitterness against God, lust, or unthankfulness.

"If you're willing to sin to obtain your goal or if you sin when you don't get what you want, then your desire has taken God's place and you're functioning as an idolator."

Does your desire for marriage cause you to sin? Then it has become an idol.

4.) How does your desire for marriage affect your relationship with God?

Has it caused you to become half-hearted or lukewarm in your walk? Was there a time when you were closer to the Lord than you are now? Was there a time when you were more on fire for Him? If so, maybe unchecked desire for a good thing has become a bad thing. Maybe you've lost your zeal for Him because you're too focused on what you want Him to give you.

If you're still unsure, ask God to show you. He died so that you could live in freedom from idolatry and covetousness. He will help you get your heart in the right place! "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

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