It all started with a novel. I’m a bookworm – Christian historical romance admittedly being one of my favorite genres – and I was excited to dive into this new story set in the wild west. The thing about fiction is it easily sucks us into its world. I can zip through books in a matter of days. My mind tends to drift, all too eager to escape into the plot and alternate reality.
I’m learning to exercise self-control with this, because it’s usually not the author or the content that’s bad – most of these novels contain Christian themes and biblical encouragement.
It’s my own heart, my desperately sick heart, that can twist a good, sweet storyline into a floodgate of earthly – instead of heavenly – thoughts.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
This particular book, while well-intentioned, hit the soft spots of my flesh. I’m a lover of nature, of frontier, rustic living, and Hallmark-style romances. So when it highlighted all those ideals, my joy in God suddenly faded into a whirlwind of disappointment.
Feelings of envy, of desiring this fictional world, opened the door to discontentment, which ultimately morphed into idolatry.
That’s a dangerous combination, friend.
The Problem Within
The quiet sin we so often nurture without knowing is covetousness, born out of our heart’s weakness toward what we see and feel. A desire that overpowers our desire for God, and painfully dishonors Him.
Merriam Webster’s definition for covetous is as follows: “1. marked by inordinate desire for wealth or possessions or for another’s possessions. 2. having a craving for possession.”
Both definitions described me.
There’s a reason covetousness is in the 10 commandments – it’s serious. It pulls our eyes and hearts away from One most deserving. It says He is not enough, when He is in every way.
When I saw my home and life didn’t match what I was reading, my heart for devotion began shutting down. For a few pitiful days I lost focus on the love of Christ, on His generous blessings, on the joy to be had in ministry to my family. I became short-tempered, irritable, and impatient with those around me.
Worldly yearnings I had previously overcome by the Spirit for a few days suddenly came back. I forgot the beauty of my Creator, getting lost in what’s created. My eyes kept wandering from heaven down to the fleeting beauties of earth.
I had put my guard down, not fixing my gaze toward who’s of far more beauty – Jesus.
If we’re not actively resisting the devil (1 Peter 5:8-9), putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), and walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), the snowball effect of sin can become an avalanche before we know it.Sin can snowball into an avalanche, so stand firm in the faith by delighting in Christ and not the world. Click To Tweet
A Common Temptation
Maybe it’s not a book for you – maybe it’s a TV show, a movie, or an ideal you’ve been clinging to since childhood. Some dream world or idyllic life that briefly brings pleasure to your soul, but in the end brings bitterness.
Why do these kind of dreams trouble us, these cravings obsess us? We’re hungering for something, someONE beyond this world. We’re hungering for the eternal.
Covetousness and discontentment arise when we’ve lost sight of Jesus, the Most High, the Eternal One, the Savior of our souls.
But how infinitely worthy He is of our adoration! NOTHING compares to Him. Compared to Him, everything else is NOTHING.
“My soul, bless the LORD! LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with majesty and splendor.” Psalm 104:1
We must believe that, and it blessedly hits us head on when we remember His compassion at the cross, His glorious, perfect love poured out for lowly sinners.
“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering…
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5
As I share in my Bible study for anxiety, what we fill our minds with – whether darkness or light, earthly or heavenly – can determine the battle in this area, and whether we see His victory. (Matthew 6:22-23)
Also remember this warning from Scripture:
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
It’s imperative that we discern and recognize our temptations. If I know this kind of book – as innocent as it appears – leads me into love for the world and distracts me from Christ, I have to cut it off, plain and simple (Matthew 5:29-30).
From Instagram and HGTV to Pinterest and travel magazines, we have to distinguish the fine line between admiring God’s blessings and valuing them higher than Him.
Rather than pining over what’s temporary, let’s always desire to participate in the eternal will of God.We cannot allow personal ideals to turn into idols. Jesus is better. In Him and His Word we find all we need. Click To Tweet
The Hope of Christ
To do away with coveting, we have to consistently be in the Word, in books that exalt Jesus, and in fellowship with other believers at church, because these direct our thinking and our theology – giving us a renewed mind (Romans 12:2). They point us upward.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4
That, my sisters, is the hope that’s ahead – seeing Christ in His glory, and being with Him. That is the forever promise that awaits us, and far surpasses the pleasures of anything on this earth. Christ is our life.
I share all this vulnerably and openly, because the blessed truth is I have been set free from sin in my Lord Jesus.
Before Him, I would have continued to be lost in this unreal world, this fantasy, and let it drive my actions and relationship with God and others. Yet now, by the grace of my Savior and gift of the Holy Spirit, this sin does not have to linger or destroy.That's one wonder of the Gospel, that sin grips us no longer because Christ has set us free. Click To Tweet
We fall into sin, but through humble confession and repentance, Jesus extends His embrace and restores us by His mercy. He continues to cover us in the sight of the Father with His righteousness. As His people we may falter, but no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28-30).
We can always pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
Shame can give way to praise and obedience, and we can walk away wiser than before, sanctified in His sight.
Are you there, my friend? Have you turned to God in your discontentment? If you have trusted in Christ, you do not have to dwell in disappointment or unfulfilled longings. Reverently turn to Him and seek forgiveness. After this it can help to confess to your husband or a close believing friend, so they can help you reset your perspective.
In His infinite grace, Jesus offers abundant, full joy to those who love Him, as we treasure His salvation and glory more and more each day.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11
In His Love,