...for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods...(NLT)
This line comes from Exodus 20:4. You would think that in today's modern world that the problem of idolatry would be a dead issue. I would argue that it is just as large of a problem as it was for the Israelites at the base of Mt Sinai. We no longer crave graven images or worship in pagan temples, but there is plenty of things that we worship in place of God. In my own life I have placed my closest relationship ahead of God. When there was a disagreement with what God has said and my partner then I always chose my partner. When I was looking for answers as to who I am and my own value, then I took those questions to my wives. I can assure you that people always make crummy gods. If you look to others to tell you what only God can then you will live in constant disappointment. When you place others in God's place. then you will lose the joy of a real connection to the one who created you and has purchased you at a great price. What are you placing ahead of God? Do you value the things that God has blessed you with more than God himself?
Sometimes good meaning Christians place their lifestyle ahead of God. Did God call us to not smoke, or drink, or to read only one particular translation? None of those things are particularly bad. Those can be good things to aspire to. The problem is when we abandon our first love, and place all of our emphasis on the thing rather than the motivation for lifestyle changes. What about your own happiness? Have you place that ahead of God? I imagine that you tell yourself that God wants you to be happy. I believe that is true. The problem is that he wants to be your happiness. If you go to seek your happiness apart from him, then you are never going to gain true happiness. When we seek our own happiness apart from God, then we are trading permanent and true happiness for something temporal. You are happy now, but it is not going to last. When the novelty wears off then you will once again feel that deep emptiness that only God can fill. Augustine described this as a God shaped hole. C.S. Lewis said that human beings were made to run on God, the same way that a car is made to run on gasoline. If you attempt to fill that hole or to fill your tank with anything but God, then eventually you will return to where you started. You will be older and feel foolish for chasing after something that will never satisfy.
If you remember Jesus meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well. He tells her if you knew who I was, then you would ask me for a drink. If you drink the water that I give, then you will never thirst again. When we abuse the God gifts that God has given us to seek temporal pleasures, then we end up returning to the well time and time again. How long will we continue to do this? We ought to fill ourselves with God, so that we will not thirst again. Are you lonely? Make a friend with God. Allow a real and personal relationship with God to fill you in your loneliness. Don't place temporal pleasures in place that is reserved for God. You will never be satisfied, and you will never truly connect to God. God loves you. I love the way the band Jars of Clay describes the love of God. They describe the love of God as a love of a jealous kind. God will not allow you to place anything ahead of him. He can not tolerate that your affections should fall onto anything but him. You will never be filled. Fill yourself up with God.
If you read through the Exodus story, then you realize that as the people waited on Moses to come down from the mountain, they fashioned for themselves a god in the form of a golden calf. When Moses came down the mountain he caught the people in worship to this idol. Do you remember what happened? The calf was ground up and then added to the food of those who had sinned against God. Think about that for a minute. If you and I place something ahead of God, then we will be forced to eat. We will eat the sorrow and bitterness of our idolatry. You could even think about the law of sowing and reaping. If you sow what is temporal, then you will reap what is temporal. If we place God where he belongs, then we are sowing what is eternal. Our harvest will be of that which will last forever. We need to stop trying to find fulfillment in the things of this world. There is no one and nothing in this world that can give us what God has promised to us. God is not being cruel when he asked you to set aside that person or thing that you have placed as an idol in your life. It is out of his love for you. He something so much better to give you. You have to place yourself in the right position to receive it.