Once upon a time, I thought that true love would finally give me healing, fulfillment, completion, and purpose. I was expecting a goddess to come into my life and do what only the God could do. In a journal from a very young and emotional Trey, I expressed my expectations for what love would one day bring me.
“But maybe, just maybe, love isn’t a crutch at all, but rather one who comes and heals my broken leg (and) stays the length that it takes to heal the leg. Stays through my grouchy times and happy times. My times of immense pain and the times of healing. Maybe love isn’t completing and upholding my weakness, but rather healing them. Then, thereafter, helps me up, expecting nothing, and starts to walk with me.”
How many people have turned to romance to save them, only to find that romance could not fulfill its promise? I know I did! This was a major spiritual problem in my relationship with God and a major relational issue in my relationship with my wife. Part one of this post will discuss how deifying love is a major spiritual problem, and part two will discuss how deifying love is a major relational problem.
Consider how these common statements about love have god-like qualities:
- “Love will always find a way.”
- “Love is forever.”
- “You complete me.”
- “Love is everything.”
- “Love is all you need.”
Challenging these statements is almost heresy in our culture, but consider the cold, hard reality that hits many people.
- “Love will always find a way,” except for when I fall out of love with you and fall in love with someone else.
- “Love is forever.” Now, please sign these divorce papers.
- “You complete me,” but I am getting really tired of you sitting shirtless on the couch with a bag of Doritos watching the game while I clean the house and take care of the kids.
- “Love is everything,” and now, ten years later, it feels like we have nothing.
- “Love is all you need,” but I would really appreciate some help with the dishes!
Idols in the Heart
Our view of romantic love is an idol. Love and romance might be one of the best idols on earth, but it is still just an idol that cannot deliver fulfillment, healing, completion, or purpose.
Ezekiel 14:3 says, “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces.” Love is good. Romance is good. But when it becomes your greatest longing, your greatest hope, and the thing that you think will make all things right, then it is an idol to you. Only God deserves the place in your heart as your greatest longing (Psalm 42:1) and greatest hope that will make everything right (Romans 8:23-25). “Follow your heart,” our culture says. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick,” Jeremiah 17:9 says.
The answer to our problem is not found in the arms of a lover, or in a wedding day, or in a first date, or in a romantic movie. The answer to our problem is found in God. Our heart was made to worship him, and we have sinned by worshiping romantic love. We have sought purpose and healing and security in a frail, imperfect human being. After the initial buzz wears off, this wreaks havoc on our romantic relationships, but it is even worse for our souls, because the sin of idolatry is cosmic treason, a sin against the God of the Universe who loves us.
A New Heart
Ezekiel 36:25-26 says, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” God can cleanse us from our sin of idolatry. God will heal us and love us and accept us. Jesus Christ died for our idolatry so that we could be forgiven. He came back to life to give us a new heart that loves Christ and is faithful to him.
Let me put this as directly as I can for every married and unmarried person reading this. Your marriage cannot save you. Your marriage cannot heal you. Your marriage cannot fulfill you. Your marriage cannot complete you. Your marriage cannot make things right. Your marriage cannot make your life heaven. You marriage cannot make you better. Your marriage cannot do what only God can do.
Only God can save you. Only God can heal you. Only God can fulfill you. Only God can complete you. Only God can make things right. Only God can give heaven. Only God can make you good. And yet, so many people are turning to ‘true love’ in hope that, in some magical and powerful way, it can do what only God can do.
Whether you are married or not married, please understand that love can never fulfill you. Turn to God and confess your idolatry. Through his Son Jesus Christ, he has made a way for you to be brought to completion. Jesus Christ was perfect, and yet he died the death of an idolatrous person to pay for your punishment. By believing in Christ’s sacrifice, God considers you righteous instead of an idolater. Rest in Christ’s sacrifice for you, and live as God sees you. Stop trusting or hoping in romance and love, but rather trust and hope in God’s love for you.