The Harm Caused
Last post we explored how changing your perspective can change your suffering from bad to good. (see How Suffering Can Turn From Bad To Good) I recently came across a quote from Tim Keller that fits with this idea that changing perspective can make a big difference during seasons of suffering. The original quote is at the end of this post.
What Keller points out is that whenever we love anyone or any thing more than God, we harm ourselves. It works like this:
Scientists who study the human condition have found that every human being has three essential needs:
- A need to feel secure
- A need to feel they belong
- A need to feel significant
So let’s say you love your son or daughter more than anyone, more than any thing, and more than God. Your son or your daughter is at the very top of your list of people you love. When you love your son or daughter like that, your drive to fulfill the three needs is directed toward your child. You try to find your need for security, belonging, and significance in him or her.
When you put that on your son or daughter, your basic human needs are overly dependent on their success, and their happiness, and their love and acceptance of you. And no human being can withstand the weight of those expectations. When we do this our foundation for our security, sense of belonging, and sense of significance is precarious, shaky, tottering, and unsteady. It’s always moving. It’s always changing. And so are our emotions and happiness. We harm our own emotional well being.
And we don’t only harm ourselves. Loving a person more than God harms the person we love too. They’re crushed under the weight of our expectations because they can’t be the ultimate source of our happiness. No human being can measure up to that. No one should have that kind of expectation put on them.
Keller goes on to say the same dynamic is true for any person who’s the primary object of your love, above God. Your spouse, or a parent, or a friend, it doesn’t matter who it is, it’s an unhappy unhealthy way to live whenever we try to put a human being in place of God.
It’s the same for our careers. If we love our careers more than God, we generally love our career more than our family, community, and even our own health. Which results in relational breakdowns and physical breakdowns and sometimes even social injustice.
So as Keller says, “If you love anything more than God, you harm the object of your love, you harm yourself, you harm the world around you, and you end up deeply dissatisfied and discontent.”
The Good News
The good news is we can change our perspective. We can decide to re-prioritize our love. We can engage with God. We can seek out others who love God more than anything and surround ourselves with those people. We can pray. We can read His scriptures. We can follow His words and practice loving Him and loving people the way Jesus did and the way He instructs us to.
When we put God first in these ways our suffering changes. Our foundation becomes stable and rock-like. It’s a process, but, as we learn to love God first our anxiety dissipates and is slowly replaced with contentment, joy, and peace.
We’re building our life upon God Himself, and He is an unshakable foundation.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
“You harm yourself when you love anything more than God. How does this work? If you love your children more than you love God, you will essentially rest your need for significance and security in them. You will need too much for them to succeed, be happy, and love you. That will either drive them away or crush them under the weight of your expectations, because they will be the ultimate source of your happiness, and no human being can measure up to that. If instead you love your spouse or romantic partner more than God, the same things occur. If you love your work and career more than God, you will necessarily also love them more than your family, your community, and your own health, and so that will lead to physical and relational breakdown and often . . . to social injustice.
If you love anything more than God, you harm the object of your love, you harm yourself, you harm the world around you, and you end up deeply dissatisfied and discontent.”
Image of man on the rock by Enrico Perini via Pexels labeled “No attribution required.”