When something touching an idol in our lives the three most common reactions are anger, fear, and despair. When something we love more than we should is shaken we respond in anger, fear, and despair which each, in turn, drives us deeper into our idolatrous behavior.
For example, when I was growing up I was not ok in life if others didn’t approve of me and like me. It is something I struggle with to this day. Although by God grace I struggle less today because of the power of Gospel at work in me daily. When I was growing up if someone didn’t like me I felt despair. I would do everything in my power to help them see that I was fun, kind and an all-around good person. I would sacrifice time with people who actually liked me because I need to be liked by everyone. The more I was around these people the more fear and despair I felt.
In Keller’s commentary on Romans 1-7 he address these questions and how we need to find the possible idolatrous sources:
For example: If you are angry, ask: Is there something too important to me? Something I am telling myself I have to have? Is that why I am angry—because I am being blocked from having something I think is a necessity when it is not?”
If you are fearful or badly worried, ask: Is there something too important to me? Something I am telling myself I have to have? Is that why I am so scared—because something is being threatened which I think is a necessity when it is not?
If you are despondent or hating yourself, ask: Is there something too important to me? Something I am telling myself I have to have? Is that why I am so “down”—because I have lost or failed at something I think is a necessity when it is not?
Keller then follows up by saying we can get to the root identity of our idols by asking some diagnostic questions which are simple, profound and convicting.
- What is my greatest nightmare? What do I worry about most?
- What, if I failed or lost it, would cause me to feel that I did not even want to live? What keeps me going?
- What do I rely on or comfort myself with when things go bad or get difficult?
- What do I think most easily about? What does my mind go to when I am free? What preoccupies me?
- What prayer, unanswered, would make me seriously think about turning away from God?
- What makes me feel the most self-worth? What am I proudest of?
- What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?