Updated: Jan 5, 2021
A good friend of mine recently accused me of being obsessed with following God and serving others. My initial response was, “No, I’m not obsessed, I just love God! That’s not an obsession!” …But by the next breath, I found that I completely agreed with him - I do have an obsession!
Obsession is, by definition, “An idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind,” and “being preoccupied or having one’s mind continually filled, intrusively, and to a troubling extent.” I am not ashamed to say that following God fills my mind continually, and growing closer to Him preoccupies me constantly. There is nothing I want more than to draw nearer to the God who created me, who loves me, and who has called me to follow Him. I have found that this is troubling to nearly everyone else, as it is considered odd and unusual, and sometimes even offensive.
I don’t generally speak publicly about why I do what I do, other than making it clear that I live by my convictions: I love God above all else; and because I love God, I love those He loves (my fellow humans). These tenets are so real and overwhelming in my life that they affect everything I say and do. God’s opinion of me is far more important to my self-value than anyone else’s opinion - a rare perspective nowadays. I am not interested in popularity or approval of others, except where it affords me the opportunity to share who my God is when I am asked why I do what I do. I am obsessed with loving and pleasing my Creator, and I choose for this obsession to color everything I do. This is the direct cause for how I treat others and the respect I show to all I meet. Loving God and loving others has infiltrated every bit of my life - I would rather be obsessed with God than anything else, because everything else is pointless. This is an uncommon mindset, especially among people who say they “love God” or “love Jesus,” and yet when those words are tested, they prove inconsistent - they’re just words with no life behind them. They prove, when tested, that they love God or Jesus far less than the other things that they cite to excuse why their actions or attitudes have no resemblance to those of God or Jesus. Heartbreakingly, I only know a few people personally that have proven how important following God is to them in every area of their lives.
So here’s a question: What does the Bible say about being obsessed with God?
Shockingly, THE BIBLE CONFIRMS THAT WE SHOULD BE OBSESSED WITH FOLLOWING GOD. God Himself has repeatedly been recorded saying that He desires to have our minds filled with thoughts of Him all day long - even King David was obsessed. He said countless times that God was all He could think about (Psalms 25:5, 35:28, 44:8, 71:8, 71:15, 71:24, 86:3, 88:9, 89:16, 119:97). And God called King David “a man after My Own Heart.” How can someone become an expert on a subject they spend no time learning about? The God of the Bible wants His followers to be drawn to Him, consumed by Him, to be conversing with Him continually and continuously - is that not the definition of an obsession?
In recent years the word “obsession” has been defined in an exclusively negative light because many good obsessions have morphed into destruction when the object of obsession is not meant to be obsessed over. I have absolutely zero doubt that you, Reader, could name a million obsessions that are destructive. The difference is this: not one of the obsessions you could name were ever meant to be the sole focus of a human’s attention - this is why they end in destruction.
There is only one thing or being in the entire history of humanity that humans were created to be obsessed with: their Creator; not other creatures, not ourselves, not anything else that was made, but the CREATOR. He even made it abundantly clear throughout the Bible that humans are infinitely important to Him, and that we are His favorite among all that He created. He even made us in a way that reflected His own personality and character. As smaller, less perfect versions of our Creator, the desire is built into us to seek Him in everything. By definition, THAT is an obsession. He created humans to be obsessed with being close to Him and keeping Him pleased by our actions and hearts. This is our purpose and the ultimate fulfillment of our nature.
Unfortunately, when we focus on someone or something other than our Creator, our obsessions become dark and foster heartbreaking loss and division. Sole focus on popularity, financial security, success of any kind, a person, an idea, a feeling, or a need will always end in catastrophic human failure because none of those things were meant to be our purpose. We were created to need Him.
King David put it on record in the famous Psalm 23, which most people are familiar with, but here’s a version that shows the meaning beyond the rote words:
“My God is my Shepherd - and as His sheep, He provides absolutely all that I need. If I don’t have it, I don’t need it. As my Shepherd, He leads me to grazing fields full of food, and He provides water that is calm and quiet and clean. My relationship with Him restores my spirit because being close to Him completes me. He leads me on roads that take me to safety and pleasing places - this proves to me that His love is worth trusting and following. And then, in the times when He leads me through places that are dark and I can’t see Him leading me, I trust Him because I know He’s still there and He won’t leave me alone - I can hear Him ahead of me, tapping His shepherd’s staff along the path. He has proven that He has great things planned for me, but only if I stick with Him and ignore those who say otherwise. My God claims me as His own and provides absolutely everything I could ever need. For the rest of my life, I will never get enough of His goodness and faithful love, and I cannot bear to be apart from Him for one moment as long as I live.”
This is a fantastic example of someone who is absolutely obsessed. If God wasn’t pleased with this attitude that David had, why in the world would He say, among everyone else mentioned in the Bible, that He had found a man after His own Heart? The entire nation of Israel still reveres King David as the one who pleased God, despite all his failures and selfishnesses. This can give us hope, as God is not expecting our complete perfection, but He desires that we desire Him above all else. According to His own words on the subject, God wants your thoughts to be preoccupied with Him, every minute of every day. Folks, that’s called obsession.
We have all experienced the results of being over-focused on something, and the ways in which that focus shapes and colors and dictates every move we make and every action we take. It seasons our choices and our words - it becomes awesomely evident to everyone what our mind finds most important and where our heart lies.
I realize that this subject strikes a nerve for everyone, and we all have areas where we know we’re wrong but we just cannot see how to get where we should be, or we are comfortable enough where we are (even though we are miserable), or that things could be a whole lot better but we just can’t seem to get out of the rut. Believe me, I’ve had my share of those times. I’m writing this to encourage you, to inspire you to take that step toward and do what you know deep down you should be doing, to focus on the thing you already know you should prioritize.
I offer these uplifting words to remind you that if you aren’t obsessively pursuing your Creator, you will always be unsatisfied. You will never find what you’re looking for, even if sometimes it feels like you have - if it isn’t your Creator you’re obsessed with, it’s not going to end well. This is the number one reason why humans suffer: we obsess over ourselves. Selfishness - the one word that has ZERO positive connotations.
Now, having encouraged you to do what you know deep down is right, I am not attempting to force or press my own convictions on you. I am simply following logic:
A. The Bible is the #1 best-selling book of all time, and is a proven historical record. Not everyone agrees with everything it has to say, but nobody has successfully discredited its historical accuracy.
B. Because the Bible is a trusted historical record and still undisputed, I must conclude that its central tenets, the Ten Commandments, are reasonable rules for human living. I have yet to hear of any sane person disagreeing that any of the Ten Commandments is unreasonable, especially those with regard to human interaction. To remind you of what the Ten Commandments are, here’s the list:
1. I am the Only God, your Creator, the only being worthy of worship.
2. Because I’m the Only God, don’t make idols to worship instead of Me or alongside Me.
3. Do not use My Name to back your cause unless you have My authority to do so.
4. Take a day-long break from work once a week - it’s important for your health. I created you this way.
5. Respect your elders, especially your parents. I put them in charge of you during your younger years - be thankful you’re still alive.
6. Do not kill a fellow human.
7. Honor your commitments, especially the marriage commitment you made to your spouse.
8. Do not take what doesn’t belong to you.
9. Do not slander your fellow human.
10. Do not become obsessed with what someone else has.
C. As you can see, the 1st rule in the Ten Commandments is recognizing that the God who gave the rules is God over all, and that He demands the honor He deserves as the Creator and overseer of the Universe. This alone is directing those who place themselves under the rest of the commandments to also accept the very first ones, acknowledging and respecting His authority and power over everyone and everything.
What is even more amazing is that by offering these rules, God gives everyone the choice to follow them or not - and just because you break one does not mean that He will strike you dead with a lightning bolt. He proves, throughout the entire length of the Bible, how patient, gracious and loving He is, despite our faults. And He wants, more than anything else, for us to copy Him in these attributes and reflect His love.
D. God does not force our choice, though He does make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult. He prescribes consequences for making choices against His rules, and He proves excellent reasons to abide by the rules through positive reinforcement and blessings. The consequences He set forth always involved giving up something of great value, whether to atone for failure or to recognize God’s awesomeness and thank Him for His love, despite our great lack of deserving it.
Nowhere in the history of God’s plan has He used force to earn trust. In later years, the human manifestation of the God of the Ten Commandments - Jesus - never once compelled anyone by force. If you’ve ever heard the proverb “The Sun and the Wind,” you’ll recognize the concept. The Sun and the Wind had a competition over who could be the first to get a traveler to remove his coat. The Wind blew and blew, but the traveler only clutched his coat tighter. The Sun took his turn and beamed in warmth, enticing the traveler to smile and remove his coat due to the comforting sunshine. “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The God of Creation did not create humans to blindly follow - He desires our willingness and compulsion to draw close to Him because we can’t be satisfied with anything or anyone else but Him.
Being obsessed with something or someone always comes at a price. Obsession demands all of one’s attention, not just some.
An obsession develops when we put everything we are and have into what consumes our mind for most (or all) of the time in our day. Obsessions can stem into addictions and phobias, or worse: disorders (especially OCD). This world wants to trap us with the illusion of its addictive all-consuming power - when we become obsessed with something or someone that isn’t the Living God Himself, we become easily controllable to anyone paying attention. We essentially advertise our weaknesses to those looking to exploit us for their own purposes and power.
If we allow the things of this world to fully and completely capture our attention away from our Creator (the only stability that exists), we are robbing Him of the credit He deserves for being immutable (unchanged over time). Not only that, but we are also robbing ourselves of reaching our personal full potential. We would be dedicating ourselves to full distraction, sucked into the all-consuming whirlwind of lies demanding our time, attention, and focus. Just as no employee can fully please both of his equal and opposing supervisors, it is impossible to serve God wholeheartedly while simultaneously fully investing in any other opportunities elsewhere.
Thomas Edison, as much as we revere him for his advances in technology, paid a high price to reach them. He was known for his obsession taking so much of his time that his family suffered and he was even rumored to forget about his first wife on their wedding night as he had returned to his lab after the ceremony and continued work on his current invention. Due to the nature of his work, his obsession took precedence over his family, and the unfortunate result was a lack of attention to those he loved as he pursued his obsession of invention. We remember Edison as the inventor of the lightbulb we know today, but any self-proclaimed workaholic knows the guilt of prioritizing success over family.
When obsession is involved, everything else suffers except reaching the goal, whatever it is. That which we deem worthy of the majority of our attention is the obsession we choose. A little girl is obsessed with unicorns, at the expense of her meals. A young man is obsessed with building a Lego empire, at the expense of his responsibilities. A mother is obsessed with helping her daughter achieve a specific career (her unfulfilled dream from childhood), at the expense of her daughter’s own dreams. A father is obsessed with making sure that his family is more than provided for (because his own father was poor), at the expense of actually being with his family. All these situations are common, but none of them should define us, and none of them pay homage to the only One we are meant to obsess over.
I have personally been obsessive over health, wealth and prosperity. I’ve had my own times where I obsessed over entertainment, hobbies, and busyness. I’ve worked plenty of overtime to amass large amounts of money. Instead of drawing close to God in times of trouble, I was drawn to eating, drinking, spending, partying, and collecting things I thought I needed but knew I didn’t. I was obsessed with anything that gave me an adrenaline rush, and if it wasn’t one hobby, it was another. The more money I made, the more I spent. The more I spent, the more I pushed to make above and beyond that. It was a never-ending cycle and I spiraled into workaholic-land.
I walked away from God during this time and then I mentally walked away from my family. I still provided for them but I was obsessed with myself and keeping ME happy above all else. And that became the worst time in my life: I grew more angry, dissatisfied, obsessive/compulsive, oddly germaphobic and nitpicky, among other things. I was - flat out - awful to be around. Why? It was the ME SHOW: all ME, all the time. And looking back, I am horrified.
Nothing changed until I began to see that what I had wasn’t actually mine, in direct contrast to what I’d learned from my parents and the world in general. I realized that it had all been given to me… and that I couldn’t count it as my own if it had been given to me by the One who could also take it all away in the blink of an eye. So I gave it all back. Everything God had given me I dedicated back to Him and determined to use as He directed - it was all His, and I was just acting as the investment banker on His payroll. My time, my possessions, my resources, my family, my responsibilities - they all became His. And in order to please Him, I had to draw close to hear how He wanted me to steward His resources - and in the beginning, giving up that control was terrifying. Shortly thereafter, I began experiencing the most freedom I’d ever had in my life up to that point.
So, returning to the accusations: yes, I am obsessed - with being near my God! As a direct result of following closely behind Him, I am compelled to serve others as I represent His character. I have chosen to dedicate all my remaining years left on this earth to follow as my God directs. Like King David, I cannot help but say, “For the rest of my life, I will never get enough of His goodness and faithful love, and I cannot bear to be apart from Him for one moment as long as I live.” (Psalm 23:6) I can’t get enough of God’s love and friendship, and I desire even more of the peace that I have as a result of drawing near to who He is. I cannot stop passing forward to others all the blessings He’s given me so that others are able to see who my awesome and incredible God is.
I long to hear that He is proud of me, and I am beyond honored to be His representative to anyone who will listen - to prove His love and goodness, I am able to share how He has rescued me in my struggles and lifted me up in my triumphs; to tell of the monumental joy He has become for me, despite my immense pain. (If you haven’t read my personal story yet, click here)
Choosing myself over others had long-lasting detrimental effects, and they are still popping up all the time. When I was obsessed with everything but God, it cost me my relationship with God and with others. But when I became obsessed with my Creator, I lost nothing that means anything in the end - everything I lost because of Him only brings me closer to Him. Priorities really get cemented when you make the choice between following God and anything else.
All obsessions come at a price. Believe me, I’ve been there. This isn’t a finger-pointing session, it’s a plea for you to see the fruitlessness of obsessing over worthless goals. The only goal worth pursuing is God, and being close to Him. The cost of obsession is high, but there is only one obsession that actually makes us better and more perfect: loving God and reflecting His love to others.