My three-year-old son, Isaac, has an imaginary friend named Zappy. Zappy is well known in our family, and once even took a place at the dinner table. Isaac often tells us about the things Zappy says and does. Sometimes Isaac even blames Zappy for the mischief he gets into. While we don’t tolerate Isaac putting the blame on Zappy, we don’t worry too much about him having an imaginary friend. After all, Isaac is already noticing that Zappy can’t do a lot of the things real people can do. I am certain that Isaac will soon outgrow Zappy just as I outgrew my imaginary friend when I was his age. Zappy has already begun to fade from our family.
We shouldn’t be too concerned with the imaginary friend of a young child. What should be concerning to us however, is how many of us still have imaginary friends. That is, how many of us have improperly given power to something that doesn’t actually have power? Let me explain.
In 2 Kings, Hezekiah prays to God to protect his people from the Assyrian invaders. The Assyrians try to talk Hezekiah into surrendering by arguing that he is foolishly depending upon his God, Yahweh, to protect his people. The Assyrians argue that all of the nations they have conquered swore their gods would protect them, but to no avail. Why, then, would Hezekiah expect his God to be any different? Good question.
Hezekiah then prays to God and tells him what has been said:
“It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God” (2 Kings 19:17-19 NIV).
Hezekiah points out that the reason the Assyrians were able to defeat the other gods, was that they were nothing more than imaginary friends. These gods were the result of people falsely putting their faith in manmade things that had no intrinsic ability to help or harm them. The other nations had placed their faith in imaginary friends.
When we mistakenly put our faith in manmade things we too put our faith in imaginary friends. When we think that money can solve our problems, we give it more power than it should ever have. When we place our hope in the right president to fix our nation, we unfairly expect more than is possible by a person or an office. When we depend on our personal looks to give us value, we turn beauty into an ugly thing. When we inappropriately put faith in the things of this world, we put faith in fantasy.
God delivered Hezekiah from the Assyrians. With no help from any man, God defeated the Assyrian army. Reality conquered fantasy because reality has no tolerance for fantasy.
Does your life reflect a dependence upon the one true God, or upon imaginary friends? Even my three-year-old is becoming mature enough to know the difference; are we?
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