The Idolatry of Numbers (and How He Sets Us Free)

Editor's note: This post originally appeared on the blog earlier this year in February. We believe this message is so relevant to women today that wanted to dust it off and share it with you again.

I struggle with math, but sometimes I act as if numbers are my thing. I've been guilty of counting "likes" on my Instagram post, girls in my Bible study, RSVPs to my party, and visitors to my blog. Then, just like a certified hypocrite, I inwardly roll my eyes when a friend boasts about how big her church is or posts how many words her two-year-old can say. And really, who cares how many activities you crammed into this weekend?!

Oh, we do. We really, really do.

Like any good idol, statistics can give me a (false) sense of security and value.

Shortly after I gave birth to my son, I lopped off exactly 899 friends from my Facebook account. Those first months of motherhood were overwhelming, and social media stressed me out. But within the year, I started to regret the lopping—not because I missed those "friends," but because I wanted people to realize that despite my new motherhood status, I still had an impressive social circle.

Um, excuse me. What?! Did I just admit that in public?

A False Sense of Value

The idolatry of my heart is pathetic, causing me to worship something as ridiculous as numbers. But like any good idol, statistics can give me a (false) sense of security and value. If I have a large network, receive multiple emails in response to my latest article, or have more friends than you do, I'm special, right? Unique. Different. Better. Valuable. Desirable.

Isn't that what we women long for more than we dare admit? If our hearts could beat in words, surely they would say,

I want to be loved.
I want to be known.
I want to be desired.

So we post selfies and successes, that the crowds might adore us. We fill our calendars to overflowing and juggle dozens of relationships.

The problem with numbers is they make impressive promises, but they lie like a lover whispering sweet nothings just before breaking up with you. The more you measure your worth by your stats, the more you need stats to feel worthy.

And chasing down "likes" is just plain ol' exhausting.

A Different Measure

But there is One who can bestow on us all the beauty and love and value we desperately desire. We could have the attention and adoration of a million people, but without this One, we would still be left empty and wanting.

Instead of baring ourselves to the masses, we were made to hide ourselves in God.

Instead of baring ourselves to the masses, we were made to hide ourselves in God. We were made to measure our worth by His Son, Jesus. What He has done (not what we have done) defines us. God is not impressed with numbers and crowds and claustrophobic calendars. Rather, He says, "This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" (Isa. 66:2).

Dear One, we will never learn to tremble at His Word if we are codependent upon everyone else's words. Humility will constantly elude us if we keep looking to them and not to Him. We must practice the art of slipping away from the crowds as He did. To be quiet and still before Him. To find refuge in Him.

In Him, our hearts go from chaotic to quiet.
In Him, we become grateful instead of greedy.
In Him, we don't earn love; we exult in it.

Then, and only then, can we effectively engage our world—social media and all—for greater purposes than our own image and identity. Only then can we filter both compliments and criticisms through His love for us.

Only then can we freely love others.

God's Numbering System

Does everyone around you seem to enjoy a wealth of amazing friendships while you feel the sting of loneliness? Is your ministry small and unimpressive? Do you look at your numbers on social media and feel like you've come up short?

The psalmist said, "Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul (Ps. 142:4). But wait! "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty" (Ps. 91:1).

And there is no place sweeter, safer, and more satisfying than in His shadow.

So how do I shelter myself in God in a culture of overexposure? How can I value the opinion of One more than a hundred? How do I tune my heart to listen to His Word above theirs?

I come to Him.
I draw near to Him.
I make room for Him.

God's numbering system is so different than ours. We bring our nothing, and He gives us His everything.

And when I don't have the "want to," I ask Him to give it to me (Ps. 119:36). He is in the business of changing hearts and minds and doing "far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20).

God's numbering system is so different than ours. We bring our nothing, and He gives us His everything.

Getting 127 "likes" on social media is a lot like getting breadcrumbs for dinner. Crumbs are fine to eat, but they really aren't satisfying—especially compared to the feast of love that's waiting for us in Him.

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About the Author

Colleen Chao

Colleen Chao

Married at age 34, Colleen Chao writes about her journey from singleness to marriage to motherhood, celebrating God's faithfulness in every season of life. A former book editor, English teacher, and youth leader, Colleen is now mastering the finer arts of diapers, dirt, and dishes. She makes her home in Southern California with her long-awaited husband and son.

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