'God doesn’t love me if I don’t get Taylor Swift tickets ...'
Three steps to help anxious Swifties – and everyone struggling with idols
“God doesn’t love me if I don’t get Taylor Swift tickets.”
If I’d heard someone say this a month ago, I would have scoffed and told them to calm down. However, I felt distinctly different when I was faced with my friend’s anxiety-filled eyes and trembling voice as we chatted at the back of church and she expressed her very real fears of missing out on this concert. She laughed nervously and tried to brush it off, but she couldn’t take back the serious sentiments she’d shared. I also couldn’t shake the lingering feeling that this conversation pointed to a much bigger and more sinister truth than an international pop star.
Unfortunately, my friend isn’t alone in her feelings of fear as fans nationwide have gone into a frenzy as they prepare for tomorrow’s presale release of much-coveted tickets to Swift’s tour. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that in the first 12 hours of the tour being announced, over a million people signed up to receive presale codes. When this number is contrasted with the estimated stadium capacity for 450,000 fans to attend her five Australian shows, it becomes clear that people will inevitably miss out.
This fear of missing out (FOMO) and the intense desire to see Swift live and up close has led millions of fans worldwide to grapple with the same anxiety felt by my friend. This leads me to ask: how desperate are you for Taylor Swift tickets? And how desperate is too desperate?
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This Taylor Swift situation exposes the bigger reality of the constant struggle we Christians face with idolatry …
Perhaps you’re not desperate at all and belong to the ‘indifferent’ or ‘hater’ categories when it comes to Taylor Swift. While all this drama seems rather absurd to you, it’s important to still recognise that my friend’s experience is characterised by a very real desire and fear felt by many people, and certainly many Christians, at the moment. If anything, I think this Taylor Swift situation exposes the bigger reality of the constant struggle with idolatry that we Christians face, as we seek to cast off the concerns and desires of the world to pursue Christ first. So, even if you’re not a die-hard ‘Swiftie’, I encourage you to use this article to examine your heart for whatever idols you may hold within it.
So what exactly is an idol? Theologian John Piper helpfully defines it as “anything in the world that successfully competes with our love for God”. While in the Old Testament an idol was typically a physical object, such as the golden calf in Exodus 32, the idols of today’s society often look very different. Whether it’s your dream career, perfect relationship, money, sex or Taylor Swift tickets, something becomes an idol when it takes the place of God in your heart and becomes your first priority and obsession.
In the Bible, God makes it repeatedly clear that his people are not to have idols or place any other God before him (Exodus 20:3-6). As such, although we live in a very different world from the Israelites and Moses, we Christians must constantly guard our hearts against desires that might be taking the place of God in our lives and leading us away from him.
What is your restless heart chasing instead of God?
When thinking about idols, it’s natural to next consider why we constantly find ourselves tempted to pursue worldly things that aren’t God. Saint Augustine sheds light upon this in his Confessions when he writes, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Simply put, God has made us to be ultimately satisfied in relationship with him. Our heart can search every other worldly desire and vice, yet we will still remain restless until we rest in him. What is your restless heart chasing instead of God?
As Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
If we continue to put our treasure in the temporary things of this world that won’t last, we will always be left unsatisfied and wanting more. We will never be truly content in this life.
Am I saying that if you plan to buy Taylor Swift tickets, you’re pursuing an idol? Not at all. In fact, I myself will be among the hundreds of thousands of fans seeking to secure a ticket tomorrow morning. My aim for this article is not to condemn Swifties, but to remind them, alongside all other readers, to check their hearts and work to overcome any idols that may be taking the place of God.
If you’re a Swiftie anxious about the ticket release tomorrow (or anyone else facing idol temptation), here are some practical steps for how you can overcome this and submit it to God:
1. Cast your cares upon him
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
The Bible tells us that we can come to God in prayer and cast our fears and desires upon him. God wants us to talk to him about anything and everything, as he cares deeply for us and wants to hear when we’re upset. If you’re struggling with an idol, bring this to God.
When we present our concerns to God, he gives us his incomprehensible peace, so big and beautiful that it transcends all human understanding. By this peace, he guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
If you’re unsure what to pray, ask God to align your heart with his heart, your desires with his desires.
2. Share with a Christian friend
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
If you’re struggling with an idol, confide in a trusted Christian friend who can prayerfully support you and keep you accountable in your struggles with sin and idolatry.
3. Consider it all a loss!
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8)
As Paul expresses, everything in this world pales in comparison to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. While this sounds like harsh language, it’s a beautifully liberating truth! At the end of the day, everything else is rubbish when you have the gift of Jesus Christ. While scoring a Taylor Swift ticket feels like the be-all and end-all, it truly doesn’t compare to the treasure and ultimate joy we have waiting for us in Heaven.
So, whether or not you’ll be part of the hectic scramble for Taylor tickets tomorrow, use this as an opportunity to reflect upon what worldly things might be taking the place of God in your heart.
Emma Pritchard is one of Bible Society Australia’s 2023 interns. Emma is studying to be a high school English teacher and lives in Sydney.
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