Managing Our Emotions Well Day 4 – Jealousy
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, ESV)
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. (Proverbs 14:30, ESV)
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:14-17, ESV)
Contentment is hard, and the older I get the more I realize that it never really changes. At seven I was jealous of other kids who had the newest and coolest toys. At 17 I was jealous of the people who were driving new cars or had the newest iPhone. Now, at 27 I’m jealous of people starting their own little families. I am sure that even when/if I am blessed with a family of my own I’ll find more things to be jealous about. But why? I am aware enough of my defects to admit that I am jealous and that I will continue to feel jealousy because I am far too consumed with what others have that I lack. Now I don’t feel like I need to steal from others and I don’t hate people that have what I don’t have, but if I really let myself dwell on my unmet desires, it can only lead to worse and worse reactions.
Just as with anger, jealousy is not a sin. It is only natural that when we greatly desire something we may feel jealousy towards someone who has it. It’s normal for me to feel envious of friends getting married or having babies. It’s when I let that jealousy fester that it becomes sin. When I let myself feel anger towards someone or deliberately choose not to celebrate with them, I’m letting jealousy win. Giving in to jealousy leads to self-pity and anger, which opens up a foothold for Satan to drive wedges in relationships and sow seeds of bitterness.
How do we not give in to jealousy? Well, to be honest with you, it’s really hard. Some days it is very hard to feel joy for someone who has something you desire more than anything else in the world. It’s hard to know that there are people out there who are taking for granted the very thing you pray for nightly. What we have to do is refocus our minds. It’s so easy to have tunnel vision, thinking about what we lack and losing sight of what we do have and can enjoy. Before we even present our desires to God, I think we have to focus on gratitude. Make it a daily practice to look for the good things and the blessings in your life. Remember all the times God delivered on His promises and answered your prayers. When jealousy rears its ugly head, take a moment to appreciate all the wonderful things you already have. Gratitude is our most powerful tool against jealousy.
When we are constantly filling our hearts with thanksgiving, it will be harder for jealousy to creep in, but that doesn’t mean the desires will go away. We will still always want something that we don’t have. Maybe right now you’re counting down the days until you can finally graduate and go off to college. Maybe you are feeling the weight of a miscarriage and praying hard for a baby. Maybe you are wishing your toddler would be finished with potty training. Maybe you are waiting to finally hear back about that amazing job that would be an answer to all your prayers. No matter what it is that you are waiting for, bring it before God. He already knows what we want and He has given us an open invitation to ask good things from Him. In fact, He wants nothing more than for us to come before Him honestly and make requests, trusting that He is willing and able to fulfill them.
My challenge to you today is to spend some time in gratitude. Acknowledge the areas of your life that trigger jealousy, but more importantly, see all the blessings He has given you. Praise Him for all the good things He has put in your life. Let that thanksgiving fill your heart and remind you that He is faithful and wants to bring you good things. He wants to fulfill the desires of your heart, and you can trust that He will, even if it does not look exactly how you expect it to or happen within the next 60 seconds. Trust that God brings good things.