I thought jealousy only reared its ugly head on the playground or in the middle school cafeteria. I never once expected it to follow me to adulthood and marriage. But it has, and it makes me feel quite ugly inside and out.
My husband and I have talked about our family and career goals. We have plans that we have prayed about, and we are open to God’s leading in whatever direction he has for us. Yet, I can’t help but feel so jealous of stay at home moms with new babies who live in seemingly perfect neighborhoods. The grass seems greener on the other side.
The funny thing is that I felt this same pang of envy when I was a college student and a recent graduate — before I started dating. It seemed like everyone else had found someone they loved, and I was destined to be an old, single cat lady. Then one day, I woke up with a sense of confidence and almost joy about that “cat-lady” life I had once dreaded. I looked forward to it. I made plans for graduate school and living with my best friends.
Not long after that, a guy I had met in college sent me a Facebook message. We chatted. Later, he asked for my phone number; after that, a date. Fast forward a couple years, and he asked for my hand in marriage.
It was definitely not instantaneous. Become satisfied with being single and God will magically grant you a boyfriend… is a terrible way to live. However, I became less jealous of others when I saw the beauty in my own situation. At that time, I worked with two wonderful, strong, older, and very independent single women in two separate settings. Their lives encouraged me to live my singleness to the fullest, and I began to appreciate them.
Today, as a happily-married woman, I find other things to keep me envious. It’s ugly, and I hate it. I know that God hates it, too.
How can I (and you) avoid it?
I already mentioned the first way: Relish what you have. Rejoice in your current place. Just as the wonderful single women in my life encouraged me to enjoy my singleness, so the married women in my life can also encourage me to make the most of these days. Are you a working mom wishing you were home? Or a homeschooling mom wishing you had a career outside the home? Maybe you’re a high school student waiting for the day you can leave home… Or a wife hoping for fertility. Who is in your same spot? Find them at church, in a Bible study, on a blog, at the gym, at school or work… The opportunities are endless. Find the joy in today and relish it. Encourage each other to celebrate today, because this too is the day that the Lord has made.
Romans 12:15 urges its readers to rejoice with those who rejoice. This doesn’t come easily. A family member of ours gave elaborate, expensive gifts to the family at Christmas time. My husband and I opted for inexpensive books, journals, and shirts. I went into Christmas knowing that our gifts were meaningful and not going to put us into debt. However, when I saw the mounds of presents this person brought in, I became jealous of the money they make and of the exuberant responses they received from family members. But the verse I had memorized so long ago came back to me… Rejoice with those who rejoice. They may make more money than we do, but they sweetly gave of what they had, not hoarding their extra money for themselves. I can rejoice with them instead of harboring envy towards them.
Finally, a warning to take care of yourself… Obviously, the “rejoice with those who rejoice” includes things like going to bridal and baby showers, attending weddings and graduations, sending greeting cards, and buying presents. But for a person with serious pain and heartache in a specific area, it might be okay to opt out of some of that rejoicing. When a church’s young members all began to get pregnant around the same time, a woman I knew carefully selected which showers she would attend. She had struggled with infertility for a long time and was in a deep place of pain. For her, it was not the pang of jealousy, but the sharp, heart-wrenching stab of hurt. She went to the smaller showers for her closest friends, and had prior commitments during the others. In this way, she was able to care for herself and her emotions, which enabled her to more fully love and celebrate the friends to whom she was closest.
The Fruit of the Spirit
The fifth chapter of Galatians ends by expressing the results of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives: things like love for others, kindness towards those around us, and self-control in our actions and in our hearts. Just prior to that paragraph is a section explaining the desires of the flesh: jealousy AND envy, as well as idolatry, selfish ambition, and dissension. We are called to a passionate love, even towards those we think have everything we want. For in the loving, we cease to be jealous of what they have and, instead, come to celebrate the unique paths where God has placed us.