I really need help and wisdom on how to deal with a very dark part of my character: jealousy. I have a long-time friend who has the most wonderful personality; she is nearly always successful at whatever she does; she is very wise and self-possessed; a great, godly girl. It's hard to think about. Even writing about it now is difficult because envy is in my heart, and I wish in so many ways that I was like her. I hate it.
I know I should be praising God for the good, wonderful example that He has given me of a Christian friend and for the amazing person that He has created, saved and caused to grow in grace. But the feelings of jealousy are there, so I cannot truly. I have repented of it and asked the Lord for help, but even when I don't want the thoughts, they arise, and I don't know how to deal with them.
In my devotional time I have been reading 1 Samuel, and I see myself so much like Saul when he is jealous of David. This saddens me. I would really appreciate some advice and prayer on this matter. Many, many thanks.
Thank you for writing. You're right to be concerned about envy — what you call "a very dark part of [your] character." Paul lists envy among sins that prevent us from inheriting the kingdom of God, and Solomon warned that it was enough to make your bones rot. What then to do about this ugly sin?
For starters, it's helpful to consider envy's unlikely source. Galatians 5:26 warns believers "not to become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." Those aren't three separate things to avoid: conceit, provoking and envy, but rather one thing: conceit as evidenced by two others: provoking and envying. Envy is symptomatic of conceit. In short, the source of envy is pride.
Saul wanted what David had: the praise of God's people, success in battle, the Lord's favor, and the promise of the kingdom. If you want what your friend has and are frustrated that she has it and you don't, then yes, in that way you may be rightly seeing yourself when you read about Saul. The good news is that God is revealing your sin to you.
Too often, I've read Old Testament stories and felt superior to the characters with obvious flaws: those ever-complaining Hebrews, that conniving Jacob, the timid Moses, and especially, the raging Saul. It's easy to wonder, from hindsight, how they could have had so little faith. At the same time, I've been tempted to think about all the ways I can improve myself to be more like David (in his faithfulness), assuming that in similar settings, I'd trust the Lord. The problem with reading the Bible this way is that it misses the point. In our sin, we all are fallen like the Hebrews in the wilderness, like Moses before the burning bush, like Jacob deceiving his father, and yes, like the murderously envious Saul. We can't make ourselves better. But we have something Saul didn't. The hope in all those stories is God's promise of a coming Savior.
If you are trusting Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins, you have the risen Lord ruling your heart, the Holy Spirit helping you obey, and access to God the Father in prayer. Practice taking your thoughts captive to make them obedient to the Lordship of Christ. With the help of the Spirit, you can "change your mind," you can choose to meditate on the truths of Scripture. As Bill Farley says in Hidden in the Gospel, you have to stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself.
What should you say? The truth. For example, Paul urges us to think with sobriety about our gifts and talents, given in different measure. He writes,
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:3-8).
It's clear from these verses that God gives believers different gifts and differing amounts of those gifts. Life isn't fair. But it's not her fault, nor her doing, that she's been given much. God is the giver. Any envy is, at root, against Him. One powerful weapon against envy is gratitude. Give thanks for God's rich blessings on your friend, but even more, for His rich blessings on you.
When I'm tempted to envy someone who it seems has been given more or better gifts than I have, it helps to remember what I deserve: God's righteous wrath against my sin. Instead, He poured out His wrath on Jesus, who committed no sin, in order that I and everyone who believes in Him might have the rewards that only Christ deserves. We deserve hell, but God offers to forgive us and make us His sons and daughters. He rewards believers with eternal life, with an inheritance. Peter wrote,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-7).
Thinking about this daily helps me resist the temptation to feel cheated. When I see someone getting something I want, it helps to remember that the infinite gift God has given me in Christ is in stark contrast to the hell I deserve.
Memorize Scriptures like the passage above from Romans 12, James 4:1-8, and Philippians 2:1-11 so that when envious thoughts arise, you can turn your mind to truth. Thank God for the measure of grace you've been given. Be faithful with it. Entrust yourself to Him, and ask for more of Him. He is infinitely generous.
Copyright 2015 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.