I need to be honest, I have been struggling. And to be even more honest, I am angry and ashamed about the struggle. I didn’t think this was my particular struggle, but as it turns out, when God slowly strips away layer after layer of the polish I’ve attempted to put on myself, my true nature is revealed.
It snuck into my heart gradually. Or perhaps it was always there and I just gradually noticed it. I used to feel like a confident and happy person, but lately my heart has been filled with envy. Not to say that I’m never happy these days, but I have noticed that my reactions to others hasn’t been so gracious lately. My heart sees what others have and then, instead of increasing the joy by being happy for them, my heart slyly whispers up at me “You’ve worked so hard. You are so smart. You volunteer so much of your time! You DESERVE this, too” And I listen to it. I more than listen, I agree with enthusiasm.
The difference was especially noticeable during my drives around town and time spent on social media. On my way home, I frequently pass this beautiful house. It is painted a lovely yellow color, has a wide, friendly-looking front porch, great landscaping and a double garage. It looks like it could be an extra-large farmhouse and should be filled with friends and pie. I have always admired it and appreciated its beauty. It used to make me smile, but lately, when I drive by it I instead feel a pang of desire and something like anger at not being able to have it.
It’s a very strange feeling: to have something that once brought you joy to now make you feel jealous and unsatisfied.
I used to claim that I didn’t have a problem with social media because it didn’t make me feel envious (I had a problem with social media for other reasons, but that can be discussed another time). And I really didn’t think it was affecting me at all. I was able to look at photos of people on vacations, getting jobs, going out for coffee, showing off new outfits, and what fun and educational thing they were doing with their kids and so on and so forth and think “That’s nice for them! Or how cute is that?” and move on. Maybe even be a little inspired.
However, lately, I’ve noticed a different reaction to others’ photos and stories on social media. (Certainly jealousy existed way before social media did, so I am not at all blaming my issues on social media. However, social media does act as a catalyst and speeds up any reaction I may have had naturally.) The Devil found the chip in my polish there and, true to form, it was in the DETAILS.
Mostly in the backgrounds of people’s photos on social media. The things I started to notice were the material their couch was made of, the fresh paint on their walls, how clean their house appeared, the kitchen gadgets they had or new lettering board they posted with. I noticed the type of clothing they wore. Then I started mentally tallying up how much each item must have cost and then I started believing it was unfair that I didn’t also have all those things.
Jealousy had begun to rob me of not only my joy in observing beautiful things, but also robbing me of celebrating with friends and multiplying their joy. As jealousy grew, it was pushing out the joy.
How could I let this happen? How had I allowed envy to replace contentment in my life? I have some ideas, but I’m going to save that for a later post. Right now, I just want to confess that I am not immune to wanting. Jealousy is such a common thing that we can be fooled into thinking that we are above it or “too old for that.” But it’s also a sneaky thing and slips in when our guard is down (or our hubris is up…).
The first step is realizing you have a problem, right? So now to focus on remembering that my happiness is doesn’t come from things or degrees or jobs or even pretty yellow houses with wrap-around porches. It is found in appreciating what I do have and have been given. It is remembering that from which I have been saved and from what I have been forgiven. My joy is found in Christ alone. The God who left his throne above, came down to earth, and died to save me from the consequences of such things like the jealousy that has grown in my heart.