Lately, God has been pushing me to write more about what I’m currently in rather than waiting until I’ve overcome it to share the struggle – so here I am. He recently revealed to me that there is a spirit of envy dwelling within me. This is something no one wants to admit about themselves and let alone share publicly. For me, I didn’t even realize it was a part of what I have been experiencing. I was watching a Heather Lindsey sermon called Stop Coveting the Palace where she talked about how she was jealous of a girl and even though she didn’t show it outwardly, she felt it in her heart. She was a whole hater… and I realized in that moment that I sometimes am, too.
The thing about envy and jealousy is that it can sneak in without us even recognizing it. I’m learning that envy doesn’t always look the way we might expect. I always thought it was as simple as: “ooo I want what he/she has and I’m mad I don’t have it, so I don’t like him/her”. I now understand that it is a bit more complex than that. It can often times show up as bitterness, judgement, and overall discontentment because of what someone else has. How many times have you been guilty of “innocently” having some of those negative reactions to someone else’s praise report? I’ve found myself being happy for people yet sad for myself at the same time. Never mad, but sometimes questioning when it’ll be my turn. I don’t dislike anyone, but I have noticed myself criticizing people in my mind as though they don’t deserve their blessing. I often have to log off social media because I become overwhelmed at seeing what others are doing. I’ve been bitter, judgy, and discontent in some of my private moments and that is not the woman I want to be. A whole hater and didn’t even notice. Never wishing bad for people, just downplaying their up moments because in a way, it makes me feel better about where I’m at in life. The following are a few examples of what this looks like for me:
When God first revealed this to me, there was one person that came to mind almost immediately. The part that was interesting to me is that this person is single by choice, no kids, and not focused on those things at all right now. She is focused on her relationship with God and walking in purpose. She is honestly a phenomenal woman. I love everything she is doing, but I think I’ve been jealous of how content she is. I have thoughts like “she’s doing too much”. “Is it all just a facade?” “She’s fickle; always changing what she’s doing.” But after some deeper reflection on this, I think I subconsciously question why can’t I get to a place of contentment? Why am I in a rush? Why am I so focused on where my husband is? Why am I not as bold in my faith as she is or as confident about my purpose?
Another person that was brought to mind was someone who left her old life behind after we graduated, ended up engaged and now married, and just recently moved away. She is such a kind-hearted person and always has been. I don’t know her whole story, but I saw heart break happen first hand for her. I saw her try the love thing a couple more times afterwards and I remember thinking “how does she get all these different dudes and I haven’t ever even been in one relationship?”. When I saw that she was engaged, my first reaction was “Aww, that’s nice. That was quick though. I hope they aren’t rushing.” Don’t get me wrong – she deserves a good man, I am happy for her, and I do pray they have a strong marriage. But there is still that part of me that is a little sad. Where is my husband at? Am I doing something wrong (like focusing too hard on the fact that I’m still single)? Am I not making forward progress in this area because I’m holding on to things I should let go of? I should have been like her and just dropped everything. Maybe my trajectory would be different.
Similarly, another strong woman that I admire also just got engaged. First, I want to acknowledge that I am encouraged seeing so many people starting to get engaged and married. Most of them are Christian couples, too, and it’s evidence that God is still working in relationships! But when she got engaged, I had a hard time even hearing about it. She is so humble, warm, and spirit-filled. She moves in silence and I love seeing her walk in her purpose. We aren’t close, but from what I know of her, she reminds me a lot of myself. I think the part that made it hard to hear about her engagement is that I think I tend to blame myself for where I am. If only I were more content as a single. If only I were more focused on God or more spiritual. Maybe God doesn’t think I’m ready. What did she do differently that I’m not getting right?
The last example I want to share is not one person in particular. It’s two groups of people: unmarried people with kids and married people with kids. I touched on this a little bit in my posts about celibacy, but this is probably the #1 thing that will cause me to log off of social media – pregnancy announcements. In this season, it’s too much for me. Some days I’m excited for people and unbothered, while other days, I simply can’t handle it. Allow me to be transparent here. With the unmarried people, I sometimes have thoughts like “they did it wrong. I don’t want to be like them anyway.” With the unmarried Christians, it’s even worse “oh, they’re out here being disobedient. Smh. I wish I didn’t have convictions like I do so that I can do what I want, too.” With the couples that did get married first, then had kids, I still experience some of that bitterness. Even something as small as them posting pictures of the baby every day can lead to thoughts such as “why do they post so many pictures!? That baby looks the same today as he did yesterday” (lol).
I’m not proud of any of the thoughts that I sometimes have towards others. I’m actually ashamed of them. But I am aware of how problematic this envy and jealousy is and I am already in the process of overcoming it. Now that I’ve admitted it to myself, the heart change has begun. I’m not sure if any of you have ever experienced similar thoughts or reactions to the good news of others, but if so, I’m challenging you to come face to face with those negative parts of yourself. Those “innocent” thoughts are not so innocent and they have the potential to grow into something much worse. Fortunately, this is not who you are. This is merely an unhealthy habit that has to be broken and replaced with thoughts that are more fruitful. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting freed from this – I’m claiming it. The first step is acknowledging it and understanding what it looks like in your life.
After God revealed this bad habit of mine, He gave me instructions to 1) identify people I’ve had envy in my heart towards, 2) explore the reasons I experience that envy, and 3) pray sincere and heartfelt prayers over each of those people. Further, this is not a one day exercise. My instruction was to do it every day until I don’t have that jealously, bitterness, judginess and discontentment anymore. Coincidentally, my best friend and I are currently doing a 21-day fast where we are each breaking an unhealthy habit that we struggle with. Although envy was not my original area of focus, God laid it on my heart to make it an additional focus of the fast. I’m praying that those negative traits are cleansed from my heart and mind over the next few weeks, but if I have to go longer – so be it.
I’m praying for marriage bonds to be strong, for the enemy to flee from family relationships, for couples to defy the divorce statistics, for those who aren’t married to find their spouse (the right one), for them to not settle for a person that isn’t good for them just because they had kids with them, for their kids to be covered, protected, and given the best life possible, for people to tap into their potential and walk in purpose, for them to not be afraid to boldly pursue all that God has placed within them, for their businesses and organizations to flourish, for singles to maintain that place of contentment, and for them to fall even more in love with Jesus everyday. Whatever they need, I’m praying that God meets those needs and provides them with the desires of their hearts if it is in His will. I’m also praying that He continues to bless them and surpasses their expectations.
Each one of the people we may have felt any sort of jealousy towards has had a process (and they are still in process). I noticed that my envy is typically towards people I know but do not have close relationships with. While I may not know their stories, I do know that their lives aren’t fairy tales. Being jealous of their ups is delusional in a way. They had to put in work to get to where they are now. They had to endure some hard situations to get to where they are now. Life was not always sunshine and rainbows for them and just because they’re being blessed in certain ways doesn’t mean all of their struggles are gone. You never know what a person had to go through or what they may currently be dealing with behind closed doors. We have to be careful of comparing our processes based on what we see right now. Instead, we should be praying for them and celebrating them.
Also, I don’t want what they have anyway. I only want what God has for me. Do I want the peace, the purpose, the man, the family, etc.? Yes. But do I want their lives? No. God has me in my own process. He is writing my story the way He see’s fit. Envy comes from not being content with the life God has planned for us. That is a real slap in the face to Him. For starters, that shows Him that we don’t appreciate all that He is doing in our lives. Envy can cause us to overlook the blessings we do have because we’re too focused on what we don’t have yet. It also tells Him we don’t trust Him. It says we don’t believe that He is going to give us His best. It shows that we don’t truly believe that He will do exceedingly above all we could ever ask or imagine. I’m sure He’s disappointment in me every time I have those envious thoughts.
But I’m here to tell you that those thoughts are from the enemy. When we question God with things like “what am I doing wrong? Am I not good enough? When will it be my turn? How did they get it when they do x, y & z, but I don’t do any of those things and I still haven’t gotten it?, and Is all of this my fault?,” know that those are all lies from the devil. He knows our desires too and he knows how to play on our weak spots. Are you in the situation you’re in because of something you did? Maybe. But it could also be that it just isn’t God’s timing yet. He could have you in preparation. He could be fighting battles for you behind the scenes right now. He might be preparing the destination for you. His timing is P.E.R.F.E.C.T. My prayer is that He doesn’t give me what I’m asking for not a second before His perfect timing. And if you did get yourself into a certain situation, know that you don’t have to stay there. We all fall short sometimes, but we have to grow through it. Sometimes we do get off course and end up in places God never intended us to be in. That doesn’t mean that we can’t get back on track. The same way I’m overcoming envy and discontentment today, you can also grow from whatever place you may be in.
The thing is, being envious of others and trusting in God cannot co-exist. It’s like trying to mix oil and water. I think it’s important to note that my life is not just full of jealousy day in and day out. I know that I haven’t been as content in this season as I have been in others, but I’m still full of such great expectation. Do I have the envious thoughts sometimes? Yes. But even more than that, I often have Gods promises on my lips:
He has plans to prosper us not harm us.
He hears our prayers.
(Jeremiah 29:12 & 1 John 5:14-15)
What we ask, we shall receive.
To everything there a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be added unto you.
“If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
(2 Corinthians 5:7)
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
And these are just a few of the verses that help to ease my mind when I do slip into my feelings. There is a whole book full of God’s promises that we should look to for wisdom and encouragement. Imagine how much better we would be able to counter the negative thoughts – the lies of the enemy – if we were completely armored up with God’s word. Eventually, I want to be so equipped with His promises and so deep into our relationship that the envious and impatient thoughts don’t creep in to begin with. That’s ideal. And I’m not sure if it’s possible to be 100% content, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, BUT, if I shoot for the stars and miss, I’ll still land on a cloud which is closer to the goal than I was before.
Finally, I’m a believer that peace, contentment, and happiness are pretty close to synonymous, and I believe contentment is crucial to our overall well-being. There’s a difference between being in a place of contentment and being stagnant, but that’s for another post. Nonetheless, if we want to be content, we have to address some of the heart issues that underlie our discontentment. Envy is one of them, but there are some even deeper things underlying envy, too. In my case, there is insecurity, self-blame, impatience, a hint of self-righteousness, doubt, and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t even processed yet. I plan to do a deep dive into my heart to understand why these things exist within me. I want to know the root of the issue so that I can be made new from the inside out.
No one really likes to do the heart work – the hard work. Uncovering all the not so good stuff dwelling within us. But it’s necessary for becoming all that we are called to be. Don’t be afraid of what you might find and don’t run from it. Embrace it and see it as an opportunity to become an even better person than you are today. Everyday is a chance to be better than we were yesterday. I pray this post encourages you to acknowledge and address any unhealthy heart issues you may be dealing with and that in the coming weeks, you experience true freedom from those things that may exist within you<3