We had a visitor over recently. We had eaten, and were chatting happily in the garden.
Someone asked the visitor, “What do you think is the biggest thing that hinders fellowship?”
“Jealousy,” he answered, very quickly.
Yes, we had heard this before. We Christians know that jealousy is bad. But then, he added something that I hate to admit, but was true.
“You will find,” he said, “that if you go through times when it is not going well in your life – maybe it is not going well with your children – and if you have friends for whom everything is going well – their children are perfect, they are well respected and get a lot of praise – then you will find, deep down in here,” he pointed to his chest, “there is a part of you that wishes something would go wrong for them.”
Of course, I have experienced jealousy. I have looked at my friends’ lives and wished I had it the same; compared my house, my kids, my job, my clothes, my salary, and I found I had much less. And I know enough of God’s Word to use it to free me from thoughts of jealousy which only lead to empty, evil thoughts…
But to actually wish it would go badly in some area for my friends, just to make me feel better?
That little uncomfortable feeling…
We know our friends well, and we hear of all their successes. We hear about it when they pass exams, get engaged, are invited on a special trip etc. While we congratulate them there is a little uncomfortable feeling, so small that we can pretend that it isn’t there.
What this little feeling says is basically: “It’s not going so well for me and my family at the moment and hearing about how wonderful your life is makes me really depressed.”
And my ears are wide open and interested in any piece of gossip that puts them in a bad light. And I pretend to feel sorry, but inside I am thinking, finally they get to know what it feels like to struggle. Because that’s what causes these feelings. Life isn’t fair. I think they have had an easy life, so of course they are going to be happy and thankful and positive. But I really don’t think they have had to deal with the kind of trials I have.
Just stop there.
So, what I am saying is that God is not fair in giving me more trials than them? That God does not understand the situation. God has got it wrong, so very wrong …
I cannot think like this if I believe that God has chosen me, and that He chooses my trials specifically to change me to become like Him. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.) How can I be unhappy about that?
I should not be busy thinking about what God allows for my friends. It is just not my business. My business is my relationship with God in my trials, not theirs.
For a long time, I avoided admitting that I had these kinds of thoughts, because it was shameful that I could be a little bit glad when things weren’t going well for a friend. I never minded admitting that I was tempted to be jealous – everybody feels that – but I didn’t like admitting something so bad as wanting it to go badly for someone.
But I realised that when I find these thoughts and admit them, they can be judged. When I see them for what they are I can agree with God’s judgement over them and hate them, even saying that loud to myself. Then I slowly become free of the unrest that always comes when I compare my situation with my friends. Really free! Nothing is hidden: I can look God in the face and know I am busy cleansing myself. I can look my friends in their faces without pretending, and bless them. If I can’t do this then I don’t really love my friends.
And this freedom brings a blessing from heaven; it brings peace deep down in my soul where before there was unrest.
“You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on you, because they trust you.” Isaiah 26:3 (NCV).