"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)
I was a member of a professional association for just two weeks when I attended their national convention. Since my name badge didn't sport a single special ribbon, people barely glanced at me.
Alone in my hotel room, I ended each day in tears, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. I told myself I wasn't envious. Simply, uh ... discouraged.
Years passed, and doors began to swing open. Ribbons dangled from my name badge, and people smiled in my direction.
Soon I found myself dealing with a new set of feelings. How come she's moving ahead faster than I am, Lord? Why did they honor her instead of me? I wasn't jealous, of course. Merely, uh ... competitive.
The awful truth revealed itself one rainy morning when I received an announcement from a colleague who'd been blessed with an opportunity I was convinced should have been mine. I tossed her letter across the room in an angry huff. "It's not fair, Lord!"
His response was swift. "Have I called you to succeed or to surrender, Liz?"
Clearly, jealousy and envy were alive and well in my jade-green heart. When I reached out to my writing and speaking sisters - women who love and serve the Lord - I discovered they, too, wrestled with this issue. One said, "I understand competition in the secular marketplace. But I grieve over it in the body of Christ. What are we doing, setting one person's work above another, if not absorbing the world's way of doing things?"
Her words echo the Apostle Paul's: " ... For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?" (1 Corinthians 3:3b, NIV). Sadly, we are.
Today's verse reminds us that envy takes a toll: "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" (Proverbs 14:30). For all of us who struggle, here's the way out:
Confess. Healing begins when we acknowledge that envy is a sin: "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth" (James 3:14, NIV). Humble admission is the single best antidote for prideful ambition.
Avoid comparison. Consider the words of Jesus, when Peter fretted over John's place in Jesus' ministry, and asked, "'Lord, what about him?' Jesus answered, ' ... what is that to you? You must follow me'" (John 21:21b, 22b, NIV).
Rejoice. Feeling overlooked? Look up and celebrate with others. Send an email or text on the spot, and chase away those negative feelings. "Rejoice with those who rejoice" (Romans 12:15a, NIV).
Be patient. Many a career or ministry has collapsed under too much, too soon. Embrace the tasks you've been given, rather than longing for something bigger, better or faster. Success isn't money or fame - it's love for one another. By definition, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud" (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV).
Befriend your rival. As one of our sisters explained, "A woman was brought in on a fast track executive management program at my corporation. At our first meeting, I thought, 'Well, here's my rival.' Then I heard God say, 'She is smart, energetic and sharp - just like you. You could become best buddies.'" And, they did.
Count the cost. Behind every successful woman is a host of sacrifices we never see.
The truth? We're seldom jealous of all the work a person does - just the outcome. Whether building a tower or building a career, the Bible cautions us, " ... Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money" ? or time or energy ? "to complete it" (Luke 14:28b, NIV).
Lean on the Lord. He stands ready, willing and able to overcome our weaknesses through the power of His Spirit. "Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always" (1 Chronicles 16:11, NIV).
Heavenly Father, we know envy and jealousy are no match for Your mercy and grace. Forgive us when we grumble over how You bless others, and help us be grateful for all the ways You have kindly blessed us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." (NIV)
1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (NIV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
If you've ever succumbed to envy or jealousy, now's the time to confess the truth and experience genuine success: rejoicing with others, as you trust God's timing.
Of the seven steps above, which one are you ready to take today?
© 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.