Have you ever been envious of someone else, whether mildly or severely so? Wanting what some else has, looking like someone else looks, doing what someone else is doing?
Even now you might be able to think of that thing, person or circumstance you desire so badly and believe you deserve. You might know the wrestle in your soul and the pain in your heart too well. You might be familiar with the place in your body where the envy resides – it can knock the wind right out of your lungs, it might sit like an anvil on your chest, or smother you with its weight.
The main activity of envy is to build up a wall between you and those you are envious of. You can resent and even hate the other because of what they have which you don’t.
Envy puts itself in the place of loving relationships, mimicking a caregiver or comforter, nursing the very wounds it inflicts. If you don’t have those things your heart longs for, at least you have your envy.
Even in the throes of our envy, our soul is enlightened from time to time that this is neither healthy nor a beneficial way to live, to say the least. We are then tempted to free ourselves from envy in the following ways.
One primary way to perhaps ease the ache of envy is to acquire the things or circumstances our heart wishes to have. Work harder for wealth, sell ourselves for prestige, lose ourselves for love. Envy begins to control our purposes as we aspire only to acquire.
Another way is to try a prescription of reverse comparison and think of the ways we are better off (at least!) than others. Perhaps if we got in this mess by weighing our circumstances against others it can also be the thing that frees us! Criticism works well here – not to actually elevate ourselves, but to feel elevated. We will seek out poverty in others to cure ours.
Or we might choose to avoid all those things, people or circumstances that might arouse envy in us. This is the (momentary) balm of isolation where we simply don’t have to think of it because we have put on our blinders. We are willing to deceive ourselves that isolation is better than deprivation.
Each of these tactics, however, only serve to feed the dragon of envy within us. With each self-appointed “solution,” we will find instead that envy has become our master as it shapes our purposes, diminishes our identity, and destroys relationships. We are no longer free, we are enslaved.
Blessed are those who do not struggle with envy, but more blessed are those who are freed from envy – for it is by God’s grace that we become free.
There is a way to live humbly and sit among (without owning) that or those which we once deemed enviable and be internally glad, even uplifted.
This is the freeing activity of faith in Jesus. Not only can he release us from the chains that bind us, he can show us how to destroy this enemy of our soul.
Be free from envy by believing in Jesus’ power to free us and trust him with our circumstances. When we are in his care and aligned in his love, ALL IS AS IT SHOULD BE for he promises – not a life of comfort! – but that we are led with kindness by a God who loves us. He has purposes for us beyond acquiring items or positions that belong to others. He has relationships he has ordained and appointed to us, which he will reveal in his time. This is foundational to freedom from envy – our life need not look like others and it is the Lord’s to determine.
What does is take on our part to so utterly trust him that envy can no longer take hold? Be free by confessing our envy to the one who can rid us of it. It is a sweet offering to the Lord that we would release to him that which has kept us from him.
No matter how much we want to be free from envy, this can be difficult for us – all surrender is. As humans, we do tend to enjoy feeling wronged and left out. What pleasureful pain it is to think that we deserve and even need what others have. Releasing this “right” to what we deem we are owed, or the “injustice” that we don’t have what others have, is a simple, but an almost impossible step except by God’s grace.
But when we do, we find ourselves not only at peace in our circumstances, but also able to love more freely even–especially the very people we once hated by our jealousy.
From there we can express gratitude for our circumstances (and sometimes this is the pathway toward our confession). Build the discipline of thanking God for everything good you have. You will develop your spiritual eyesight to see God’s goodness in places you didn’t before think to look, for our preoccupations blind us.
For the believer, everything has purpose and points us to God’s power and goodness. We will be delighted to discover that those things we once envied we can look with new awareness and see that they can keep us from God’s goodness.
Once you have tasted God’s goodness, it becomes the thing our heart longs for and those things we once envied become dull and undesirable. We can even wonder at our own foolishness for having placed these things as a priority in our lives.
Once freed, don’t be surprised by the visitation of envy from time to time and in the most surprising ways for this life of freedom is a pilgrimage. But envy is a tool of the devil to sift your soul. It will whisper to your heart that you are worthless and your circumstances are purposeless. It will tell you sweet lies that you have been left out, forgotten, or deprived. Nothing could be further from the truth, but until your soul grapples with envy by God’s grace, you will not know the abundant true and beautiful goodness of the Lord meant especially for you and enough for all of us.