What's your response when you hear comments from friends and family like these? Do you run to your room and cry because all you want is to be able to sit again without pain? Do say congratulations, but feel your heart ache with jealously and disappointment? Do you get mad at God because your life is so completely different than you ever planned? Are you tempted to say something pious like, "well apparently you aren't following God like I am because the Bible says if you follow Christ your life will be hard!"?
It's hard, isn't it? It seems like I look around and everyone's life is so much better than mine. When I hear comments like these, I want to be genuinely happy for the person celebrating. But so many times I am not. I pray that God would make me feel joyful for other people who are given blessings, but most of the time I just feel jealous. I even try to count my blessings and remember the millions of people living in poverty and disease around the world. I have much to be thankful for, but all it takes is a minute on Facebook and I'm reminded of how different I am than most of my friends, and I'm disappointed.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Jealously and comparison really is an almost daily struggle for me. And often my response is to become either pious or cynical. Neither of which exemplify the love of Christ. But I do pray and ask God to change my heart, so why do I continue to struggle with these feelings? I don't expect other people not to have good things happen to them, but couldn't God just make me genuinely happy for others' blessings?
I think there are a few problems with my request. First, God doesn't just take away temptations from our lives, and that's precisely what I'm asking Him to do. "Make me happy for others, God" or better put, "make it easy for me so I don't feel guilty for sinning (being jealous)".
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13Secondly, God doesn't take away temptations or the trials themselves because it is through these difficult situations that God's grace is sufficient, He is glorified, and we grow to be more like Christ -provided we seek Him. Every time I am reminded of my limitations or tempted to be jealous of others and God gives me the grace to trust Him, not my circumstances, my faith and character are strengthened.
"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. "Romans 5:3-5Lastly, my prayers for God to make me happy for other people are very "me" focused. I want to feel genuinely happy for someone instead of feeling I have been short-handed by God. Nevermind God's purpose and plan in all this! The reason I am tempted to feelings of jealously and disappointment is because my satisfaction and joy is not in God. My contentment is not found in the sovereign God of my salvation whose ways are good and can always be trusted. That is the real problem.
Even if I didn't have chronic pain, I would be tempted to be discontent (this is not a new struggle in my life, it's just harder now). There will always be people who have things I do not, who go places I cannot, and who seem to have better lives that I do. That is why God must be my portion. He is the only thing in this world that never changes (Hebrews 13:8), so I can trust Him and the lot in life He has given me. This doesn't make the temptation to jealously and discontentment easier, but the truth of God's word reminds me that I can be genuinely content and happy for others because I am secure in Christ and I have nothing to want. He is what makes life worth living, not my circumstances.
"The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."One of my favorite sermons entitled The Lines have Fallen for Me in Pleasant Places comes from this passage and can be found here. It is a wonderful reminder that God has determined where we live, what we do, and what happens in our lives so that we would seek Him. Whether we find ourselves in the best time of life or the hardest time, we are in the ideal place to seek God right now. Keeping this truth in the forefront of our minds is helpful as we fight (notice it will not be easy) to find our joy in God's sovereign plan for our lives and to be content in all circumstances. Then and only then can we truly rejoice with others who are rejoicing.