Part II: Eggplant with a Side of Envy

Reminder: We fast and pray over Monday lunch for God to change our hearts, for God to bring men to himself and for life-giving marriages for men and women who desire them.   This is our second in a three-part series on dealing with envy; Connally wrote last week about confronting the envy monster.

My roommate Jill is a dear friend.  In the past year, we’ve watched each other go through good dates, bad dates and breakups.  We’ve borrowed each other’s clothing, hosted Bible study, taken road trips, thrown dinner parties, and watched a ridiculous amount of the Cooking Channel.

So when Jill started going on a few dates with our mutual friend Erik, I was very excited for her.  Erik is wonderful.  Really, honestly wonderful.  Their relationship is developing intentionally and Jill has been very thoughtful in not wanting to overdo the gushing.  When asked, I said, “Don’t worry – I want to hear about it all!”  And that was true.  At least when I said it.

But when I was sitting on the couch at 9pm, still in my work clothes, eating fried eggplant for dinner, I suddenly felt differently.  “Why should it be her that gets to go on fun dates to cool restaurants while I eat fried eggplant?  Why can’t there be someone fabulous and exciting in my life?”

The envy soon morphed into blaming Jill for unrelated issues: “Of course, there is a giant stack of dishes in the sink.  Someone is always on dates and doesn’t have time to wash them.  Of course we don’t have any pepper.  Someone forgot to get it at the store because someone never takes the list.  Unlike me.  I always take the list and never forget anything.”

Absolutely absurd, I know.  I was mentally tearing down and falsely accusing a sister in Christ because I was envious of what I perceived as her greater happiness.  The worst part is that it wasn’t really about her or Erik or the dishes: it was about my heart’s discontent, and my lack of faith in a God whose character, especially as seen at the cross, is unchangeable Love.

Perhaps the ease with which envy flows into so many related sins is why Paul lists it as one of the fruits of the flesh in Galatians 5:19: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy…”

In contrast, Christian relationships are to be defined by the sort of love described in I Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Envy is fundamentally incompatible with a loving, grateful heart.  We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice, to mourn with those who mourn, and to trust a sovereign God to work all things together for our good and His glory.  Even the painful, fried eggplant times.

The happy footnote to the eggplant incident is my conversation with Jill in which I discovered that confessing the envy destroyed its hold on my mind.  Jill’s gracious and immediate forgiveness was a tangible demonstration of I Corinthians 13 love, and we ended up having a good laugh about the entire thing.

As we fast and pray this week, let’s take our honest heart situations to God, including envy, and ask Him to settle our hearts in His love and provision for us.

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11 Responses to Part II: Eggplant with a Side of Envy

  1. amy says:

    No, that’s an excellent point. I definitely agree with you that it’s so good to have close friends be honest in saying, “Hey, I get it. You don’t have to pretend like this doesn’t hurt.” It’s like it frees us to mourn and celebrate simultaneously. When the mourning and celebration are both true, I think it does get hard to live out (as your sister’s wedding proves).

    • Stacey says:

      That is such a good point, I love it!! To mourn and celebrate simultaneously, that is so helpful to be able to do that rather than just feeling so guilty for hurting which becomes a vicious cycle!

  2. I think its good to separate your own feelings of dissapointment from your feelings for someone else’s blessings. I had to be maid of honor in my younger sister’s wedding, not long after my own wedding had been cancelled. That sucks and I appreciated friends who said that, who understood, who said this must be hard. I was so busy trying to be happy and not cry that weekend that it was a blessing for someone to actually notice how painful that was….

    but what they didnt do was encourage jealousy or attacks on my sister. They recognized that I could be joyful for her and hurting for me at the same time, and they recognized that due to unique cicumstances, being joyful for her was hard… it wasn’t her fault my wedding had been cancelled, it wasnt her fault life worked out easily for her, but it was so comforting to have friends say, yeah this situation stinks for you.

    and because they so lovingly acknowldged the bad in the situation instead of just telling me to to be happy for her, I felt strong enough to be happy for her. Does that even make sense?? allowing someone to feel there own dissapointment helps them realize that their dissapointment and someone else’s joy are separate things…and it helps one learn to be sad for one’s own circumstances and happy for others at the same time.

    • Stacey says:

      Your comment totally makes sense!! That is one of the things I have been struggling with lately. Some people have hurt me by just throwing out phrases such as, well just have to take this as the Lord’s will, you’ll be fine God’s in control, you just need to trust more, or even-don’t have a pity-party, could be worse. When all I really want is like you said someone to understand and acknowledge this is hard. I want people to be real with me, and not pretend that they have it all figured out and need to help fix me. That’s so awesome that people were so good about acknowledging your hard time! That would have been so difficult, not sure if I could have done as well as you did. What a blessing to know you did do it and people got it. Totally makes sense!

  3. Stacey says:

    You have me in tears! This is something I struggle with so much! And as the previous person commented I look at friends on facebook who seem to have all the things that I desire. It is how we perceive things. My life has gotten a little crazy as I’m the full time caregiver for my mom who has beginning stages of alzheimers. I’m an only child, so it’s a little difficult sometimes. My job situation is changing next year, what I have been doing and LOVE doing with all my heart for the past 15 years is changing. So, I have been looking at people and find myself jealous of some good things that have come their way. I too have heard people tell me they are jealous of my singleness at times, which seems so strange. But I need to ask God to help me be content where I am. He still has good for me too. He just needs me to go through this right now to bring me where He wants me to be and to be stronger in Him. Thanks so much!! What a great, much needed (for me) post!

    • Jill says:

      Wow. Stacey, reading your reply is like reading my own life, with caregiving for my mother as an only child, no support from family and having a job that’s changed for the worst earlier this year. In all honesty, I can’t be happier for what God has done in my friends’ lives as I watch them meet & marry their loves, start and raise families. One friend in particular went through a major situation last year and the Lord blessed her with a great guy who’s helped her through it, as their relationship grows. I’ve not had anyone tell me they’re jealous of my freedom or singleness, though. I’m deeply struggling, especially as I watch my mother change before my eyes. I have and will continue to ask God to work on me with this issue.

      Thank you for this post. Following fast.pray has been one of the best things I did this year.

      • amy says:

        Jill and Stacey — glad I could be an encouragement, and will be praying for both of you on Mondays…we’re in this together, even when our lives look different…

      • Stacey says:

        Wow, Jill, you are so right!! Our situations are so similar! I can’t even get over how similar. That has been one of the hard things for me, someone understanding the stress level of taking care of a parent by yourself. The sadness as you said of seeing her change before your eyes. This person who I normally would have shared my singleness struggle with, who would have prayed with me and encouraged me through this is no longer with me. Then, just this summer finding out my employers want me to do something I’m not confident about or comfortable with. Something totally different than my degree, and from what I have loved for 15 years. It’s really hard. Most friends I have here are married and have kids, so I don’t want to bother them when I need someone to talk to. So that’s hard too. I understand about the family help too. My mom’s brother lives maybe 5 min. away and we see him once every couple of months maybe. Her sister lives 8 or so hours away and calls every night, but offers too much advice from too far away so I don’t talk to her much, just let my mom get it so I don’t end up totally discouraged! One thing that has helped when I feel unable to talk to someone is blogging. I actually have two of them now and it is very there therapeutic for me. I have one I just started of letters to my mom. Anyway, Jill I’m so glad you commented, it helped me so much to see such a similar situation to mine. I will be praying for you as undertake the huge task of caring for your mom. You’re doing a great thing, and I know doing a great job! God sees how you’re honoring her even when it’s hard, that hasn’t missed His eyes! And no, that last sentence wasn’t original with me, someone shared it with me and it was a huge blessing. Hope it encourages you as well.

      • Stacey says:

        And yes, Amy, you were a big encouragement!! Thanks for that!! It’s so encouraging to me to just be a part of this. So thankful for a friend who shared this with me so I could follow. It helps so much!! Thank you!

  4. Vimbiso says:

    I love the words PERCEIVED GREATER HAPPINESS – coz that’s what it is isnt it? I find i have to fight that thinking as I look over friends pictures on facebook. Their weddings, then sometime later their babies. To not envy becomes a struggle. God gave me a reality check when I visited a friend married with 3 children whom i had not seen in years. As we shared about our lives she said to me – I envy your freedom. I started to laugh as I said and I was busy envying your family! It just brought home again that the issue is my heart not my situation.

    • amy says:

      Vimbiso…crazy how we imagine everyone else’s life to be better than ours because we only see bits of the picture!

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