Defeating Envy

Envy and I are enemies, but I feel it gearing up for another battle.
It has marshaled its troops yet again now that I am writing.
In order to better learn this craft, I’ve been reading the blogs of other writers. LOTS of other writers.
Some have gorgeously designed themes, graphics and images. Some have great post topics. Many simply have inspiring content. Eloquent, thoughtful writing that draws me in from the first line, stimulates my thinking and nourishes my soul.
And some writers have it all.
That’s where envy dug its trenches this time.
I start comparing. Envy rises in me like bubbles in a champagne glass. Bubbles that threaten to burst my confidence and peace.
This isn’t the first time envy and I have been in hand-to-hand combat.
I’ve envied the clothes, shoes, jewelry, cars, vacations, number of children, opportunities, talents and successes of many, many people over the years.
Wanting what others have.
Doesn’t the bible say this is a sin?
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Exodus 20:17

In my blog meanderings, I read an intriguing post about envy having its roots in idol worship. If we crave something other than a relationship with God so much, we’ve made it an idol.
I agree wholeheartedly, but also want to add another thought to the conversation.
In addition to taking my eyes off God, envy whispers, “I don’t have enough.”
Envy sighs, “I want THAT more than what I have.”
Believing those statements is like turning my back on God’s outstretched hand. A hand that not only reaches for us, but gives abundantly to us.
Everything I have and all that I am, is a gift from God. I may have worked hard and earned some things, but it’s only through God’s grace and provision that I have them at all.
And I certainly haven’t earned many of my blessings. I haven’t earned my able body, sound mind or opportunities to enjoy them. They’re all gifts.
The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

Exodus 4:11

I haven’t earned the family I am blessed to be a part of, or the friends who are always in my prayers of gratitude. These are some of my most precious gifts.
My life, and everything in it, belongs to God, and has been given to me through His generosity. And He can decide at any moment to remind me of that fact.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Job 1:21

I express my gratitude daily. But in the next breath my envy suggests what I have isn’t enough. I’m negating my gratitude with every covetous thought. Am I the only one who does this?
I don’t want to pray insincerely. I don’t mean to. But if I give permission to envious thoughts, I’m allowing insincerity into my heart and I know for sure, God sees what’s in my heart when I pray.
So I catch myself. Each and every time.
….we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

Thoughts. What erroneous thoughts nudge envy to the front lines?
I am a child of God but not completely uninfluenced by our culture. A culture that values winning, or being the best. There’s only one Olympic gold medal, one Super Bowl trophy, one President. When there’s one winner, then everyone else is clearly not. Have I subconsciously bought into this idea?
Your “win” is not necessarily my loss. In God’s economy, there are infinite blessings. God is capable of anything, so He is certainly more than able to shower blessings on me too. He already has.
God gets to decide what I should have in my life and what I shouldn’t. Maybe what I want isn’t in my best interest.
He knows what I need and when I need it. He provides. Not always in the way I expect, but He provides abundantly.
If I’m looking at someone else’s life, then my eyes are not where they should be and my gratitude is not pure. And if I allow the troops to advance, they will inflict damage on my relationship with God by poisoning me with insincerity and a lack of trust that what He has given me is enough.
And that is something I simply will not allow.
And just for the record, I feel genuine happiness for the blessings other people enjoy. It’s just that I want the same in my life too.
So I fight.
I fight with the full armor of God. (Ephesians 6:11)
I fight with the belt of truth. (Ephesians 6:14)
I fight with the sword of the spirit. (Ephesians 6:17)
I fight with trust. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
And in the end, I’m standing and victorious.
But I never rest on my laurels because I know the battle is not yet completely won. My enemy has just retreated. For now.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll see someone wearing an outfit I love. Or I’ll hear of a dream vacation planned for this summer. Or I’ll read a perfect blog post. Envy is tricky and cunning. It’s patient. It waits until I feel comfortable and content.
The next surprise attack could come at any moment.
But I’m always ready for a rematch.

If this topic speaks to you, please leave a comment. I would love to learn how others deal with this issue!

  • Kim
    May 16, 2016

    Wonderful writing, oh how we do struggle with envy even when we don’t want to. Blessings to you and thank you for your insight.

    • Jo-Ann
      May 17, 2016

      Thank you Kim! So glad to know I’m not alone in this struggle. And thank you for continuing to read and comment!

  • Tom P.
    May 18, 2016

    I got to work this morning and looked at my Billy Graham calendar. I thought the following went well with your post.

    Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5) BG’s take: “The human mind cannot be a vacuum. It will be filled either with good or evil. It will be either carnal or Christlike. We CAN control the kind of thoughts that enter our minds. Give your mind to Christ that you may be guided by His wisdom”.

    • Jo-Ann
      May 18, 2016

      Thanks for sharing this quote Tom. Rev. Graham is so right – “the human mind cannot be a vacuum”. Oh the thoughts that run around in our minds! But he’s also right in stressing that is our responsibility to be in control of our thoughts. That’s why it’s always a battle. At least in MY mind, and I suspect in most. I really appreciate your contribution to this conversation!

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