As I looked at Facebook not too long ago, I noticed that a few longtime friends had gathered at a party. It wasn’t a party that I would have expected to attend, but somehow I felt left out. I was annoyed that people post social event pictures at all. (My thoughts weren’t directed at that one person or event because I see photos and read posts about parties constantly.) I thought, “That is so insensitive!” immediately validating my feelings of jealousy. Of course there is nothing wrong with posts of friends having fun. The problem is in me.
Seemingly unrelated, I often have conversations with Christians who feel they are doing nothing significant, that their lives don’t really count. As I probe more deeply into why, they inevitably compare themselves with friends with major ministries or successful careers. Some of them want a big ministry or job opportunity while others really don’t. Some have been waiting for God to open the door to something great and big for a long time while others have no such aspirations. Yet, they all feel unused and useless as they compare themselves to others.
The truth is that all of us can let our perspectives be skewed by a competitive spirit which fuels jealousy. Instead of being content to serve God wherever he puts us in the present (with fun friends or not, involved in great worldwide ministry or not, married or not, with children or not), we fall for the lie that God left us out of his plans, proven by our lack of friends, spouses, children, fun, significance, or success. So we get angry at those who have what we lack and at God for holding out on us. As a result our attention is diverted from the more ordinary ways that God wants us to serve him in the now and everyday.
Jealousy rather than contentment—an ancient issue.
King Saul of Israel was consumed by jealousy over David’s success and popularity, so for years David ran from Saul and his army who were attempting to kill him. Yet, David let God determine the time of Saul’s death rather than kill him when opportunities arose. He looked to God and entrusted his future to him, while Saul lost perspective looking at David rather than God.
When feelings of jealousy arise because we feel left out or passed over, God wants to show us that the problem is inside of us. We may be buying into lies about ourselves or about God. We may think that big is better, while in God’s economy that is not true. We may not trust that God has us right where we are for a reason. We may not believe that he can and is using us in ordinary places.
Wrong focus means that we ignore the present opportunity to serve God right where we are. I’ve done it, and I suspect that you have as well. How has God shown you the problem within?