When I saw the post, my face fell. My husband, seeing my expression, immediately thought something bad had happened.
I crammed the phone in my pocket. I needed to load the kids in the car and get them to my brother’s house to eat lunch. I’d been decluttering my childhood that sat in boxes in my parent’s attic for several hours, and we were late. I’d process this later.
After several hours of stewing, hurt and anger threatening mutiny over rational thought, I showed my husband the post. The smiling faces of our closest friends looked back at us — from a party to which we were not invited. Now his face fell.
Did they overlook us? Not likely. We lived closer to the host than every other couple in the picture and had spoken to them hours before the party. Did they think we wouldn’t want to come? Or that we’d want to bring our kids? Maybe they didn’t like our kids? No, it was me. Well, maybe it was my husband…. Argh!
The emotions would not stop. I was so hurt. So angry. My internal dialog went something like this: They were in the wrong. My friend was in the wrong. No, she wasn’t my friend. She didn’t even like me. I had to get out of my own head but I couldn’t.
Clarity from unlikely places
A few nights later, I was doing my normal Bible reading. I had recently finished reading through the Bible and restarted at the beginning. Growing up I didn’t think there was much to learn from some of the boring histories in the old testament. Luckily, God is gracious enough not to leave me in that childlike way of thinking. So in my reading, I had come to the end of Exodus, where God is instructing Moses how, who, and with what to build the tabernacle – the temporary, transitory house of worship for the Journey in the Wilderness. This takes at least four chapters and a fifth to describe the building. God is specific, right down to the priests’ undergarments.
I found myself thinking, “Wow! God really cared about the details.”
God really cared about the details. God really CARES about the details. He was paying attention. He IS paying attention. God cares about the details of my life. He is paying attention. He knows my hurt. These facts were a healing balm to my wounded spirit — and a reminder.
Comparison and Jealousy
The following day, I remembered a commercial I saw several years ago. A father is speaking to a child about comparison, although that word is never used between them. The end of their conversation has stayed with me: he tells the child, “You should only look in your neighbor’s bowl to make sure that he has enough.”
And then it hit me. Jealousy. I was jealous, and I had no right to be.
Maybe my friend was in the wrong. Maybe we were left out intentionally. Maybe she just didn’t like me. But in that picture that wounded me and my pride, were my other friends — friends that if they had a baby, or got a promotion or job offer, I would celebrate with them. Yet here I was, jealous that they went to a party and had a good time, and I didn’t. I was jealous. I was comparing what they got to what I had – and that is not my job— and it will ALWAYS result in jealousy.
1 John 2: 16 (NKJV) reminds us that “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
Make no mistake that there is a reason that God pointed out the lust of the eyes in this passage. What we look at directs our thoughts. Social media is dangerous ground. Look at the cool thing I did. Look at the cool friends I have. Look at my beautiful children. Look at the thing I bought. Look. Look. Look.
We see snippets of other people’s lives. And what follows the lust of the eyes? The pride of life. The pride in our life. Comparison. What the other person has, is, and did that we don’t, aren’t, and won’t.
So how do we, as Christians, use social media without it using us? Sometimes the easy answer is to shut it down. Newsflash: it is nonessential to survival. We existed without it for many, many years and millions still do. So if it is hurting more than helping, delete it. A friend of mine who struggled took his phone back to the store and said give me one without internet. I’m done. Extreme? Yes. Effective? Yes.
But if you checked, I have not deleted my facebook, twitter, or Instagram, so… what do I do?
First – Cheer, don’t compare.
Make no mistake, dear friend, when you compare, it steals your joy. The night my friends were partying without me, I was home with my family and perfectly happy. I successfully made a big pot of chili from a new recipe, put my boys to sleep, and watched a TV program with my husband that we both enjoy: all of which was more than enough for me to have had a “good” night. Comparison stole that from me. It took away my contentment.
Further, the people of whom I was jealous, were the exact same ones that I would celebrate with if one of them got a promotion, took an awesome trip, or even found a cool dress at a thrift store for $5. I should be celebrating this good thing for them. This is one of the things that should set Christians apart from the world: thinking of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
This verse contrasts two very different attitudes: serving self vs. serving others. The same word for selfish-ambition is found in several other places in scripture. Generally, the attitude of self-service is one identifying an unbeliever (See Romans 2:8-9). In Galatians 5:19-21, selfish ambition is listed alongside adultery, sorcery, and murder in a long list of works of the flesh. In the verses that follow, we see the familiar list of fruits of the Spirit (5:22-25) along with yet another warning “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another envying one another.” (5:26) Seeing this comparison over and over in scripture assures us that the contrast is intentional. Thinking of others adopts the mindset, Christ demonstrated while on earth and ultimately in death — and when I am thinking of others, I can cheer for them, even when what they have is something I want.
Second – When temptation comes, unplug.
James 3:14-17 tells us, “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
The NIV reads, ‘if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition” (emphasis added). Think of a harbor where ships dock. An anchor hold them firmly to that spot and must be completely pulled up before the ship can sail, else the anchor will drag and catch as the ship travels. Don’t let jealousy drop anchor in your soul. Turn your eyes, ears, and thoughts to something else. If the temptation here has anchored you, it will drag and snag on every little thing. Maybe this means putting down your phone for an hour – or a week – or chucking it out the window (Note: If your parents paid for said phone, talk to them before throwing it out the window. I will not pay for it or a new one). Maybe it means downsizing the number of apps there to distract you. Write out a list of what apps you use and what temptations they hold. Consider if those temptations can be curbed, or if the app needs to go.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” If the weight of jealous is weighing you down, lay aside the things that stir it up in your soul. You may find that after a season, you may return to them with a different perspective, or you may find that you do not miss them at all.
Third – Refocus
In Hebrews 12:2, just after instructing us to lay aside every weight, we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. In high school, a friend of mine gave the illustration of holding his hand in front of his face. The further the distance from his hand to his face, the easier it was to see and get distracted by other things. The closer his hand was, the easier it was to focus only on the hand and see nothing else. This is us looking at Christ: the closer we are to Him, the more all else fades away.
So how do you draw near to God? Pray. Talk to God about it. He truly cares about the details of your life. Dive into his word. It can be intimidating at first if you are not in the habit of reading your Bible. That’s ok — start small. One chapter a day. Read to understand, not just to get it done. Maybe that means you get hung up on one verse. Camp there. You can also study with a friend or even a podcast.
To further combat jealousy and refocus, Make a list of all the things for which you are thankful. Big things. Small things. Silly things. Set a goal – 10 things? 100 things? Thank God for those things. For some inspiration, read your Bible, go outside, look at your kids, call a friend going through a hard time to be an encourager.
My dear friend — it’s been a few months now. My emotions have calmed and my heart has healed. I know the same restoration is there for you, even if it doesn’t feel like it, but please remember: You are not alone and I am cheering for you.
Recommended study: Looking for a podcast to study along with? I’ve been enjoying “The Bible for the Ordinary Life.” She’s currently going through the book of John which is a fantastic place to start. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-bible-for-the-ordinary-life/id1503943865