Learning to Celebrate with Others (When You Wish It Was You)
She got the promotion you were hoping to receive. She has the sweet daughter you always wanted, while you struggle to manage two boys. She got the award you were striving to win all year. She found the strong Christian husband you dreamed of while your ring finger remains bare. She has the gorgeous house by the water and beautiful kitchen, and you have to return to your half-renovated house.
I’ve been there. I’ve watched others stride into the circumstances that I so desperately wanted for myself. I’ve watched people receive the things I was sweating and grappling to earn. And I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t rejoice with them, but soaked in the bitter envy. Some of these people were my friends, and though part of me wanted to be happy for them and support them in this new endeavour, I was too ridden with jealousy and sadness to truly celebrate with them.
What about you? Have you sat in that seat before? If you have, I want to show you what God is teaching me about learning to put off jealousy with contentment and trusting him with my current season so that I can humbly celebrate with my friends.
This inability to celebrate with others begins with a discontented jealousy. We want something desperately, perhaps even idolatrously, and when we see someone else has it, we envy.
Proverbs gives us insight into what jealousy is like: “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30 ESV). Do you feel that rotting? That bitterness inside of you? Envy eats away at us, rotting us from the inside out, like an apple with a rotten core but a deceiving crisp and healthy outer layer.
But this rot doesn’t remain hidden. Jealousy leaks into other areas of our life, and creates further sin. James 3:16 says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” He goes on in the next chapter to say that the conflicts and quarrels that exist among the believers are due to their lust. Jealousy and envy don’t remain hidden in our hearts, but will eventually rot our entire being.
We need to learn to put off this sin the moment we recognize it. It’s not enough to clap your hands in “celebration” when your heart is still jealous. We need to change our hearts.
Content in Christ
We begin with repentance, and we strive to learn contentment. In all of our unmet desires that we so jealously seek, we need to learn to be content in Christ first. Desires in themselves are not bad, but they become bad when they become an idol—something we worship rather than worshipping God.
Like Paul, we need to cultivate a heart that proclaims, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Rather than stewing in envy at your friend who got what you wanted, put off the idolatry of your desire. Desire Christ more. He is enough, and he is better than any desire you could ever have. Christ died for your sins and he promises eternal life. He sets you free from your bondage to sin. Find rest and contentment in him.
Trusting the Sovereign Saviour with the Season
In the midst of our discontented jealousy, there’s a part of us that’s unhappy with the current circumstance God has put us in. We don’t want what we have because we want what they have.
However, we should rejoice in whatever place we are in because God has placed us here for a reason. He has a good purpose in it. Romans 8:28-30 reminds us that God does all things for our good, which is our sanctification. You can’t compare your place in life with someone else’s; what they have is the best for them, and what you have is best for you.
Remember that God is much wiser than us. Isaiah 55:8-9 says that God’s ways are higher than ours, and his thoughts higher than our thoughts. Whatever it is that you desire but don’t have, God made the wise decision of keeping it from you. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:1). If he has withheld it, it is for your best.
God is trustworthy. He not only knows what it best, but gives it as well. Trust him with this season, and celebrate with your friend who has also received a good and perfect gift from God.
Having put off discontented jealousy, growing in contentment in Christ, and trusting the sovereign God, rejoice with your friend. Be happy for her as she celebrates. See the joy in her heart that God has given her, and be excited about it. Be excited about what God is doing in her life. Rather than comparing or wishing you had what she did, praise God for the work he is doing in both of your lives.