Who among us has not struggled with jealously at one time or another? It starts when we are kids and the girl down the street gets a new bike, or the boy in our class gets to take karate lessons and you can’t. A few years later we find ourselves at a stoplight, behind the wheel of our parent’s old car, only to have the biggest jerk you know pull up beside us in a brand new car (and doesn’t it always seem to be the car of our dreams?). Then, adulthood comes and everyone else seems to be getting married or having babies but us. Or, maybe all of your friends are in their dream jobs and you are still trying to find yourself. Jealousy is never far out of reach and it can creep up in us when we least expect it.
When one marriage partner is struggling with jealousy, the other partner gets dragged into the ugliness whether he or she likes it or not. To be jealous, you have to first feel sorry for yourself. If your neighbor gets a promotion and is able to afford a three week cruise and you find yourself jealous of his or her success, you have to first feel sorry that you are not in his or her position. When you begin feeling sorry for yourself, you become discontent. When you are discontent in one area, it is easy to become discontent in other areas. Once you are discontent in many areas, it affects your face, your conversations, your energy, your outside relationships. and your marriage – bitterness emerges.
One reason I feel so passionate about this topic is because it is near to my heart. For several years, I have wanted to be a mother. Early in our marriage, I thought I might be pregnant. It was much sooner than we had planned to have kids, but when the pregnancy test came back negative, I was more crushed than I expected. From that day forward, I wanted to be a mother more than anything. It consumed my thoughts to the point that my mind played tricks on me. Any little change in how I was feeling gave me hope that I might be pregnant, but every month the test results broke my heart again.
Proverbs 13:12 tells us that when hope is deferred, it makes our heart sick. The more tests I took, the more heartsick I became; and it seemed like for every negative pregnancy test I had, there was a positive one being talked about at work, on Facebook, or through friends and family.
I confess that I did not spend enough time in prayer about my pain and because I was not cleansing my mind with God’s Word, I became very jealous. Eric became fearful of telling me when other people were pregnant, because it was not uncommon for me to burst into tears and be worthless for the rest of the night when he did. He spent a lot of time rubbing my back and telling me, “it’ll be okay.”
My dad also began to keep other people’s pregnancies from me and my work friends cringed whenever another person in our department announced a pregnancy. I wanted to be happy for others, but instead my insides would tense up and I’d feel so angry. Why not me?!? Was I being punished?!? As time went on, my discontentment began affecting my spirit and face. The abundance of blessings in my life paled in comparison to the desire I had that was not fulfilled.
Recently, I watched the movie The Help, and in one scene a wise, older woman approached a young lady who was hiding because she had not been asked to a school dance. She told the older lady that all the boys thought she was ugly. Without skipping a beat this wise woman said, “You quit feeling sorry for yourself. Now that’s ugly. Ugly is something that goes up inside of you. It’s mean and hurtful.”
Something about that scene made me realize how ugly my discontent (feeling sorry for myself) was making me. God gave me life and with life comes trials. How I choose to handle those trials is up to me. I can choose to be grateful in the hard times and overcome feelings of jealousy by reminding myself of God’s grace in my life – or, I can choose to wallow in my own self pity and waste away, being no good to no one.
When we choose to wallow in our own despair and unhealthy jealousy, our spouse has no choice but to be affected. He or she can stay as far away from the situation as possible, but they cannot escape the negative effects of our attitude. This is not to say that people should not grieve. Grieving is good and necessary, but there is a point where we must take God’s hand and keep moving forward. I have not given up hope that I will be a mother someday, but in the meantime, I can spend time with my friends’ kids and I can be available to others in a way that I won’t be able to once I’m home caring for my own children. God’s plan is perfect and I need to rest in His sovereign plan… always. How about you?
Do you find yourself struggling with discontentment? If so, how has it affected your relationships? Have you overcome a season of jealousy and discontentment? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below!