Singles Q&A: Why Not Me? A Woman's Struggle With Envy
- Wednesday, May 24, 2006
QUESTION: What are your suggestions about combating envy and learning to be content with the blessings God has given us? I struggle often with envy of married women/mothers. Not that I am specifically coveting their husbands or their children, but I desperately want/lust after/idolize a family of my own. The really sad part about it is, I know that I have a lot to be extremely thankful to God for (basically, everything else in my life). But it's not enough! I have read some good advice on cultivating contentment, but my little garden of peace and joy is not growing. Just when I think I have learned to be content with God's plan for my life, something pops up out of nowhere to arouse my envy again... as they say, "the green-eyed monster" rears its ugly head.
ANSWER: This problem is worst when I am alone (which unfortunately as a single, is a lot of the time). When I am actually in the moment, looking at someone's wedding pictures or holding their baby, I am usually able to be genuinely happy for them. But later I find myself thinking, why not me? I know that God's economy is different from that of this world, and that somehow all this suffering is going to be redeemed someday, but I just can't shake this sense of “wrong-ness,” that this isn't how things should be.
A: Envy is a difficult sin to wrestle. It’s like trying to pin Jello. As soon as you think you have it under control, it squirts in the opposite direction, refusing to be contained. But it is a serious sin, according to Scripture, so it should not be swept away to be consigned to the “that’s just the way it is” department.
Before we begin, though, I would like to start with the evidences of grace in your letter. I think it’s important for you to recognize what the Holy Spirit has already revealed to you. You have sought out materials to study for cultivating contentment. You are aware the strong desires you have are dominating you in many ways, so you are correct in viewing them in the biblical category of idolatry. And you are able to rejoice with those who rejoice and not withdraw in bitterness. These are great reasons to stop and thank God for the character He is building in you! I believe seeing the hand of God in your life will also strengthen your faith that He will complete the good work He has already begun in you (Philippians 1:6).
With that in mind, let’s look at what the Bible says about envy. Envy and covetousness are closely related, but as I study the Word I see a subtle but important difference. Covetousness desires what someone else has. Envy resents them for having it. When you covet something, you want that item. When you envy, you not only want that item or status, you resent the one who possesses it. I think it’s rare not to experience both, though, which is why these sins are often connected.
Why does this matter? Unless you act on these attitudes, how could they be called sin? To start, covetousness is listed among the Ten Commandments. It is number ten (Exodus 20:17): “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's” (emphasis added). Though there is no Old Testament death penalty for this sin, the New Testament is clear about how envy is a work of the flesh — meaning, something that leads to death and not to eternal life.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. (Galatians 5:19-21, emphasis added).
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