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How to Find Joy When Someone Else Gets What You Want

  • Lindsey Smallwood
  • 2016 9 Jun
How to Find Joy When Someone Else Gets What You Want

My friend just wrote a book.

She sent me an advance copy and it is perfect. Sharp, witty storytelling, incisive ideas, a darling cover with cool, scripty font. I loved holding the result of all of her hard work in my hands, posting a glowing Amazon review and texting her my enthusiastic congratulations.

I hate what happened next, the feelings coming in a flood, each one all too familiar.


Whether it's cheering on a friend for accomplishing a lifetime dream or seeing an Instagram pic of a gorgeous birthday cake my neighbor made for her husband, I find myself constantly comparing my life to those around me, wondering how I measure up. Will a publisher ever offer me a book contract? Why did she get that opportunity when I didn't? Does my husband care that he got a burned cake from a box mix on his special day? Beneath those are deeper, more persistent questions:

Am I doing enough?
Do I have enough?
Am I enough?

These questions, these feelings are frequent companions. In fact, they are frequent enough that I know exactly how to fight back:

· I know that I can choose to rejoice in my friend's successes, instead of focusing on my shortcomings.

· I know that I need to stop comparing my life to other’s.

· I know that I can cling to what God's word says is true, that He's working everything together for my good, that He has plans for me to prosper.

And yet, sometimes it's hard to believe. When I watch a family from church move into a beautiful home while we keep making it work in our tiny apartment, I wonder if God cares about my longing for a bigger place. And every time I read a hilarious blog post by a writer more successful than I am, I worry God's plans don't include my own writer-ly dreams coming to pass.

Here's the thing though - God's plans for me aren't the same as His plans for the people around me. Jesus told us that we should not worry about what we need because God would provide it.

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Luke 12:27-31

If I focus on what God is doing, I don't have to worry. I like the way Caleb McAfee explains what this kind of prosperity means.

"Biblical prosperity is having more than enough to accomplish God's plans."

He's promised I will prosper, that if I'm faithful to follow Him, He will make my life fruitful. The questions are answered.

I'm doing enough.
I have enough.
I am enough.

Because He is more than enough. And whatever His plans are for my life, be it writing a best-selling novel or blogging away in obscurity, He will make sure I have all I need. God's plans for me to prosper might not include a house or book contract or even beautiful birthday cakes. But I know that they are good.

So I can keep on celebrating my friend's successes, knowing that their wins don't come at my expense. I can cheer loudly, choosing to see God's goodness and abundance in their situations, rather than picking apart what might be lacking in my own. This kind of unselfish celebration is crucial to life together in community.

In Romans 12, Paul gives these instructions: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another.

Joy with the joyful - that's life as it should be. It's only possible when we learn to trust that God will provide all we need in His perfect time. 

Lindsey Smallwood works and writes in Boulder, Colorado, where she hopes to leave a legacy of good relationships and bad dance moves. After careers in campus ministry, special education and circus arts, she's currently chasing her little boys and serving on staff at her local church. Follow along with Lindsey on her blog at and check out her new 5-week Bible study guide Philemon & Colossians: In Christ Alone.