Sunday, July 7, 2013

Stop Envy & Discontent in 7 Steps

Let your conduct be without covetousness; and be content with what you have: for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you. – Hebrews 13:5

Do you struggle with envy or discontent?

We all do, but rarely for the same reasons. For example, I don't envy people for their things or destinations or vacations. I don't envy a childless woman's flat stomach or her pretty legs clear of varicose veins. I don't like my varicose veins, but I remember when my legs were clear too. Every women gets her turn to have her body in its virginal state; my turn is past, the same as it is for wrinkle-free skin and hair without white strands.

Envy is a struggle for me in this regard: family gatherings.

When I see cars at people's houses around holiday times, probably indicating a family get-together, I feel depressed that we're so lonely on holidays. I envy the people inside for their laughter and good cheer, and for their support.

It's just us here so I'm always on duty for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and every other holiday preparation. Holidays can feel exhausting, not relaxing, though husband helps with the kids and the cooking. But a woman knows: there's still the planning, shopping and budgeting of food and time.

I know what some of you are thinking: The more extended family you have around, the more dysfunction you deal with, because every family has dysfunction. Maybe you'd rather cook for days than deal with hours of dysfunctional sibling or parental tension.

Yes, true, but when I drive by a happy party I don't think about the dysfunction inherent in these settings, I think about the good cheer, the togetherness, the support. The grass just looks greener over there, on holidays.

A time will come when my kids are older and we'll have more time to make friends, perhaps creating a merry table with them. God heard our cries and blessed us with our single Christian friend Dean back in January, whom we knew in California and who now lives 45 minutes away. He comes when he's feeling well, enjoying the children and vice versa.

I know this: God is not honored by envy. It's a sinful snare--the enemy's lies prevailing in our hearts for a time.

I know His plan is perfect, regardless of my feelings. My reaction is the problem, not God's plan. I'm good about counting my blessings except at holiday time.

Whatever the reason for your own envy, along with me, you can benefit from these strategies:

1. Repent 

Envy is the sin of covetousness, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 11:10). We should fear His reaction to our ongoing sin, as a people who love him and want to please him and bring him glory. We need to confess before God and turn 180 degrees, signaling true repentance.

2. Be spiritually prepared--head off Satan by praying ahead of time

If it's that certain woman's flat stomach or shiny new mini-van, pray before you see her: for a pure heart, for a grateful heart, and that you'll be able to: rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

3. Do a topical study to gather Bible verses about your personal envy issue. 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Gather all you can about your specific topic, and about contentment and gratitude in general. Read all the scriptures and then pray them into your heart, which is an act of faith that God will change you--it's an important step to true heart change. We can read a scripture and think it sounds wonderful, but change comes when we care enough and believe enough to ask God for help; we can't change on our own. 

"Dear Father, I ask that this scripture be realized in my heart...that I would live its truth and bring you glory. Change me, Lord."

4. Keep track of your progress. 

Psalm 103:2 Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits--

Next time you see that woman and don't give her van or her flat stomach a single thought, rejoice. Tell God thank you. He's heard the cry of your heart. He loves you; he rejoices in you. He's faithful.

5. Count your blessings
Psalm 40:5 Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

Counting our blessings is not about being thankful for what we have in comparison to others. It's about realizing that in Christ, we have everything.

6. Be generous with your blessings. 

Acts 20:35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

7. Trust God and surrender completely. 

Mark 14:35-36 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Know that His plan for your life, including how you spend holidays, is perfect. Recognize and celebrate His sovereignty, perfection, and faithfulness. Give up having it your way: Lay down your life, your plans, your hopes, for the glory of God.

There's no greater joy, no greater gain, than when we surrender to our Lord completely, our white flag indicating we love Him more than we love ourselves. 

When His glory finally becomes our goal, we can be perfectly content.

Relevant Scriptures:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. – 1Timothy 6:6-7

Let your conduct be without covetousness; and be content with what you have: for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.Hebrews 13:5

A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. The heart of him that has understanding seeks knowledge: but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness. All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart has a continual feast. Better is a little with the fear of Yahweh than great treasure with trouble. – Proverbs 15:13-16

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy is rottenness to the bones. – Proverbs 14:30

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am in to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13

Prayer Time: 
Dear Heavenly Father, how we love you. Thank you for your beautiful, steadfast, sacrificial love. You gave it all to redeem us and we want to live for you, honor you and bring you glory. Change our hearts, Lord. Whatever state we're in, teach us to be content and thankful. Help us to truly repent of envy, to be spiritually prepared through the power of prayer, to study your Word, to track our progress, to count our blessings, to be generous, and to surrender fully to you. We have everything in You, Lord. Open our eyes so we can truly see what the Lamb of God has done for us.

In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

Giving Thanks Today:

~ sunshine on Monday

~ fireworks

~ kids bowl free (Mary got 4 strikes and 3 spares in two games--by rolling the ball!)

~ a little headway on our fruit fly problem

~ morning glories climbing the fence

~ neighbors loaning my boys and the neighbor kids a bike ramp

~ little Beth's tonsil & adenoid surgery is this Wednesday. Breathing normally will be such a wonderful thing for her after all these months.

~ Paul playing beautifully on the piano

~ Beth playing with her dollies so sweetly

~ God's Word

~ Knowing that He is so faithful and loves us so much

~ Compassion letters

~ four precious children filling my home and heart

Giving thanks with Ann Voskamp today for Multitude Monday, at Holy Experience.

What are you thankful for today, my friend?



Tesha Papik said...

You are so right on envy is dangerous and deadly. I find it strange the things I envy in others. like you it is not usually looks but the life or relationships they appear to have. For example I spent so much of my life envying sister. One day my husband said to me Tesha you have a sister! I knew he meant my cousin that I grew up... we live in the same house most of my life. It hit me like I ton of brick what I had always wanted I already had! AMAZING. Beautiful encouraging post. By the way I could not help but picture your family 20 years down the road what beautiful celebrations you will have with your grown children and their families!

Christine said...

Thank you, Tesha! I often tell the children that some day our holidays will be full of loved ones.

I remember reading about your cousin last summer when you went to Tennessee. She does seem perfect as a sister! God is amazing.

winterpastluanne said...

"sunshine on Monday" - such a simple thing and yet it is - blessing and gift and grace! You have a lovely list and a lovely little spot here! I'm so glad I visited :)


Beth said...

Praying for you as you seek to help your father-in-law. We are doing good -- trying to get over jet lag.