The story replays itself often: I scroll through my Facebook news feed; wedding – baby – engagement – baby – wedding – engagement – more babies.
I usually react one of three ways to other people’s good news:
- Yay, I’m so happy for them! They’ve been wanting/trying for this for a long time.
- Ugh, MORE people getting married and having babies! Don’t they know it’s super rude to post all that happy news all over Facebook? Geesh, have a little respect for those of us who want that and don’t have it.
- I canNOT believe SHE got engaged. I am so much prettier/smarter. I have better grammar/manners. I’m not sitting around waiting to pop out babies; I’m DOING something with my life – and SHE’S the one who gets the man?
I know that two-thirds of those responses are not right; but most of the time, I don’t even feel bad about blatantly thinking them (or saying them out loud).
One time, a friend announced her engagement on Facebook, and I immediately texted two friends and said something like, “Seriously? Her? She is SO. WEIRD. How did she get a boyfriend anyway? And now she gets to have a wedding and a HUSBAND?!” And the thing that made me feel better was the return text in which my friend told me everything wrong with the fiancé.
When I’m super honest in my selfish moments, I don’t want anyone younger than I to get married or have children. I don’t want anyone less attractive than I to get a spouse more attractive than I. I want basic spelling and grammar skills and a certain IQ to be a requirement for people in a relationship. I don’t want anyone who chews loudly to be able to attract a life partner.
Instead of noticing how terrible of a person I am for such thoughts, I justify it by telling myself, “I just want it to be fair, you know? I just want the normal people who are not wasting their singleness to get the normal spouses. I want it to be of equal ease/difficulty for every person ever to get into a relationship, to get married, to get pregnant.”
What I’m really saying when I claim to be advocating for “justice,” is “I deserve marriage/children more than that other person.” Or, stated differently, “That person doesn’t deserve that kind of happiness; that brand of God’s grace; that mercy in their lives.”
When I do that, I think I’m descrying injustice, but I am really opposing grace. I’m giving in to envy.
When I’m envious, I look at the good gifts that God gives to someone and say He isn’t good. The envy in me hears about someone else’s boyfriend/engagement/wedding/baby and actively tries to thwart their joy in the goodness and grace of God.
I’m basically telling God that He has no right to bless that other person unless he blesses me equally, that His blessings to me are the wrong kind, or they aren’t enough. I’m declaring to the world that what God’s doing in my life is not good.
WHAT GIVES ME THAT RIGHT?! Nothing. Nothing!
In those (too often) moments of envy, I forget that I, too, have been the recipient of God’s grace. I don’t deserve a Christian family, a free country, siblings who still stay in touch with me, a job I love, two awesome roommates, an apartment with my own room and bathroom, a church family who lives and laughs and loves with me, and a cute blue car that actually runs.
I deserve God’s wrath (Romans 1:18), and I’ve received His grace (Titus 2:11-12). I deserve death (Romans 6:23), and I’ve received life in Jesus (John 20:31). I deserve to be alone forever away from God (Matthew 25:41), and I’ve received the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).
When I give in to envy, I don’t just oppose someone else’s happiness. I oppose the work that Jesus did on the cross, the work that allowed God to be gracious at all (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). And yet – AND YET – He still died and paid for my hideous envy (I Peter 2:24). Because He’s that gracious.
God’s grace is greater than my envy, and giving into it will only lead to MY heartache because His grace will always get the last word. Even if I go to my grave, railing against my singleness and my sisters’ marriages; even if I die, screaming that I deserved children and grandchildren more than my Facebook friends; even if I keel over in the middle of a rant about how someone else was not a good enough spouse/parent to deserve the chance to marry/parent – God’s. Grace. Will. Win. Because I’ll be where I absolutely do not deserve to be: in heaven, with Jesus, who died for my bad attitude (Romans 4:25).
Tears have come to my eyes several times as I’ve been writing this. I’ve been so awful this week, fighting envy in several areas – some that don’t even have anything to do with singleness:
- I was struggling with the idea that my friend’s dad would visit her as she’s studying abroad, because mine couldn’t afford to when I was studying abroad.
- I was giving into thoughts that some mothers I know shouldn’t have kids because I would be a better mother.
- I was believing that I deserve a better house with a yard because I’ve been so fiscally responsible, while someone else who hasn’t is getting that very thing.
When I get my eyes off of envy, though, and put them on grace, I can’t help but realize this beautiful truth: I don’t deserve anything (Romans 5:8), but I have everything in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).
My God gives good gifts (Matthew 7:11), and without envy, I have the freedom to rejoice even when those gifts go to someone else. When God gives THAT super impatient, self-centered person a kid; when He gives THAT ditzy woman a boyfriend; when He gives THAT undersocialized homeschooler who is younger than I a spouse and five kids – THAT’s when I can rejoice in God’s unparalleled grace and kindness. Because HE’S MY GOD, TOO. I am loved by the God that gives those good gifts.
I am loved by the God of ultimate grace, in a place where envy cannot thrive. I am loved by my Jesus (John 15:13).
***I credit the Gospel-Centered ideas presented in the post largely to Tim Cain and his sermon entitled “Love Does Not Envy,” presented at Kaleo Church in El Cajon, CA on August 2, 2014. The sermon is available here.***