An unexpected result of focusing on simplicity this month has been the revelation that my heart is a hoarder. And a comsumer. And a glutton.
I wondered out loud to Rob this week if I might be happier living day to day, with no choice but to trust the Lord for my provisions. God has certainly blessed some people with that life – I think of the missionary George Mueller, who trusted God to provide for himself and over 10,000 orphans throughout the 68 years of his trusting God to provide every need in his life and ministry – but I also know that asceticism, isolationism, or self-imposed poverty wouldn’t cure the problem with my heart. Nor would riches beyond number.
Envy is not a new problem for me – or for most of us I’d bet – but it has hit me hard recently. Why am I not “content no matter my circumstance” (Phillipians 4:12)? Like Paul, I know what it is to be in want (though not in prison!! I have rarely feared for my life – and never due to deprivation), and I know what it is to have plenty. Why is Paul’s contentedness unrelated to his circumstances? John Calvin says in his commentary,
“Whatever my condition may be, I am satisfied with it.” Why? because saints know that they thus please God. Hence they do not measure sufficiency by abundance, but by the will of God, which they judge of by what takes place, for they are persuaded that their affairs are regulated by his providence and good pleasure.”
I would argue that our contentedness is never completely related to our circumstances, but to our level of trust in His provision and goodness.
As I’ve pondered this, I’ve still found myself left desiring a plan to conquer this envy. Here are a few of the strategies I know to be helpful in related situations:
As I shared my thoughts with Rob in the car the other day, I found it very easy to name the list of things I’d been envious of that morning. I didn’t mean it as a confession. But as I spoke, I was struck (and saddened) by the frivolity of most of it (cute shoes that matched the outfit of a friend, the grande coffee another had picked up on her way to meet us). He didn’t need to say a thing in rebuke (and he had no intention to) – the Holy Spirit took care of that immediately. Saying it out loud made my folly obvious. I know confession in prayer does the same.
If my heart is full of gratitude, there’s no room for envy, right? My life is certainly full of things to be thankful for! I’ve avoided making a list of these things, mostly because I don’t like reading the lists others post online. If that doesn’t show you my heart…
So I think it’s probably time for me to start making that list.
By “perspective,” I don’t just mean that we should be thankful things aren’t worse. It certainly does help to remember how much we have compared to others, but as this wonderful post by a lovely lady I met recently states, sometimes having less is freeing, and not bad at all. I am instead thinking about the fact that I often feel I have earned or intrisicly deserve more than I have, when the truth is that every single breath I take is a gift of God’s grace. I am completely dependent on His provision whether I like it or not.
Also, envy betrays a lack of perspective in that it proves I am wrapped up in my own wants and perceived needs rather than others’. It also shows that I am wrapped up in want I want right NOW rather than what might be best for me in the long term.
Will you pray for me as I work through this? I am encouraged by the fact that right after Paul’s declaration that he’s always content in Philippians 4:12, he shares the source of his steadfastness,
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”