In this world, desires for large bank accounts and spacious homes seem more practical than longing for God. But when I find true satisfaction in my Shepherd and trust in His wisdom in providing what I need, I find contentment and defeat envy.
Envy got the best of me a few years back. It struck me by surprise, and for a while, I let it win.
We had just moved into an older home in a suburb of Chicago. I had always thought I’d enjoy living in a quaint older home. This house, however, did not fit in that category. While it had all of the problems of a fifty-year-old building, it had none of the charm.
Although I tried not to complain, this not-so-charming home left some things to be desired. We had large, airy windows—but most were painted shut. The upstairs bathroom had all the necessary fixtures—toilet, sink, and shower—but only two square feet of floor space. The kitchen came with a functioning stove—in the 1970s harvest gold.
The damp, dark basement annoyed me the most. Neighbors told us that the man who built the house had hand-dug the basement, so it was far from level or even. Because it varied in height from five and a half feet to six feet, it became an obstacle course for my 6’2” husband. This basement also leaked. Every time it rained, a puddle the size of Lake Michigan appeared at the bottom of the stairs. In order to get to the washer and dryer, I had to hurdle over this lake with my laundry basket.
So here I was, living in this older home with its idiosyncrasies, when a new subdivision started up about a mile from our house—a neighborhood of luxury homes. Surely, even a bathroom in one of those big, beautiful brick houses was bigger than my living room. I may not have admitted this out-and-out envy, but driving past those mansions only to park in my crumbling driveway left me dissatisfied. The differences between my home and those homes became too evident and started a little green streak in me.
One day while struggling with my attitude, I read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11 NIV), and I sensed that God was telling me this was what was missing in my life. Contentment was the key to freedom from envy.
But how to cultivate this attitude of contentment? I was encouraged to see that even Paul, the pillar of faith that he was, had to learn contentment. Perhaps that meant I, too, could battle against envy and train my heart to live satisfied.
Here are three ways I gradually learned to win the battle against envy and jealousy:
Remember, God Is Enough
In Philippians 4, Paul goes on to say, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who strengthens me” (vv. 12-13 NIV). My first weapon to battle against envy is finding contentment in Christ and trusting a faithful God who will give me everything I need.
I needed to remember that God is enough. As I learned to desire my Savior more than windows that opened, when I longed for His nearness more than extra square footage in my bathroom, when I craved Him more than a dry basement, I was on the way to contentment. Of course, I still struggle with this truth. In this world, desires for large bank accounts and spacious homes seem more practical than longing for God. But when I find true satisfaction in my Shepherd and trust in His wisdom in providing what I need, I find contentment and defeat envy.
When I counted the bricks on the facades of the fancy homes down the street, numbered the elegant windows that most likely opened, and calculated the probability of spacious bathrooms on every floor, my happiness shrank. Envy came from looking at what the neighbors had rather than keeping my eye on my own reasons to be thankful.
Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else” (Galatians 6:4 NLT). While this passage talks specifically about work, the principle of avoiding comparison and paying attention to what we already have can help us battle against all kinds of envy.
Comparison made it impossible for me to find joy in the home I had. I began to realize that someone else will always have something better or more desirable than what I currently have. But to find contentment, I can’t dwell on that. Comparison erodes satisfaction in the gifts God has given.
Count Your Blessings
When I struggled to find happiness in a not-so-quaint house, I certainly couldn’t find it while gazing at the million-dollar homes down the road. Those homes did not fit our budget! So I began looking at what my home did have. While it came with more than a few peculiarities, it provided a warm, cozy place for my family. It had a large yard and was situated across the street from a park where our children loved to play.
It wasn’t always easy to be thankful when things didn’t go the way I would like. But the Bible tells me, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!" (Psalm 50:23 ESV). Sometimes words of thankfulness did seem like a real sacrifice, but they honored my Savior by demonstrating that I trusted His provision and timing. Most importantly, the act of thanking God became a weapon against the envy that threatened to choke my heart.
Although I no longer live in that not-so-quaint home, sometimes I still feel needy, and I still think I am lacking something crucial for my happiness. But as I express gratitude for the gifts I already have, I am honoring the Giver and preparing my heart to see Him and His continual saving grace in my life. I pray that God will enable me to trust Him to supply what will truly satisfy me. I ask my Shepherd to open my eyes to the blessings in my life and give me victory in the struggle for contentment.
Now, when envy strikes, I battle back. I combat dissatisfaction with contentment in Christ’s sufficiency. I try to avoid comparing my life, my home, my husband, or my kids to those of the women around me. The attitude of contentment is fueled by thankfulness and gratitude as I remember to count my blessings. Then, whether living in a mansion or a house with windows that don’t open, I can find true happiness and satisfaction in Jesus.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/MatthiasLindner
Sharla Fritz is a Christian author and speaker who weaves honest and humorous stories into life-changing Bible study. Author of the new book Measured by Grace: How God Defines Success, Sharla writes about God’s transforming grace and unfailing love. Sharla lives in the Chicago suburbs with her amusing pastor husband. Get her FREE ebook 21 Five-Minute Soul-Rest Practices or connect with Sharla at www.sharlafritz.com and Facebook.