Envy and Comparison: The Thief of Joy

There are many emotions a widow will experience on her journey through the valley of the shadow of death. Sorrow, the expected emotion, joins forces with a host of others including fear, confusion, disappointment, anger, and believe it or not, joy. Yes, sorrow and joy can run on the same track. And when you do experience joy, don’t give into guilt, welcome this surprise guest as she comes. This emotion is a gift from God and is okay to embrace in the midst of your pain. And, one of the quickest ways to rob yourself of this gift is by comparing your life to others.

Emotions like jealousy and envy find their way to the forefront from the pit of our hearts; and, if allowed to be in control, they will become an enemy of our healing. Envy lures us to look at the lives of others, wishing ours was the same. Whether it be a long marriage, fulfillment of dreams, or looking back at a season we will never enjoy again, we all struggle with the sinful emotion of envy.

God has a unique and perfect plan for your life that was written in a book before time began (Psalm 139:16, Ephesians 2:10). It is easy to fall into the trap of envy and jealousy. And a trap is exactly what it is, a lure of the enemy to make you feel sorry for yourself or believe the lie that God’s plans for others are better than what He has planned for you. But let me encourage you, do not believe this lie. Envy is at the core of our fleshly nature. As Christians, we must remove this emotion from our lives and replace it with the righteousness of Christ, who teaches that love does not envy (1 Corinthians 13:4), but rather it has consequences: 

  • Envy rots our bones (Proverbs 14:30) 
  • Envy causes disorder and every vile practice (James 3:16)
  • Envy defiles a person (Mark 7:20-23)

In fact, did you know that envy is on the list of habitual sins that will keep us from inheriting the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21)?! Whoa, we must be careful to not let envy take us captive. It costs us dearly! And yet this vile emotion is a struggle for us all, not only in the social media era but also in the day of Christ.

Peter was a disciple determined to follow Jesus. Even when warned that he would deny Christ, he did just that, refusing to acknowledge that he knew the Lord. However, Jesus restored Peter to Himself. At the end of this moving restoration scene in the Gospel of John, Jesus gave Peter a preview of what the end of his life would look like, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now, this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me” (John 21:18).

Scripture goes on to say that Peter looked around and saw John, his fellow disciple, his team member, and one of his closest friends, and asked Jesus, “What about this man?” (John 21:19). 

Peter is just like us, wanting to know if God has a better plan for someone else, believing the lie that the life He had given him was not as exciting, fulfilling, or blessed as the life his friends were living. No doubt, Peter had just been given some difficult news and his first response was to know if John would have a similar call to suffering. And Jesus’ response is a challenge for us all, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21:23).

Jesus, God in flesh, understands, He came to die. This was the whole purpose of His life in this world – to shed His blood on the cross as payment for our sins. And He modeled the importance of perspective for us, “…for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

God has used that simple question, “What is that to you?” and the “Follow me” command over and over again in my life when envy has made an appearance. Will you trust God with the plans He has for your life when envy and jealousy wage war? He is trustworthy to be followed!