I could see it coming. I even had one of my besties praying for me because I knew I was putting myself in a place that invited struggle. But the benefits of taking our leadership team to this conference far outweighed the yuckiness I’d have to wrestle with in the hidden places of my own heart. Some women struggle with the comparison trap when it comes to their bodies, their hair, their marriages or their kids. I get to tackle it when it comes to platforms and fruitfulness, Kingdom opportunities and influence.
Having searched my heart for years with the Lord in this, I’m convinced that the core desire is a good one. It comes from longing for my life to count for the Kingdom. For people to come to know Him and the hope only He offers. For women in ministry to run the long race, finishing well, not surrendering to fear, bitterness or letting discouragement have the final voice. But somewhere in there, that desire gets garbled.
A few weeks ago, my husband was talking with another pastor of a mega-church who confided that he often avoids gatherings of big-church pastors because he hates what it conjures up in his own soul. He’d rather stay away and focus on his own circle than wrestle with the temptation to compare and compete. It’s exhausting. I guess it makes me feel a little better that I’m not alone in this. The big guys wrestle with this same thing.
But last week, the Lord led me to a better place (and yes, I think this was one of those God responses to my urgent pleadings). When I saw another ministry “overlapping” with what God has called us to, I could feel my heart beginning that slow descent. In that moment, I began praying and asking the Lord to show me how to deal with this ugly jealousy once and for all. For a few minutes, I could no longer hear the speaker and the crowd seemed to disappear. It was just me and the Lord… and this is where He led.
21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
The Lord saying to me: Don’t be distracted by those voices you hear, those that are doing what I have called THEM to do.
22 Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”
The Lord saying to me: When you envy what others get to do instead of focusing on what I have put before you, you run after those seductive things and you miss what I have in store, appointed only for you.
23 He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. 24 The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. 25 In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill.
The Lord saying to me: When you thrive in doing what I have called you to do and lay aside the desire to do what I have called others to, I will bring fruit. There will be an abundance that you won’t believe, even if I were to describe it to you.
26 The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.
The Lord saying to me: I know these wounds that come from serving Me. The hurts that no one sees. The bruises brought on by my people. I know all about them. And I am in the process of healing them. I am bringing healing to you in your losses. And I am bringing healing to those that are coming to you in search of hope. Rest. Rest. Know that I am at work in you. You need only be still.
It seems like seeing people come to Jesus would be enough. Seeing others experience healing from bitterness and decide to stay in this trench of ministry would be enough to keep us satisfied. But often we yearn for more.
Maybe it’s that new church that moved into town and seems to be enticing “your people” to try the new thing on the block. Maybe it’s a leader in your ministry that gets asked to do all of those cool things that you secretly long to do, the ones you feel like you were meant to do. Maybe it’s that friend that gets to travel to other countries to spread the gospel or train God’s people – and you are stuck at home with littles.
Whatever you’re Achille’s heel, Jesus knows it and is ready to meet you in it. He is saying to us, “All of these things are distractions. Here is what I want YOU to do. This is the way. Walk in it.”
I haven’t “attained this or been made perfect” but because the Lord has allowed me to wrestle with this for a while, I’ve picked up some battle strategies that might be helpful to you as you wage your own wars with jealousy. Here they are:
- God often calls people to the same ideas. Instead of seeing the similarities as a threat, I need to see them as confirmation from the Body that is bigger than me.
- Every ministry context has its blessings and its thorns. Ministering in a small church often had us wishing for more resources. Ministering in a large church makes me long for intimacy. Celebrate the context that the Lord has called you to in this moment.
- Be fierce in celebrating the victories of those that have ministries that feel threatening. The enemy (and our own flesh) would love to use those feelings to divide. Say “no more.” Seize those opportunities to thank Jesus for what He is doing in and through them – do it in private and to their face. Kick the enemy in the teeth.
If this resonates with you… welcome to the battle. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”