Spears of the Heart
Someone once said, “It’s a safe bet that if a pastor is ‘stuck’ on one topic in the pulpit that he himself is struggling with that issue.”
I’m not sure about that, but I eventually came to apply this theory to my life, recognizing that repetitions of certain themes are probably God’s attempt to gently shape, direct, or correct my inner man. If I still don’t pay attention, He is then usually less subtle. I prefer the subtle method!
And now, with a deep sigh, I reveal to you that lately, due to recurring pop-up instances, I apparently need to re-visit the problem of envy.
Honestly, my first self-preserving inclination is to point out to you that I am NOT super envious—not as bad as, say, that insecure, disobedient, spear-hurling King Saul, who was delirious in his jealousy of David--nay, not I! My envy is way less “sinful” than Saul’s! I’m being facetious, of course. Sin is sin, and to qualify sin is useless. Like cancer, sin manifests itself in stages, and whether it’s stage 1 or stage 4, it’s all bad. A little bit of leaven, you know.
Envy is admiration gone south, and it’s particularly destructive. It begins when we see gifts and strengths in others, or some blessing befalls them, and we are caught up in their charisma or accomplishments, and we admire them. So far, so good.
If we’re not careful, though, we start to wonder why we are lacking in those qualities or blessings. Slowly at first, an emotional downward spiral begins twisting, and we go from rejoicing with to wishing we had what they have, then to focusing on our deficiencies, then to becoming discontent, self-absorbed and bitter. In fact, at the spiral’s vortex is selfishness. We lose sight of who we truly are in Christ and inexplicably forget the goodness He has poured into our lives.
I’m reminded of Saul in 1 Samuel 23:21 when the men of Ziph betrayed David by telling Saul where David was hiding: “Well, Praise the Lord” Saul said. “At last someone has had pity on me!” [Living Bible]. When I read that, I laid my Bible down, cracked a sarcastic smile and thought, “Boo-hoo. You were an idiot. You had the most loyal servant in David, but you were blind. Sheesh! Glad I never have those pity parties!" I must confess, however, that I do throw myself the occasional "pity blow-out."
By chapter 23, Saul was not only peeved with David, but he had convinced himself that no one around him understood him or was loyal. And we all know what became of this envious King who once stood head and shoulders above the rest. He became the object of scorn and pity—ugly attributes became his legacy.
I suppose you want the lowdown on my envy. I’ll give you my latest example. Recently I opened our newspaper and read about a local author who said, “I never wanted to write at all. The book contract just sort of fell into my lap.” Well, I’ve always wanted to write, and publishing opportunities are not miraculously floating in my cereal bowl each morning or cropping up like dandelions in my lawn. Therefore, I felt a twinge of resentment when I read about her good fortune. I’m sure she deserved to be published. I’m sure she’s more talented than the average person. I’m happy for her, really I am. There’s room enough in this world for gazillions of authors. But my internal brat cried out, “How long, O Lord, how long? (Before a contract falls into my lap?)” In other words, I believe I grumbled. I also believe grumbling and resenting are tiny arrows hurled from an imperfect heart, or sin, if you must make me say it.
The antidote to the poison arrow is two-fold:
Part 1--Prayer for forgiveness, cleansing, creating within me a clean heart and right thinking, expressing gratitude for innumerable blessings, blessing the person for whom I had resentment, laying my feelings at the foot of the cross, etc.
Part 2—Surrendering my insecurities and my desires. This act is more difficult than asking forgiveness. In fact, Dr. Daniel Harrell, Pastor of Park Street Church in Boston has said, “A prayer of surrender, a prayer of genuine trust is the hardest prayer to pray. To be someone after God’s own heart is to be someone not after your own.”
At this point, I must ask myself: If, for any reason, God does not wish me to pursue being published, am I willing to lay that desire down and pursue His plans? Or, suppose he wants me stop my negative self-talk and pity parties and work more diligently at being published. Am I willing to sacrifice—to say “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to this plan? Am I totally surrendered, no matter what?
Our great Enemy launches enough spears at us without our mimicking him with each other. I do not want to cast arrows at my brothers and sisters. So once again, I’m laying down my arrows and surrendering my will to my Father's plan. Because more than anything, I want to be a woman after God’s own heart, no matter what path he directs me to. I only know that on that path, there is no room for envy.
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