A friend texted me last night with good news. It was a long time coming. She deserved it. Her child deserved it. And yet, something prevented me from celebrating with her. A not-so-great feeling crept into my heart, blocking my ability to rejoice in her rejoicing. Instead of praising God for answering her prayer, I wanted to know why He had yet to answer my own.
"Why can’t I be happy for her blessing?" I asked another friend. "Why does her good fortune steer my eyes towards my misfortune? And why does this need to be about me anyway? And what even is this? Jealousy? Envy? Ugh. I hate it."
Determined to pull up this sin by its roots, I knew God had the answer and remedy that I desperately needed.
According to a Catholic definition, jealousy is when you guard something you have and are afraid it will be taken away, whereas envy is when you strongly desire something that somebody else has. Jealousy and envy are some of the worst feelings ever. In fact, they are the only sins we commit that never feel good! They are joy, love, and relationship killers. Not only do they never make us feel good, but they have the potential to lead us into serious spiritual danger. Doing their best to pull us into the pit of discontent and ungratefulness, jealousy says, “What God has given me is just not enough!” while envy whispers, “Someone else got what I deserve.”
The text I received? The good fortune that God bestowed upon my dear friend? I wanted it for myself. I desired what she had received from the Lord so badly, that her happiness made me sad. Her abundance highlighted my lack. Her more made me feel less. I could not be happy for her because with my laser-focus on God working in her life, I was blind to His works in my own.
Have you ever felt this way?
I called my friend again this morning. I was not done talking about envy. Still hard-pressed to find the remedy, we went back and forth, trying to get to its core, when finally she said something that was like a slap on the face; something I think can be a gamechanger for all of us who wrestle with this sinful attitude: “I don’t like that the only way I can feel better about someone getting what I wish that I had is by telling myself that one day, it can all fall apart for them! It is awful to wish for suffering for another! I don’t like it and I need to fix this now!”
And the conversation paused. I knew exactly what she meant. I, too, am guilty of making myself feel better by thinking, “Sure, her daughter is successful now...her husband makes good money now...her kid is the star of the team now...her job is going great now...but you know, this could all take a turn for the worse tomorrow.” And then, she said this….
“At my WWP table this week, the table leader shared a verse she goes to whenever she feels envious; whenever she sees the people around her living the life she thought she would have...the life she thought her children would have. The life she felt she deserved.” And it comes from Lisa Brenninkmeyer’s “I Declares” from the Bible study Fearless and Free. I could hear the pages of her Bible flipping until her eyes rested on the very words—the remedy—both our hearts had been searching for. “Yes! Here it is. Phillippians 1:6.” And then, my friend declared Truth over us:
I declare that you have begun a good work in my loved one’s life, and you will continue to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.¹
Next to Jesus showing up and breaking through the darkness of one’s heart, the greatest blessing one can hope for is a faithful friend who allows His light to shine through her. Someone humble enough to admit her sin, and brave enough to declare the truth. A friend who walks alongside you on life’s journey, stopping every few steps to remind you of who God is. Of what He is doing. And that He is not done.
Merciful Jesus, forgive me for believing the lie that you answer everyone’s prayers but my own. For forgetting Who you are. For allowing the enemy to hold me face down in the mud, so that I am not able to see Your glory. For being so focused on myself, I can not be happy for others. Please pull the sin of envy out of the root of my heart. I want to be changed. I am so grateful for all that you have given and continue to give and I pray to never lose sight of that. But because I know that I will, thank you Jesus, for sending me a friend who never shrinks back from correcting me, who listens to my craziness with compassion, who always takes me by the hand and leads me to You. If this friend is all that I am given in this lifetime, You have given me more than enough. I have been blessed with more than I deserve.
Gratefully yours in the name of Jesus,
¹ Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Fearless and Free (2019), 178.
Five years ago I had breakfast with a fallen away Catholic, a lukewarm Catholic, and an evangelical Protestant. (Sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn't it?) I was the cradle Catholic who had just met Jesus Christ personally, and was longing for a community where I could share this new zeal for my faith, without looking like an absolute religious freak.
And so we poured endless cups of coffee, and picked at a pound cake, and we talked about the important things in life like, “what do you put in your crock pot?” and, “got any new ways to prepare chicken?” But somewhere in between the crockpot and the chicken, Jesus appeared, and so the conversation went from what to make for dinner, to where do you stand with God? And the clock ticked and we all had places to go and no one wanted to leave, so we put on more coffee, because truly...the conversation had finally gotten good.
It is important to note that this gathering of random women around the table to break bread would most likely have never had happened, had our community not just been shaken to the core by a mass shooting at our sweet elementary school just a few months prior. It was our suffering that brought us together, our wounds that connected us. And while the pound cake was delicious, it was the sharing of our brokenness that satisfied the emptiness. It was the “bringing it all back to God” that is what kept me hungry for more. And I left with a very strong desire to sit with a few women and wrestle with our brokenness and faith.
Just one year later, practically to the exact date of that breakfast with friends, I was coordinating Walking With Purpose at my home parish. Make no mistake, this was not a coincidence. Our God is too powerful to waste time on a coincidence. And because our God is powerful, He is also a God who multiplies. That one table I dreamed of? He turned into ten. And because God thinks He is so funny, those few women I desired to share my faith with? He turned into 100. And four years later? The number of women seeking a sisterhood rooted in Christ continues to grow. And not only in my community, but all over the world. We are starving for face-to-face relationship. We are broken and dying for healing.
So there I was, staring at 100 women, all staring back at me. I felt like Moses, and not because I have a full beard, although I am sure it helped. And I remember thinking, “God are you crazy? I can't coordinate dinner for my family! How am I supposed to coordinate this? I am so broken...so lost, still...plus, my mini van has no door handles and what's with the chicken bone I just found in the back seat? I am an obvious mess, Lord, and truthfully, I was kind of hoping someone else would do the leading...someone a little more put together, who doesn't store poultry bones in her car... and I could just follow along.” And after I bargained with God, He sent me out to do what He called me to do. Brokenness and all.
Our wounds and our pain come in all shapes and sizes, and if there is just one thing I have learned in my years of gathering at the table and breaking bread with all kinds of women, it is that there is not a single one of us who gets through this life without a significant cross to carry. Not one. Sure, we clean up real nice. We carry our pretty purses, and hold expensive lattes and put filters on all of our pictures, but seriously, who are we fooling? Dressing up our wounds and numbing our pain does not heal our brokenness. It prolongs it. What does heal is finding a safe place to process the pain; a place where we can take that pretty purse, turn it upside down, dump it out on the table and see the mess. And not just see it, but share it. Ladies, if we want to move past our pain, we have to stop hiding our wounds in the dark and we need to bring them out into the light. But good grief, this is not easy. Because trusting other women? That is hard. We can be critical. We can be judgy. We can be unloving in our response. And by we, I mean me. Revealing that one deep wound you have tried to cover up, ignore, and pray away, takes some serious guts. And quite possibly, a bottle of wine. But mostly? Mostly it requires trust; a trust that can only be built between people who look each other in the eye, reaches out hands, and says, “I get it. I have been there, too.”
Sharing our brokenness is what creates that space of grace; that glorious moment where our eyes are opened to what an authentic and meaningful relationship looks like; that realization that a friendship rooted in Christ is like nothing else in this world. It is important to note, that when I speak of women gathering and sharing their brokenness, I am not talking about a communal pity party. Small group discussion in Bible study is not a free pass to complain to your heart's content. Nor is it a therapy session that just happens to serve good coffee and blueberry mini muffins while you rant about everything that is wrong and unfair in your life. Sharing our brokenness is what unlocks the gate that opens up and invites us into that green and peaceful pasture; the pasture where we can at long last rest just as we are. It is the welcome and the wide arms open that assure each of us that we are not alone, that somebody out there understands, and that no matter what we are carrying, how ugly or shameful or terrifying it might be, we have a God who comes before us and says, “Look at my wounds...I have them, too.” This, I believe, is the invitation women are dying for. The one that says, “I hear you, I see you, and even though you did that really awful thing years ago, I still love you. Let me heal you. Quit hiding your wounds, and come rest in mine.”
But it is a scary thing to do this, isn't it? To be raw and real? To invite other women into your broken story? To admit that you live a less than perfect life, and along with that chicken bone in your backseat, you also happen to have a few skeleton bones in your closet? But I want you to know this: I have never been attracted to your perfection. I have never spent time listening to your cleaned up version of what life looks like, and walked away transformed. But your wounds? Your brokenness? That I am deeply drawn into. That I care about. That is always what connects me to you. Beautiful things happen when we allow ourselves to break open; when we invite others to break open beside us, when we step gently into our neighbor's wounds. And I pray that you have this. My deepest prayer for you is that you have a safe place to land, a small group of women who lift you up and encourage you to grow in your faith and to hold onto hope; a sisterhood that walks beside you in your season of suffering and rejoices loudly with you when you are glad. If you are searching for face-to-face, authentic friendship, I encourage you to go to the Walking With Purpose website, and click on Participate to find a group near you. There is an empty chair waiting for you, plenty of coffee, and you do not even have to shower or shave your beard or be fully on board with God to join us. Just come as you are.
I have no interest in trying to make you believe that I have it all together and my life is perfect. Rather, I delight in sharing my wounds with you; the scars of my past, the pain of the present, I invite you into it all. Not because I am an over-sharer (which I am), and not because I have zero filter (which I don't), but because I have seen how friendship is strengthened and sisterhood is created when we get real and share our deepest sufferings. When Jesus broke the bread, he didn't keep it for himself. He said, “take this all of you and eat of it.” He shared it. He offered it to all of us. My sweet friends, let us never forget that the miracle always happens right after the breaking. The breakthrough always comes after the breakdown. And when we share, not conceal, our wounds, we invite others to face their own brokenness. Our suffering gives others permission to take the very first step that begins their own journey towards healing. That is the beauty in sharing our wounds. That is the gift of sisterhood. That is the blessing of being broken.
Praying for you,
P.S. I am so excited to be joining you this week on WWP Instagram Live, Thursday at 10 AM, and Facebook Live on Friday (time to be announced!) Get ready to meet some of warrior sisters in Christ, and how we encourage one another to be the fearless women God created us to be! I will also be sharing what is currently saving my life….and no, it is not the chicken bone.
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