Hey, Jealousy: You Can’t Have Me

eyes of jealousy

Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?
Proverbs 27:4

Hey, Jealousy

Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success.

By this measure, Oscar Wilde’s measure, my nature is not very fine. I get jealous. Sometimes—when a friend shares a joy I wish was mine— I fake a smile. Mine is still a sin-twinged nature.

My daily reading today were 1 Samuel 18 and Acts 13. They got me thinking on jealousy. When David returned from striking down Goliath and the women came out singing, “Saul has slain his thousands; David has slain his ten thousands” Saul was very angry and greatly displeased (1 Samuel 18:7-8).

The word jealousy isn’t there but it’s there. So much, in fact, that King Saul repeatedly, ruthlessly sought to kill David. He nearly speared him to the wall in his jealous rage.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

James 3:16

But in Acts 13:45 the word JEALOUSY is used: “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.”

Jealousy messes with our minds. It makes us assume the worst of others and to doubt God. And maybe it’s equally a sign of a messed-up mind. A mind that thinks it deserves what God has not given so much that it would hurt the one who has what it desperately wants.

Not A Jealous Bone

But, the good news is that if we are in Christ we are not slaves to sin, but to righteousness. Jealousy knocks at our door but we must master it. More good news, with the Spirit’s power, we can.

The Bible has some great examples of meek, contented souls. Like Jonathan, Saul’s son, the would-be-heir of the Israel’s throne who loved David as his own soul and helped to save his life (1 Samuel 18:3-4).

And in Acts 13:43, we read that there were “many Jews and devout converts to Judaism who followed Paul and Barnabas,” urged “to continue in the grace of God.”

Not a jealous bone in Jonathan and those many Jews. Theirs was such grace, such faith that God is good. Counting His blessings crushes my jealous bones.

So dear God, increase my faith. Help me put on the Lord Jesus Christ so jealousy won’t have me.

Let us behave properly as in the day […] not in strife and jealousy.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:13-14

Afterward: Yes, you are absolutely right. Our God, our righteous, holy God is a jealous God. Our jealousy reveals two things-two hopeful things:

Through jealousy, God shows us two things. First, he shows us himself. He is a jealous God (he even says “my name is Jealous” Exodus 34:14). It is part of his character as the covenanting God to take on the pain and hurt of experiencing his bride’s unfaithfulness (Hosea 4:13–14). Through our jealousy, we experience a communicable divine emotion (Deuteronomy 32:21).

Second, he shows us ourselves. Through jealousy, the deepest desires of our hearts are elicited and amplified (Genesis 22:12Psalm 66:18–20). The fire burns away the distractions of life’s details to show us the things we treasure. This process of internal emotional suffering — of jealousy most pointedly — can help clarify and bring to the surface all that we would otherwise have kept hidden from God and even from ourselves.

Paul Maxwell, Hey, Jealousy

If: What Do You Know of Calvary Love?

gong, without love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

From Subtle Love of Softening Things…Deliver Me

I “met” Amy Carmichael in my teens one summer afternoon in a cramped trailer home that housed a Christian library I so loved. Amy wasn’t soft. Read her poems—like Make Me Your Fuel, Flame of God— and you’ll see it.

As a missionary serving woman and children in India she didn’t cow to the elite who wanted their temple slaves back. Nor did Amy pull no her punches when it came to teaching converts to follow Christ.

Amy wasn’t soft, but she was loving. And not soft-pedal-the-truth loving, but holding-out-truth-in-love loving. I ran into her poem IF, last week, in my Bread And Wine reading for Lent. And one of my JoyPrO goals is to share with you what strengthens me.

Amy’s “If’s” do. But her if’s are not meant to be read one after another. In her introduction to the book simply titled, “If,” Amy Carmichael writes,

Perhaps only one “If” will have the needed word.

But if one does, I say, then run with the one. Feel the conviction, let Christ’s love control you.

And if you’re like me and 21 “ifs” ring true, well then, back to the cross. He came, He died, He rose for these.

If

If I have not compassion on my fellow)servant even as my Lord had
pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak
in a casual way even of a child’s misdoings, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I find myself half-carelessly taking lapses for granted, “Oh, that’s
what they always do,” “Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like
that,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight
another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If, in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and
slip from under the burden, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot bear to be like the father who did not soften the rigors of
the far country; if, in this sense, I refuse to allow the law of God (the
way of transgressors is hard) to take effect, because of the distress it
causes me to see that law in operation, then I know nothing of Calvary
love.

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed
me; if I say, “Just what I expected,” if a fall occurs, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and
allow my remembrance of that sin to color my thinking and feed my
suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I have not the patience of my Saviour with souls who grow slowly; if
I know little of travail (a sharp and painful thing) till Christ be fully
formed in them, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot keep silence over a disappointing soul (unless for the sake of
that soul’s good or for the good of others it be necessary to speak),
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of
spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then
I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one
concerned should say, “You do not understand,” or because I fear to
lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the
other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying “Peace, peace,” where is
no peace; if I forget the poignant word “Let love be without
dissimulation” and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things
but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I fear to hold another to the highest goal because it is so much easier
to avoid doing so, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into the vice of self-pity and
self-sympathy; if I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself; if I
am so occupied with myself I rarely have “a heart at leisure from itself,”
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

IF, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my
threshold, I do not shut the door, and in the power of Him who works
in us to will and to do, keep that door shut, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth);
if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not give a friend “the benefit of the doubt,” but put the worst
construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool
unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.*
*For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter
water however suddenly jolted.

If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not,
forgetting that my Sinless Saviour trod this path to the end, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitterly towards those who condemn me, as it seems to me,
unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would
condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I say, “Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,” as though the God who
twice day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could
not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If interruptions annoy me, and private cares make me impatient; if I
shadow the souls about me because I myself am shadowed, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of
discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I become entangled in any “inordinate affection”; if things or places
or people hold me back from obedience to my Lord, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If something I am asked to do for another feels burdensome; if,
yielding to an inward unwillingness, I avoid doing it, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot
rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be
loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I want to be known as the doer of something that has proved the
right thing, or as the one who suggested that it should be done, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never
crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given a moment’s room there;
if the cup of spiritual flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing
of Calvary love.

If it be not simple and a natural thing to say, “Enviest thou for my sake?
Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets,” then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that
others are feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw
others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself
the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my
own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and
their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that
it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and
cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows
hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

THAT WHICH I KNOW NOT, TEACH THOU ME, O LORD, MY GOD.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;

And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.…

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Rough Day? Rest on the Pillow of Providence

Child sleep on pillow of providence

We hit a new low. We’ve had bad weeks in our house before, but this week’s behavior borders on criminal. Still, there’s a reason this blog is called JoyfullyPressingOn. My times are in his hands; every jaw-dropping event in his providence.

To protect the guilty one I love, I won’t share details. But trust me, if I told you, your jaw would drop too. You’d ask, “What are doing about that?”

So why do I disclose this much?

Because I know that some of you are facing tough stuff too—that kind that keeps you tossing and turning at night. Please don’t hear me this as a brag on me, because I’m boasting in the grace of God: I slept like a baby last night.

Because I’ve got a stellar pillow.

When It’s Hard To Sleep

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. Psalm 31:9

The events of the week could have made it hard to sleep. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

What happened this week marks not months but years of prayers answered with Not yet, if not No. That answer, this waiting, these events could make it hard for a mom to sleep.

At least, without the right pillow.

But too many nights tossing and turning on too-soft and too-firm foreign pillows have taught me. When I travel, I take my pillow. The extra space it takes to bring my just-right pillow is well worth it.

That pillow helps me sleep in all sorts of strange beds and new places.

Providence Is A Soft Pillow

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

But when I put my head on that pillow and catastrophic, hopeless thoughts still swirl, I need another pillow. Because uncertainty should not be the occasion of panic. Alistair Begg says, The only thing you can put your head on is the providence of God. Then you go to sleep.

Providence is a soft pillow for anxious heads.

Quoted by C.H. Spurgeon

The Puritans said, “Providence is a soft pillow for anxious heads.” And some of us are terribly anxious about the uncertainty we face. We are not trusting our unknown futures to a known God who knows the future. And we are not alone.

Begg confides,

Most of the occasions of my worrying, most of the occasions of my rising fears can be traced ultimately to a loss of confidence in the doctrine of providence—can be traced to the fact that I am prepared to say, “My times are in your hands,” but I’m not prepared to live in the light of that truth.

Joyfully pressing on means living in light of that truth. It means that even though I have no idea how this today’s event will unfold and if the heart will untwist, I will trust. In peace, I will both lie down and sleep.

Because I sleep on the soft pillow of providence.

My Times Are In Your Hands

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand… Psalm 31:14-15a

My old theology text books defines providence as the “continued exercise of [God’s] divine energy whereby the Creator preserves all of His creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.”

Unpacked: Providence means God is guiding all the events of the world including those in your life. In other words, your times are in his hands.

Some of you know I’m working on a book about meekness. Here’s a little secret: The meek know how to sleep. They have a heightened sense of God’s providence. They carry this pillow everywhere. On it they rest their heads.

And as they doze off, you might hear them pray, “My times are in your hand.”

Asleep in the Storm Like Jesus

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a pillow. Mark 4:37-38a

As I was writing this, it hit me. Jesus had a pillow too. His head was on it that evening he slept in the stern of the boat on the stormy sea. But his disciples then, like his disciples now, had trust issues. They got anxious.

Remember what they did? They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” 

For Jesus, Mark tells us, was in the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a pillow. Yes, a pillow. The very same pillow, in fact, that you and I can sleep on—the soft pillow of providence. The pillow that helps me sleep in the midst of the storms in my home is the same pillow that Jesus lay his head on in the storm-tossed boat.

Into Your Hand

Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. Psalm 31:5

How do I know? Well, it goes back to Psalm 31. A few verses before David prayed, My time are in your hand, he prayed:

Into your hand I commit my spirit.

I doubt Jesus prayed that on the boat. But great David’s greater Son did pray it in the most stressful of all times, ever.

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said,  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Luke 23:44-46, ESV

Ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it, John Calvin said.

I did not sleep well this week because I know how this chapter ends. I only slept well because of my pillow.

Because I trust my loving Father knows best.

When Your (Good) Plans Get Ruined

Couple romantic dinner plans

I had my plans. But here I was again as they fell apart, getting bent out of shape, buzzing like the bee,

That booms against the window-pane for hours

Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers

My laden flowers? A few quiet hours alone with my man on Friday night. That was my plan.

How My Friday Night Plans Fell Through

6:15 pm– I plopped the groceries on the counter, set the oven and kicked off my shoes. I’d gone straight from work to fetch the boys and a friend, then to settle them in at the waterpark. Now came the sigh.

And the ringtone.

Mom, you have to come get us! Sam’s really sick. He’s just sitting here with his down and I don’t feel so good either.

Weary Mama rolled her eyes. Why don’t you get some fresh air and take it easy and we’ll come get you in 2 hours. Good-bye.

6:23 pm– Undeterred, I rubbed the salmon, poked the potatoes and set them baking. I was tearing greens when the phone rang again.

Hi Mom. He’s really sick. You need to come get us now. Please. 

This wasn’t my plan. I hadn’t even sat down. You can last an hour. Besides, $50 is a lot a money for one hour of fun. 

Hanging up sounds heartless, I know. But that son can be Chicken Little, and the caring adults were all around.

6:35 pm– Jim got home and the salmon was done and my phone dinged again. My sister, also at the waterpark,

Can I bring the boys home? Sam looks pretty sick.

Jim called back. I filled our plates, lit a candle and sat down.

And Why I’m Glad

I wasn’t glad. I was grumpy and mad and starved for a quiet dinner alone with Jim, who was calm on the phone as I sat stabbed at my salmon.

They’re on their way. Your sister’s bringing them home.

We were eating our last bites as in they walked in smiling. All better. Their friend Andy wanted to stay and play games. So we cleared the plates and set out Codenames. And in between obscure teen-ager clues, they introduced us to their music and soon Andy had Sam at the piano plunking out tunes.

I wasn’t so blind to miss those. Those answers to prayers I pray almost every day. That the boys would enjoy using the gifts they’ve been given, make and be good friends, and that we’d have more fun as a family.

Then this: Do you trust my plans are better than yours?  I ruined your plan to answer your prayers. I nixed your quiet night to give you this. 

Trust His Better Plans

It all boils down to trust issues, again. I need a consistent trust. I trust God to wake me each morning and bring me safely to heaven, but I can’t trust him with my dinner plans?

This is not to say we shouldn’t make plans. Only  that we should hold them loosely. James wrote, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). So sit loose. As we make our plans for tonight remember that God may have different and better plans than ours.

My plans have come crashing down before. And I’m starting to understand that when, in infinite wisdom and matchless love, God ruins my plans, he’s really wanting me to trust him. Because, 

God knows infinitely more than we do, and can do infinitely more than we can — should we be surprised in the least when he has planned differently than we have? Plan on it. He has, and he will…Disruptions become welcome reminders that God is real, that he is almighty, and that his plans always prove wiser than ours. 

Marshall Segal, “Few Are the Plans of Many

The disruption of my Friday night was God’s kind reminder that he is wiser than me. If I’d have had my quiet night, I’d have missed His better plan.

 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.

James 4:13-15