Many years ago I was at a pastors’ retreat and a friend excitedly handed me his newly published book. I complimented him, but inside I flamed with jealousy.
I was in the midst of an extended fast from writing books. It ended up being fourteen years! When Richard Foster relinquished “The Celebration of Discipline” his dream was dead for three days before God gave it back to him and then it became a best-seller. For me, my dream stayed in the grave.
I felt like the guy that nobody wanted on their team. Even God did not want me! So how could I be happy that my friend was chosen and succeeding?
I was obeying the call of the Spirit to simplify my life and make more space for my family, including our young children, and I was learning to find significance not in great achievements but in an ordinary life of loving God and my neighbor. But I hadn’t yet learned to relax and rejoice in Jesus’ easy yoke.
As I held my friend’s book, instead of being happy for him and praying for the success of his book, I harbored envy. I wanted to write a book like that! I felt convicted about my envy, but I couldn’t break free of it.
How do you react when you see someone who is more successful than you? Has a bigger church? Has more money or education? Is prettier? Or has a better marriage or family?
Later that day I noticed a coffee mug with the words, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself” (Philippians 2:3).
More guilt? No. Actually, I sensed a lifeline from the Spirit of Jesus.
I ran to my room in the hotel and knelt down. I confessed to God my attitude of jealousy. I poured out my feelings of sadness about not having a new book. I gave thanks for the opportunity to be a more involved husband and father. Then I asked the Lord what he wanted to teach me.
I began meditating on the verse from the coffee mug. Previously, I misused Philippians 2:3 to put guilt and pressure on myself: “You should be more humble and generous!” But now I received a great grace.
I turned my pattern of breathing into a prayer to appreciate and join with Christ’s humility.
As I breathed in slowly and deeply, I whispered, “In Christ’s humility…” I smiled to rejoice in the amazing gift that the Son of God humbled himself to die on the cross with love for me, to forgive me, to serve me, to be my friend.
Then as I breathed out I whispered, “Consider [name] better than yourself…” I prayed for my friend to receive the humble and gracious love of Christ that was blessing me.
As I kept breathing in and out these heart prayers of God’s word my embodied soul became more and more at peace.
This simple Breath Prayer from the Bible wards off envy, competitiveness, and selfish ambition. Instead of pressuring or guilting ourselves not to feel jealous, we accept our emotional need to receive God’s acceptance and grace and then through secret prayer we share this with the person we’re tempted to compare ourselves too.
Blessings For You and Your Ministry
“Free of Jealousy” is one of forty Scripture meditations in our new Soul Shepherding resource, “Breath Prayer Guides.” As with our “Lectio Divina Guides” and “Ignatian Meditation Guides,” you’ll appreciate the beautifully designed, inspiring, and practical one-page handouts for your personal devotions or small group.
About one year after this battle with jealousy God released me to publish Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke. This book tells the story and gives the tools for how God released me from anxiety and renewed my soul.
At the Soul Shepherding Institute, you can be part of an authentic community of apprentices to Jesus who are learning to bring their life and leadership into the Kingdom of God. You can also earn a certificate in the ministry of Spiritual Direction.