Every Wednesday I take my kids to the library. We check out A LOT of books. I mean seriously, our library’s circulation probably doubles on Wednesdays. Part of our library ritual includes finding the books we already have checked out, so we can return them. Now that the boys are older, they have learned a few more rules about checking out material. For example, books are actually checked out for 2 weeks, and each library card can only have 100 books and 10 movies out a time. (Yes, we have reached our limit on books before.)
This last Wednesday I sat back and watched my kids go through the book shelf. As they would find a book, they would discuss it. “Should we return this one?” “Are you still reading this one?” “Wait, we’ve only had this one a week.” “Oh! I want to read this one again.” “Man, we have already had this one two weeks!”
I was in complete amazement at their logic. They put so much thought and consideration into the decision of whether or not to return a book. They discussed all four of their wants and reasons. They listened and responded. They legitimately considered whether they wanted this book or a different book they might find at the library. Each book they picked up, they looked at, discussed, and put either back on the shelf or into the library bag. I don’t even put this much thought into my daily activities, let alone the important matters of life.
If only I processed information in the same way with my own thoughts. Return it or keep it? Does this glorify God or me? Is this thought a potential blessing or curse? Can I help people with this thought or hurt them? Is this good or bad? Loving or sinful?
So, here’s the truth- I’ve struggled with envy. Like horribly struggled with envy. If I saw a lady walking down the street dressed cute, I used to think, “Man that’s cute. I want that. I need to go shopping.” My focus would slowly travel from validating that she’s dressed nicely, to wanting it, to no longer being happy with what I have.
I used to dream about winning the lottery. Now this was not just a passing thought. But like I would seriously consider what I would do with millions of dollars. The first thing I would do is pay off all my debts. Then I would buy a new house… a new car… a shopping spree… a nice family vacation… I would quit my job… My husband would quit his job… heck, I may even hire a chef… Oh yeah… of course I would give my church their 10% and donate to charities… oh and of course I was going to do that first…
My thoughts would spiral out of control with all these wants. And I’m sorry to admit… I did this a lot… like at least a couple times a week…
I found as I did this, I was growing more and more unhappy with what I did have. My house wasn’t good enough. My car wasn’t good enough. My job, my husband’s job, it was all not good enough. Nothing was good enough. I was struggling with envy. But not envy over what others have, but envy over what I don’t have. This was a serious heart issue.
This was not an easy habit to break. I talked with my husband about it. He told me, “Well, go buy a ticket. If you want to win the lottery, you should probably start playing it.” After we laughed, we had a serious conversation about being grateful for what we have. We started being intentional about saying thank you to God for the blessings we have. Even when something went wrong, we would be grateful for a blessing attached. Man, that window broke, but thank you God that we are still protected from the cold. Thank you, God, for our house that provides warmth and comfort. Thank you for our cars that run and get us where we need to be. Thank you for our jobs that pay the bills and provide income, so we can live comfortably.
This alone did not break my habit of dreaming to win the lottery. I would still find my mind drifting to what I would do with tons of money, so I needed a plan. I started thinking about how awesome Heaven must be. I mean seriously- our Earth is pretty awesome! I would imagine our Earth’s beautiful natural wonders AND no temptation to sin. A place where I could just worship God all day and have no temptation to do anything else. I have no idea what Heaven will be like, but I know it will be AMAZING!
I had to choose to RETURN that thought so that I could CHECK-OUT a better thought. When we keep our eyes focused on what we do not have, we completely miss the blessing of what we do have. I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit began working this struggle out in me. It is still a process but returning those thoughts and checking out new ones has made a HUGE difference in my spiritual growth.
When I realize how great my blessings are, it is much easier to be happy for others who are also blessed (sometimes in completely different ways). For example, when a friend shows us their new beautiful house, I can be genuinely happy for them. I can come home to my smaller house and be happy for my home, because it is truly a blessing. When a friend is dressed nicely, I can sincerely complement her to build her up with no selfish motive. There really is so much freedom that comes in walking with Christ! When envy is lifted, joy can be multiplied!
Everything God has provided to me is enough. It’s more than enough. It’s amazing! When my thoughts start to sway from happiness to envy or discontentment, I will return that thought and check out a new one: eternal life with Christ!
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:10-12 NIV)