My three-year-old had been sleeping for hours curled up on the sofa. We all tiptoed and whispered around her “sick bed,” trying not to wake or disturb her.
Then my six-year-old asked, “Mom, if she’s still sick on Tuesday, will she have to go to school?”
“No, babe, kids can’t go to school when they have a fever like this.”
“Oh man, she’s lucky. I wish I didn’t have to go to school.”
I instantly pointed out the drawback. It doesn’t do much good to stay home from school when you’re too sick to enjoy it. It’s not like she’s playing. She’s sleeping the day away on the sofa, feeling miserable and uncomfortable.
It’s not surprising, really, how she saw the benefit so clearly and didn’t see the cost. We have the same blinders on often enough.
We think our friend is “lucky” or maybe it seems a bit unfair, how easy she’s got it, how blessed she is, how much she has, how happy….
And the wishing starts so simply, “I wish….I had her house, her marriage, her job, her ministry, successful kids, healthy kids, luxury vacations, that wardrobe, those spiritual gifts.”
They seem, after all, like benefits without cost, clearly good things without downsides or drawbacks.
Yet, no matter how clearly we think we see the situation or how well we know what another person’s life is truly like, we’re really just peering in through the public-access windows, seeing what they choose to let us see.
We don’t know what happens behind the closed doors of their homes. We don’t know what struggles they endured in order to build a marriage so strong. We don’t know how much effort it took to parent her children. We don’t know about the criticism she endures as the consequence of her ministry or the battles she’s fought or the self-discipline it took.
We don’t often see the bad days, the hard times, the sacrifices, the mistakes, the overcoming. We see the Facebook posts and Pinterest pictures of success stories and not so much the moments when it isn’t so perfect.
The truth is that we don’t know, not really, what anyone else’s life entails, but God does. He’s specifically designed her for that life and you for yours, and the moment we start glamorizing or over-romanticizing another’s lot is when jealousy is at work.
It sure is hard to be grateful for God’s gifts to us when we’re drooling over His gifts to another.
This coveting of others conveniently fails to consider that the things we want are a package deal. We can’t just want good and not the bad, the day off of school without the sickness, the power without the responsibility, the success without the sacrifice.
Miriam and Aaron didn’t understand this. They looked over Moses’s life as leader of the Jewish people and envied his position as the Lord’s anointed. They criticized him and started questioning him publicly: “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” (Numbers 12:2).
Oh sure, they wanted to feel set apart by God like Moses was. They wanted to be in charge, receive recognition, have power and the anointing of God.
What could be so wrong with that?
But did they consider that Moses had to handle the daily (yes, daily!) complaints and whining of a rebellious people, who so quickly forgot the miracles God had done for them? Did they think about what it felt like to bear the brunt of criticism and rebellions? Were they really willing to get down on their knees and put their own lives on the line in order to intercede for the unworthy nation?
Moses hardly had a cushy desk job.
Still, Aaron and Miriam, eyes closed tight to the difficulties, decided they should have the same position as Moses.
And Moses, who was “very humble—more humble than any other person on earth” (Numbers 12:3), didn’t argue with them.
But God did. He called Miriam and Aaron out, told the whole community why Moses was specially anointed, and then afflicted Miriam with leprosy as punishment. If only they had been content with the ministry God had given them instead of coveting that of another.
If only we could be so content.
Thank You, God, for allowing us the blessing and responsibility of this life and not the life of anyone else; not their marriage, friendships, children, money, home, car, jobs, ministry, looks, spiritual gifts, popularity, not any of it.
That blessing you’ve been given, that life you have, that’s what we cherish and thank God for because it’s the one He specifically designed for you—both the good things and the hard things. The weight of anyone else’s life would crush you, but this load is the one He’s prepared you to carry and the one He’s carrying with you.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2013 Heather King