Coming Apart at the “Seems”
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)
I sat outside on our back deck, vigorously stirring my iced tea with a striped straw, until the ice cubes formed a tiny whirlpool in my glass.
But my mid-day beverage wasn’t the only thing stirring. My emotions churned as well. This was due to scrolling through social media posts on my cell phone screen.
Tap after swipe made my heart sink further. I was already in a gloomy state having dealt with a child’s poor choice, a tension-filled domestic dispute with my husband and the too-tight jeans I wore that day, which at one time had been so loose on me I’d almost donated them to the local thrift store.
As I scrolled through the pixelated images before me, all I could think was, “Gee. It must be nice. Everyone else seems to have it all together.” The scene played out a little something like this:
“Wow. Seems like she sure has academically brilliant children. Student of the month awards for both her kids at once?”
“Man. Look at that fancy dinner with her smiling husband. They seem so in love and happy. And we could never afford a night out on the town at a restaurant like that. Nope. Our nights out are often spent in a spat while we split an entree at a chain eatery to keep the cost down.”
“Oh lovely. A workout selfie at the gym. Look at how flat her stomach is. And those sculpted arms? Seems like she has oodles of time to devote to exercise and a body and appetite that cooperate. Maybe I’ll finally start my diet tomorrow. Or next Monday. Oh, who am I kidding? Seems I’ll never look like that.”
And there you have it. A stroll down social media lane can leave us coming completely apart at the “seems.” It seems everyone has it better than we do. As a result, we start to loathe our own life by comparison, even if it is just ever so slightly. Here is the thing about comparisons: They deal a death blow to our contentment and tempt us to focus on what we don’t have rather than be grateful for all that we do possess. The result is an envious heart that is rattled and restless.
Our key verse in Proverbs reflects this well, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” This verse may seem pretty straightforward. Envy keeps you from experiencing peace. While this is true, a dig into the original Hebrew language gives us even a more vivid snapshot of its intended meaning.
Envy here doesn’t just mean that initial, “Must be nice” thought that dances through our minds when we spy the blessings of others. It means “passionate and zealous jealousy.” This indicates our emotions are involved. Our hearts go through the ringer as we spend energy dwelling on the increasingly envious feelings that come from seeing someone else who seems to have a better life than we do.
And the word “rots” means decays. It brings about not just a rotten state — like fruit that is starting to spoil — it ushers in death. In this verse, that means the figurative death of one’s very strength of life. However, let’s not just dwell on the dreary picture painted here. What about the other half of this verse?
The heart that is at peace literally means one that is sound, wholesome, healthy and cured. So, the way to have a healthy heart emotionally and spiritually is to keep envy at bay.
We do this by switching our thinking and fighting against the “poor me” mentality. We may not be rich, but do we have a roof over our heads? We may not dine out at expensive restaurants, but did God provide enough to eat today? Our bodies may not be supermodel fit, but are we still alive and able to move, serve or at least pray for others? Thankfulness chases envy away and settles our hearts in God’s perfect peace.
So the next time we are tempted to come apart at the “seems” while staring at the pics on our phone, let’s log off for a moment — or a week! — and start counting our many blessings. May we be grateful to God for what we do have, and stop wanting someone else’s life. Then, we’ll discover that true contentment isn’t having what you want. It is wanting nothing more than what you already have.
Father, help me to be earnestly grateful for all You’ve given me and stop wishing for someone’s else’s life. You are enough for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
What a great message. So True! Thank you! May we be thankful for what we have already.