How I Responded to Envy
It is often said by spiritual directors and mentors that the more you pray, the more the evil spirit will tempt you to prevent you from being closer to God. During the second week of Lent, I experienced a terrible temptation.
On Monday, I received some good news, which should have made me happy as it was something good for a friend. However, instead of celebrating with my friend, I reacted like the brother of the prodigal son in the Bible: I felt jealous of her success. I felt deprived. I felt bitter.
I compared myself to her and saw myself as someone who isn’t good enough and unsuccessful enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not financially wealthy enough. Why?
Despite these negative feelings, I am grateful that I was immediately able to recognize them for what they were: pride. My guardian angel surely worked hard to guide me and my thoughts. I knew that these feelings weren’t of the Holy Spirit.
So what did I do? I’m sharing with you these steps as I hope that one day, you might find them useful when you or someone you know feels envious or frustrated.
1. Ask for prayers from friends
I told two of my closest friends about it. I selected two friends who were spiritually mature and whom I trusted would guide me towards the Lord. I honestly old them about how I was feeling, even if it meant that I would appear to be selfish and ungrateful to the Lord. I asked my friends to pray for me.
2. Read the Bible
Before I slept that night, disturbed by my own reaction, I spent extra time in prayer. I opened the Bible and looked at the recommended passages for feeling anxious, jealous, and frustrated. I underlined verses that spoke to me and allowed the Lord to calm my thoughts.
Psalm 34 was especially helpful in reminding me of all the goodness I have received from the Lord.
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.”
- Psalm 34: 4–5
Matthew 6: 19–20 was also a clear reminder on what we need to focus on in this world:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Furthermore, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36) I was reminded that our life is not about accumulating financial wealth that we cannot bring with us to death and afterlife.
While reading the Bible, I realized the wealth of wisdom in this world’s best selling book. I also felt that the Holy Spirit led me to those passages to remind me of what is essential.
3. Worship the Lord
At the end of my prayer, I played the songs “God is Enough” to worship the Lord and glorify Him for the life that He has given me.
God is Enough
I hear Your voice Oh God
I feel Your presence
I have grown in love with You
What I only want is You Lord
Your grace is sufficient
Your embrace is all I needed
To be with You my God
Is all I ever desire
Oh God is enough for me
Nothing else will ever be
And I am satisfied
For I have found my peace.
I may be faced with worldly lures
I get confused at times
But Lord when I hear You call
I’m safe and I run to You
4. Go to Mass and Receive Christ
The next morning, I felt much better and I headed to mass. The Gospel was even more appropriate and its message was loud and clear when Jesus said:
“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Matthew 20: 26–28
To follow Christ is to serve, to carry our cross daily. We need to humble ourselves and seek ways on how we can serve every day.
From St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, a Jesuit lay brother who served as doorkeeper at Majorca, Spain for 45 years:
Another exercise is very valuable for the imitation of Christ — for love of him, taking the sweet for the bitter and the bitter for sweet. So, I put myself in spirit before our crucified Lord, looking at him full of sorrow, shedding his blood and bearing great bodily hardships for me.
As love is paid for in love, I must imitate him, sharing in spirit all his sufferings. I must consider how much I owe him and what he has done for me. Putting these sufferings between God and my soul, I must say, “What does it matter, my God, that I should endure for your love these small hardships? For you, Lord, endured so many great hardships for me.” Amid the hardship and trial itself, I stimulate my heart with this exercise. Thus, I encourage myself to endure for love of the Lord who is before me, until I make what is bitter sweet. In this way learning from Christ our Lord, I take and convert the sweet into bitter, renouncing myself and all earthly and carnal pleasures, delights and honors of this life, so that my whole heart is centered solely on God. (From: IgnatianSpirituality.com)
Each time we experience negative feelings that do not make us more loving and more Christ-like, the first step is to be aware that these are not from the Holy Spirit. If you’re not sure whether or not it is, ask yourself: “What would Jesus do in this situation? If I nurture this feeling, will I become a more loving and kind and merciful person?”
If the answer is no, do not fret. God has sent us angels to helps us along the way. We have friends. We have the Bible. We have songs. We have the Eucharist. And above all, we have God who will never give up on us. May these help us become better persons and may we never give up.