My eyes followed that handsome young couple who were part of organizing the retreat. They’d been busy, running around and talking to each person in charge to make sure all the programs went smoothly. They looked confident in doing their job and never spared a bright smile to anyone talking to them. They were so needed and appreciated by all the attendants. Besides, I could tell they were so in love just from how they locked their eyes when talking to each other.
I’d known them for a while before I attended this retreat held by our organization. We were not super close but friends. However, in their high-profile, fresh presence at that retreat, a sense of jealousy came up and took me by surprise.
I was jealous of them. Why? Because I was single at that time and so desired to be married after being single for years. They were happily married and younger than me.
I had a hard time at work and was confused about the next step for my future. They seemed to be so sure and clear about their calling and job description.
I felt so insecure and unseen and struggled to communicate well in English in that international setting. They were the best-looking couple in the room and spoke elegantly in their native language.
It was a one week retreat. Towards the end of that retreat, I felt angry and ashamed that I couldn’t look into their kind eyes.
I knew I had to deal with this jealousy in my heart. I’d been a Christian long enough to understand that jealousy was not only unacceptable but also toxic. It had nothing to do with others but everything to do with myself. The root of jealousy is discontentment. I was far from content about my life, and when someone else’s life projected the version that I desired, jealousy took hold of me.
Can we be content where we are? I believed the answer was “yes,” though I was yet to find out the “how.”
Since that retreat, I’ve grown and learned so much about contentment. I’d love to share some thoughts and tips with you that has tremendously helped me to shun away from jealousy and focus on my growth and enabled me to taste the abundance in Christ right where I am.
1.Understand we all have different life stories
That couple who I had a hard feeling about, they are Americans. Both of them come from Christian families with healthy upbringings. I’m Chinese, and my family of origin was quite broken. I didn’t know God until 19 years old.
That lovely couple and I are believers of the same God, but we were given different storylines. Our unique backgrounds pointed to the individually tailored future and life callings. Besides, when we were at the retreat, they and I weren’t at the same life stage. They had found each other as husband and wife while God knew I still had a lot to experience and learn before He could put me in a marriage where I could thrive.
Each one of us is gifted with a unique life journey. It’s silly to compare our middle with other’s end success. Instead of looking at what others have, I’ve learned to focus on the season I am in and live with intention and a learner’s mindset. We have the freedom and ability to co-create with God and cultivate a story of hope and light.
2. Engage with your current season with gratitude
Life is a journey with unpredictabilities. One moment we could be enjoying the refreshing view at the mountain-top; the next, we could cry over a diagnose.
Some felt hard season, like the season with new-borns or young children, which you couldn’t wait to pass can make some sweetest memories you will forever cherish. Know that no moment or season, hard or sweet, will last forever. Time will always change.
The couple I mentioned earlier have long left the organization where we once worked together and changed careers. So did I. They moved back to the US, and I came to Switzerland. Before they left, they had a very rough time dealing with a situation where one of their close friends and co-workers died in an accident. I had cried and prayed with them in that tragedy, during which jealousy was nowhere to be found in me.
Engage with your current season with gratitude. When you understand you will not always have what you have and live the same way you live now because life will inevitably change for better or worse, you will feel content and thankful here and now.
3. Find contentment in Christ
If you are a Christian, this one is for you. But even if you are not, I invite you to stay with me a little longer.
Most Christians could recite what Paul famously said in Philippians 4:12-13:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Before I went to that retreat, I knew about this verse despite those years of wanting and discontented as a young single woman, which tells you that I’d never truly understood what the verse meant.
My deepest desires were for intimacy and security, which are the universal basic human’s desires. We all want deep connections with others to give and take love, and an environment or a home to feel secure, don’t we? These desires may manifest in looking for a spouse to build a family together or securing a job position for the stream of income.
There is nothing wrong with our desires. We are made to have those desires, and they are good. However, when searching for contentment in a person or a job, there is no guarantee that they will never change. If that person leaves or we lose our jobs, our contentment would be shattered.
However, if we search for contentment in Christ, like what Paul said in Philippines 4:10, “I rejoice greatly in the Lord,” we need faith, and we will find the indestructible contentment because God never changes.
On the last two days of that retreat, I wrestled hard with God. I asked Him why I felt strong jealousy, even anger towards that couple. I told Him I didn’t want to feel that way because they did no wrong to me, and I wanted to feel happy. Then, I heard God whispering this in my heart, “What I have for you is good, and they will not have it. I will guide you. I’m with you.” These kind words settled every rattling thought and emotion in me.
My friend, are you discontent with where you are? Start a new storyline with a fresh perspective today. Your days are made uniquely for you, and no one else has the privilege to live and experience the wonder of your life rooted in Christ. You have more than enough to rejoice and be content here and now.