Text: Lamentations 1:12-22, Psalm 51:7-10
“He that is jealous is not in love”
– Saint Augustine
What I am about to share is not something I am not proud of. As a matter of fact, it takes courage for me to even admit that a superficial struggle consumed me for years, challenging and endangering my relationship with my sister. It was only through my tears of repentance that God’s grace and forgiveness set me free… and set my sister free.
I was so jealous of my sister. She is smart, tiny in stature, has an amazing husband and beautiful children. What I was most jealous of was her outward appearance. In my eyes she radiated outward beauty, the beauty seen on runways, in movies and magazines. Thin is in, and I despised going shopping with my sister as she picked out her size one while I sheepishly pulled double digits off the rack. It was so superficial, and yet the grip jealousy had on me was suffocating. It seeped into my envy of her two homes and her ability to have children. My sin was really ugly and blocked my ability to love her.
The jealousy seed took root when we were teenagers. Years later, the right conditions sprouted the destructive weeds of bitterness, distance, and a mean spirit. Like the writer of Lamentations, my sin had formed a yoke around my neck (Lam. 1:14) — my outward actions hurt my sister and my inward battle was torturous.
God was at work cleaning my prideful heart, exposing the raw places that were keeping me entangled in my own mess. He was renewing my spirit.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.
- Psalm 51:10, ESV
Everything changed when my sister and her daughter visited for a week to help in the care of my newborn son. Each day she would disappear for hours on a run. I was left caring for my newborn and my six year old niece. This was not my idea of help. She felt distant, both physically and emotionally.
We went to lunch at one of my favorite cafés and I watched her push food around her plate, barely eating. I saw for the first time that my sister was weak, broken, unhealthy, and struggling with control because her life was out of control. Anorexia had gripped her.
“Do you love yourself?” I asked.
She sat silently. “I’m not sure.”
“Do you know God loves you?”
Outwardly my sister was withering away and inwardly was frail. She was just like me.
The grip of jealously loosened and was replaced with an overwhelming sense of God’s compassion and love. God had to convict me of my sin before I could come alongside my sister and help point her to God’s unfailing love. She desperately needed Jesus and I shared.
Left alone, sin will strangle the life out of our heart and soul. It debilitates, destroys, and divides. The tighter the grip, the less we can breathe to sustain the inward and outward life.
Repent and God will renew a right spirit within you. He will wash you whiter than snow. The triune God breathes life into our sin-gripped hearts, freeing us from sin’s bondage with His forgiveness that transforms us from the inside out.
“But we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing stark naked before God. It is no use our trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the divine substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, and allow him to clothe us with his own righteousness.”
- John Stott