Imagine this. Or perhaps you don’t have to…
Your Loved One has lived with their chronic illness for ten years. There’s been highs and lows, but you’re just beginning to understand what life looks like for them and also for you.
Then a close friend receives a diagnosis. They’re sick. Chronically sick… perhaps with the same illness as your loved One, perhaps a slightly different one.
Everyone is dismayed and shocked. They surround the newly-diagnosed one with gifts of love and support. Maybe they look at you, and assume you too will visit and offer your help. After all, you and your Loved One are ‘old hands’.
Perhaps someone nudges you and quips that maybe the past suffering of your Loved One was preparation for loving this person – that all that agony was raising you up for “such a time as this.”
You know you should help. You know you should love. But instead you feel… jealous.
How can I be jealous of someone else’s illness?
It seems an awful thing to admit, and it can make us feel terrible. How can we possibly be jealous of someone else’s awful diagnosis? How can something that ought to move us to pity and sympathy instead make us feel bitter?
I think it’s important to acknowledge that it does. These are real feelings and have to be examined and discussed. There is no part of our character that is too dark for God, and so we cannot simply lock our feelings in a room because we are ashamed of them.
But why do we feel this way?
There’s not going to be a single explanation which will fit everyone’s experience, but perhaps we feel bitter and jealous because:
They are more popular
This new person is getting more attention than our Loved One does, or ever did. Maybe they are younger, maybe the culture and attitude to chronic illness has changed. Perhaps your community is better equipped to respond, or perhaps the newly diagnosed person simply has more friends. There’s even the chance that perhaps we merely perceive that they are receiving more attention because we are standing outside their struggles and looking in.
They are ‘better’ at being ill
The new person is better at coping with their disease than our Loved One. Perhaps the reason is their illness is less severe. They’ve certainly had to struggle with it for a shorter amount of time than your Loved One. Maybe they are simply stronger or more capable. Either way it is easy for fear to slink in. Have we been exaggerating our Loved One’s illness? Or are people going to suspect that we have? Or will they think our Loved One is simply weaker?
They have more help
The new person has access to treatment that our Loved One does not. Perhaps times have changed. Perhaps the newly diagnosed suffered has more money, or different circumstances or a different strain of sickness. Perhaps the cure that did not work on our Loved One works on them, or God in His sovereignty works a miracle and answers their prayers for healing. It seems so unfair. How could he heal them and not our Loved One?
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The only cure for jealousy
There’s only one answer to our bitterness and our jealous, and it’s not an easy one.
We need to trust.
Trust God with our Loved One’s life – that He is working a marvelous plan in their circumstances, and it might be different to that of the other person. It may seem harder, but that does not make it second-rate.
Trust God with our own image – our identity is not tied up with our community’s perception of our Loved one. It is linked with God, and cannot be shaken, no matter if one hundred people are diagnosed with the same illness as our Loved One and each of them cope with it better.
Trust God with the world – God is God. He gives people different abilities and different amounts of strength. Some people fight anxiety, other do not. Do we truly trust that He knows best, and works in the best ways?
It’s easy of course to simply say ‘trust’ – but how do we live that out? Sometimes a heart change only follows a life change, so what can we practically do to fight our inclination towards jealousy?
Will you replace bitterness with love?
Will you actively love your newly-diagnosed friend?
Not because everyone expects you to, but because God invites us to. Do you have experiences and knowledge to share? Or are you being called to sit humbly with them and listen? Do you alone understand some of their practical needs – and can you meet them, or guide others in doing so? Let us not be afraid to invest time and love.
Will you pray for them?
This is a truth I’ve found time and time again. Prayer, genuine prayer, is the best way to erase hate. You can’t pray for someone and hold onto hatred. So pray for this newly-diagnosed neighbour. Pray prayers only you, with your experience as a Watcher, can.
Will you commit to the truth?
It’s so easy to make assumptions: they’re receiving more attention. They don’t need help, they have everyone else around them. They’re clearly doing fine. People obviously think that I have been exaggerating the depths of this disease.
Let’s search carefully through what we believe. How much of it is true? Have we jumped to believe something without actual proof? What do we want to believe, and what would it be easier not to?
It’s OK to battle jealousy (as long as we battle!)
Ah my friends. It is difficult to fight against the desires of our heart. Hard to love when we incline towards jealousy, hard to care when we’d prefer to build up defensive walls.
Let us pray for the grace to turn from bitterness to God.
//Have you ever felt the subtle tug of jealousy? I certainly have! I’d love to hear your story – comment below, or get in touch with me on the contact page!