Green Is Not Your Color

A sound heart is the life of the flesh_ but envy the rottenness of the bones.-2.png

Guys, you’re welcome to read today’s devotion, but since we’ve just passed Mother’s Day, I’d like to direct some thoughts toward my female readers.

Okay, ladies, by a show of hands, how many of you heard some reference to the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 this weekend?  Yes, I see those hands.  And how many of you cringed a bit as the passage was read?  Yeah, me too.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love God’s Word, and I know it is perfect, holy, and right in every way.  It is full of encouragement and strength, but there’s just something about Proverbs 31 that tends to make me feel inferior and even downright lazy.  Can I get an “Amen”?

Of course, it doesn’t help any that when I read it, I immediately think of a real-life example that seems to fit the virtuous woman in every way.  I’m speaking of Joanna Gaines.  For those who don’t recognize the name, she (along with her husband, Chip) is the star of the popular show, Fixer Upper. In addition to being a star, she is a mom of five who owns multiple businesses and seems to excel at anything she sets her hands to.

In her “spare time,” Joanna grows her own vegetables and herbs, helps out on the family farm, and bakes delicious treats for friends and family alike.  Not only is she talented, but she’s beautiful too — the perfect hair, teeth, skin tone, and figure.  To be honest, as much I as enjoy watching Fixer Upper, I tend to come away feeling a bit green. . .with envy.

Why do we ladies do that?  Why do we insist on comparing ourselves to others?  Don’t we realize that God made us who we are for a reason?  Why is it so difficult for us to understand that we’re unique in our own way?

I wish I had answers to those questions, but I’m afraid I don’t.  The truth is, I fall into the pit of envy more often than I can count, especially now that my health is holding me back in so many ways.  I look at those around me who keep immaculate homes, cook gourmet meals, and raise their families, all while holding down a grueling job, and think What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I be a better wife, housekeeper, cook, etc.?  Then, I start to feel sorry for my dear husband, and before long, I conclude that if I feel like I’m letting him down as a helpmeet, he must believe the same about me (even though he has NEVER said or done anything to make me think that.)

It’s not Jason that causes the chaos in my thoughts and turns my self-pity into self-loathing.  It’s envy.  Envy is dangerous, and it is a powerful weapon in Satan’s arsenal. . .especially when dealing with us, ladies.  Many, many verses in the Bible address envy, but this one grabs my attention every time:

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
— James 3:16

Ouch!  Envy doesn’t stop at making me feel like a loser.  It progresses into bitterness, resentment, and so much more.  It is the seed from which confusion and evil works grow.  Envy leads people to do stupid things and to cause great havoc not just in their own lives, but in the lives of all those around them.  It causes strife, heartache, and in the end, despite the progression, envy remains.  Never satisfied.  Never quenched.  Instead, it grows bigger and bigger until we, too, are never satisfied.  We want more.  We want something different.  We become so blinded to our strengths and blessings that all we can focus on is how we feel we’re lacking.  And we carry that sense of “not enough” with us into all our relationships, creating a burden for those we love.

I’ll be the first to admit that stopping envy in its tracks is laborious.  It’s so easy to allow those thoughts to creep in and take root, but we must be on guard and catch those nasty weeds before they take over the garden of our heart.  One verse that helps me do that is found in my favorite book of the Bible.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
— Psalm 139:14

Speaking this truth aloud sends the enemy and his weapon of envy fleeing in the opposite direction.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  That is what God has to say about me, and God is never wrong.  His works are marvelous, and I am one of His works; therefore, I must be marvelous.  

Now, here comes the tricky part:  my soul knows it.  I struggle with that a bit, but repetition aids learning.  So, I keep telling myself this truth as many times as it takes until it sinks in:  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  God doesn’t make junk.  He doesn’t make worthless individuals.  I am not lazy.  I have a health condition, and that’s a different story entirely.  I may not be able to do what others can do, but they have no idea how to be me either.  Besides, I can only see what others want me to see.  I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  Sure, their home may be immaculate, but is it full of joy?  Which is more important?  I have nothing to prove to anyone, even myself.  God’s work is marvelous, and I am privileged to be His work.  And He’s also promised He’s not done with me yet, so I can take comfort in knowing I’m a marvelous work in progress.

My dear lady friend, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are beautiful, marvelous, and unique.  Don’t let envy steal your joy, strength, or peace.  Don’t allow it to cause strife and division in your home and relationships.  Stop it in its tracks by speaking God’s truth aloud.  Use the Scripture above or find your own and take it to heart until your soul knows the truth—You are amazing!

Goodness as a Characteristic of Love

isn’t just about the outward actions but also the inward reactions..png

Goodness and gentleness are closely intertwined. They even share a similar meaning in that we can define them as kindness. But goodness goes even a step beyond that because it means “uprightness of heart and life; morality; integrity.” Kindness (gentleness) is how we behave toward others while goodness is how we act both outwardly and inwardly. It begins in the heart, which only makes sense when we consider that’s where love abides.

When we read through the love chapter of I Corinthians 13, we find that every attribute could easily be equated with goodness, for they are all traits displaying an upright heart. But there are a few phrases within the chapter that jump out as the very definition of goodness. Let’s look at these today.

Charity does not envy (vs.4). - Simply put, love isn’t jealous. (Note with me here, jealousy is an inward emotion because—remember—goodness isn’t just about the outward actions but also the inward reactions.) In this sense, we display virtue when our friend pulls up in their new car, and we’re genuinely happy for them. We prove our integrity when we congratulate the co-worker who gets the job we wanted instead of making derogatory remarks about how we were better suited for the position. Each time someone displays their talents and abilities, and we thank God for blessing them in that way instead of questioning why He didn’t share some of that talent with us, we are a picture of goodness. 

Love doesn’t behave unseemly (vs. 5). - Here we see the inward goodness making its way outward.  Let’s face it, what’s inside our hearts eventually makes it way out through our mouths, actions, or attitudes. And when the things in our heart are yucky, the outbursts will also be yucky. But goodness isn’t that way. God’s love should compel us to behave in a way that’s good and pleasant, and I’m not talking about putting on an act here. Goodness doesn’t smile on the outside while rehearsing ugly comments on the inside. It is genuine. When we get to the place where we can control our thoughts and emotions, controlling our actions will be easy!

Love thinks no evil (vs. 5) - Once again, goodness is displayed as an inward fruit.  It is rooted in our thoughts. Criticism, resentment, and bitterness have no place in a life of goodness. Because it is kindness itself, goodness doesn’t have a bad thing to say (or think) about anyone or anything. That’s easy when the person in question is kind in return but not so much when we feel we’ve been done wrong. But true goodness makes no distinction between the two. Its positivity puts Pollyanna to shame.

Love doesn’t rejoice in iniquity (vs. 6) - To be good is to be morally upright, which means sin is no joking matter. The Bible makes that clear in the book of Proverbs.

Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.
— Proverbs 14:9

That sounds easy enough until we stop and think about it. Sure, we all understand that murder and adultery are no laughing matter, but have we ever made jokes about drinking or some other nasty habit? What about the television displays of the character who’s been drinking and is acting out because of it? Typically, the antics are nothing short of hilarious (at least, the way Hollywood promotes it.) Otis from The Andy Griffith Show comes to my mind. He was the town drunk, yet the way he’s portrayed on the show makes him lovable and funny. So, we laugh, but in doing so, we make light of sin. Ouch, right?

Goodness. Uprightness. Morality. Integrity. What a beautiful and all-encompassing attribute of love. If we could get a grasp on goodness, everything else would fall into place. But I remind you, we are the branches, and branches do not produce the fruit; we only bear it. The fruit must come from the Lord (the vine) because the Bible makes it clear that besides Him, there is no good thing.  

So if we’re not good, how can we display goodness? By choosing to display the fruit provided by the Vine. We surrender to His will and way and choose each day to do what He’s asked us to do. It won’t be easy, and we will all fail from time to time. I dare say, some of us will fail more often than we succeed. But each time we bear that fruit, it becomes easier to do it again. Like any habit, the more often we do it, the more automatic it will become. It begins with a choice. To not envy. To behave kindly. To keep positive thoughts. To never make light of sin. To think, feel, and act in a way that’s pleasing to the Lord.

How’s your goodness today?

Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!
— Psalm 31:19

Ssh! Did You Hear That?

Even our falling tears make a joyful sound when they're accompanied by the proper attitude..png
And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.
— Numbers 12:1-2

I believe the last sentence in verse two has to be one of the most comforting and yet convicting statements of all time.  And the Lord heard it.  For Moses, this was a comfort.  Such was not the case, however, for Miriam and Aaron.  God heard what was being said about his faithful servant, and He wasn't pleased.  In fact, he punished Miriam and Aaron for their disrespect toward Moses and basically told them that they needed to shut their mouths because they didn't know what they were talking about.

I think it all boiled down to jealousy.  Notice the envy in their question, "Is God only speaking through you?  What about us?  Aren't we just as important?"  With attitudes like that, no, you're not!  The Bible tells us that Moses was meek.  To my knowledge, that term is never associated with either Miriam or Aaron.  But that's another story for another time.

For today, let's focus on the fact that God hears.  He hears each broken heart, each desperate plea, each mournful sigh and each falling tear.  And in that respect, it's such a comfort to know that He hears.  What a blessing to comprehend that He hears our unspoken prayers, those disjointed sentences that we simply can't seem to piece together.  He hears the words that hurt too much to utter.  He hears and understands it all.  What a joy!

On the other hand, He does hear and understand ALL.  That means He hears our complaints and groanings.  He hears our accusations and hurtful words.  He hears our sarcasm and cynicism.  He hears our gossip and ridicule.  And the scariest part of all is that we don't even have to say it for Him to hear it.  We need only think it, and He hears.

How can something be such a blessing and such a curse all at the same time.  Well, truth be told, it needn't be a curse.  We need only take a lesson from Moses and adopt an attitude of meekness.  The word "meekness" means quiet strength, humility, submission, obedience.  Isn't that what we're supposed to be anyway?  Humble, submitted to God and His will.  When we are, we will have no fear of what God may be hearing from us, for it will all be good.  Even our falling tears make a joyful sound when they're accompanied by the proper attitude.

As you go about your day today, I implore you to think about what God may be hearing from you.  Does He hear praise and worship or pity and complaints?  Does He hear good things or bad?  And remember, He can even hear what is unsaid, so keep an eye on your thoughts as well.  After all, if we're thinking about it, it won't be long before those thoughts find an outlet.  

God is always listening.  What kind of sounds are coming from you?