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The Human Condition was once perfect and free of adversity. But after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden the human condition became characterized by flaws and failures. We became prone to sin. And with the emergence of sin, we also saw the birth of adversity.
Adversity, which is now a part of our human condition, challenges us on mental, physical, and spiritual levels. There are many sources for the adversity that we face in our lives. These adversities could be a result of our actions. It could be an attack from the enemy. But it could also be the call of the Holy Spirit leading us towards a wilderness that draws us nearer to Him.
Our response to adversity is important. Because it's our response to adversity that determines whether or not we draw closer to God and overcome, or drift further away from him and fall to adversity.
The good news is there is an example to follow. Throughout the Bible we see numerous examples of people just like us who have faced adversity. Their struggles with adversity shed light on how we can biblically respond (or not respond) to adversity and overcome the trials and tribulations that mark our human condition.
This is the 4th week in a series I've entitled "Responding to Adversity" in which we will look at how these Biblical characters responded to adversity, and key takeaways from their struggle with adversity that we can apply to our day-to-day lives. This week's study on responding to adversity will be a look into Cain's response to the adversity of Jealousy (see link below for last week's devotional, Responding to Adversity - From Betrayal to Victory).
Jealousy is a disease. It eats through our conscience and breaks down the truths of reality. Jealously causes us to suffer mentally, physically, and spiritually. Jealousy, just like a disease, can vary in degrees of severity, but the outcome is always the same. Jealousy destroys. It destroys our joy, our peace, and our relationships with God, others, and self.
However, jealousy, just like a disease, can be healed. By correcting negative thought patterns, implementing self-control, and striving towards humility, the disease of jealousy can be healed, and the adversity of jealousy overcome.
The Story of Cain and His Jealousy
Cain and Abel were the children of Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman who ever lived. Cain, the first born of Adam and Eve, was a farmer, and Abel, his younger brother, was a shepherd.
So near to the perfection that once was in the garden of Eden, you might think that Cain and Abel were the best of friends (they were only one generation removed from the perfect world!). Sadly, there was a lack of the perfect love that once existed. In fact, Cain was jealous of his brother Abel, because Abel's sacrifice to God was accepted, while his was not (Abel had offered the best of what he had, while Cain merely brought what he thought would be enough).
Driven by the rage, which was fueled by his jealousy, Cain murdered his brother Abel.
Insights into the Adversity of Jealousy
Jealousy is a kin of selfishness and pride.
Selfishness is what makes us think only about ourselves, while pride is what justifies the behaviors and thought patterns that arise from selfishness, by telling us we deserve more and better than others.
Pride is deeply rooted and at the center of sinful nature. So much in fact, pride is what caused the devil to be kicked out of heaven. Satan’s pride led him to declare that he would have a place above God’s. No doubt his pride also held an attached character of jealousy, because it was Satan's jealousy in action that led him to make such bold and erroneous statements.
Therefore, we see that jealousy is the result of pride. When we are prideful, we believe these 2 things - 1) Our value is greater than others, and 2) We are more entitled and more deserving than others. And so, in the cases where we see others receiving or enjoying something that we believe should be ours, we then become jealous of them.
Unresolved jealousy stirs up the emotion of anger, which then leads to outbursts and evil behaviors, like the one Satan committed against God, and Cain committed against his brother Abel.
How We Can Respond to Jealousy
Here are 3 ways we can respond to the adversity of betrayal -
1. We can respond to the adversity of jealousy correcting our negative thought patterns.
- At the root of jealousy are incorrect and negative thought patterns. Thought patterns that make us think things like - "Why shouldn't it belong to me?", "What makes them better than me?". These negative thought patterns create a reality where everything is centered around self and lead us to believe that we are more valuable, and more entitled than others.
- We can correct these thought patterns by remembering that we are created equal in the image of God, and that God's love and sacrifice extends to us all equally.
- And while we are all loved and known by God, we hold our own form of variations and uniqueness. These traits and abilities do not set us above the rest, but rather apart from the rest. Just like a snowflake, each with their own unique patterns and beauty, does not hold a greater value than the snowflakes that are, were, and are to come.
2. We can respond to the adversity of betrayal by implementing self-control.
- In the story of Cain and Abel, Cain's jealousy of his brother led him to act out of rage, and without self-control.
- We should be mindful of our jealousy and learn to refrain from speaking rashly and acting out of anger during the times that we are jealous.
- Try the 5 second rule. Next time, you feel like you're about to speak or react out of jealousy, take 5 seconds to calm down, re-evaluate the situation, or pray. This will help you from saying and doing things you don't mean and that can perpetuate other negative outcomes.
3. We can respond to the adversity of jealousy by striving towards humility.
- In addition to addressing the root issues causing jealousy, it’s important to guard against future occurrences of jealousy by developing the virtue of humility.
- Humility is not thinking that we’re worthless, but rather understanding and acknowledging the value in ourselves, as well as others. As contradictory as it might seem, jealousy often occurs from a sense of feeling inadequate. When we feel inadequate, we often try to overcompensate for this feeling of inadequacy by putting others down. Rather than trying to fill the void of the value we seek by tearing down the value of others, we should embrace the fact that we are all equally valuable and equally loved by God.