I’ve struggled with the idea of God being jealous. Jealousy and envy seem like such human, base emotions – beneath God, in a way. But scripture tells and shows us examples where God expresses them.
I think part of my trouble in grasping this has been that I’ve defined jealousy by my own experience of it. I found these synonyms in my Roget’s Thesaurus – “envious, grudging, jaundiced” – and could immediately relate to them. I know all too clearly how jealousy toward a person or prize eats away my self-esteem. And after each episode, I’ve ended up both resentful and a little ashamed.
Is that what God goes through when he feels jealousy? No – I believe His experience is vastly different. For one thing, my own bouts with jealousy are rooted in insecurity – someone else has or is what I think I need. God is complete, and has no need of anything. He is totally secure. Also, to be honest, my longings are self-centered – the object of my ‘affection’ will benefit me first. In contrast, God’s longings are for our good: freely giving grace and peace to us, and making our lives better by His presence.
The Merriam-Webster definition of “jealous” paints a powerful picture: “intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness” and “vigilant in guarding a possession.” This evokes an image of God watching over and protecting something He already has and greatly cherishes. Rather than trying to grab hold of something out of fear or lack, God reaches down with deep love from a place of strength.
It turns out, the real struggle for me in looking at God’s jealousy isn’t in accepting that He feels it, but in accepting that the Lord of the Universe loves and desires me that much.
Idols have been on my mind lately, especially in relation to worship. I’ve written before about all the idols I’ve had in my life, starting when I was very young. When I thought about things I wanted, such as career success, or money, or a beautiful face and body, I felt intense excitement about getting them, along with a gritty determination – I could not fail to capture them, or my life was worthless. That sounds extreme, and it was. I truly believed that without those things, there wasn’t much reason to get up in the morning. I literally worshipped the daydreams I spun about what I would do and be.
But here’s a truth I’ve learned about idols: they are illusions. Each of the items on my “To Do” list held a promise for me – a complete and exciting life full of people who loved and appreciated me for the amazing person I’d become.
Do you see the faulty thinking there?
I assumed that getting the perfect job or losing 20 pounds would suddenly make me a person who was worthy of notice. The person I already was didn’t deserve to be loved, so improving myself in all these areas was the way to earn happiness. For me, idol worship came out of insecurity. I simply didn’t like myself, and so I bought into the illusion that there was another me out there somewhere, just waiting to be discovered. But what I needed was healing, not a self-improvement regimen. Through God’s Word and some good teaching, I’ve learned that I have always been worthy of love. God actually designed the me I am – my eye color and my temperament, my shoe size and my talents. And He has always loved, accepted and respected me.
The bottom line is, I started concentrating on myself and what I should do, and more onto God and what He could do. I began to align my will to His, and to seek to please Him rather than people. I accepted Him is the source of my significance. The more I worshipped God the less of a hold the old idols had on me. They will always try to lure me away, but I won’t be following them anymore.