Written By Natalie Hanna Tan, Singapore
I have something to confess: I was once jealous of my best friend.
I didn’t mean to feel this way, and I’m not quite sure how it happened. We’d grown up and shared everything since we were young: our joys and tears, our secrets and dreams. We were pretty similar in many ways—our interests, personalities, and passions all matched. We even had strangers believe we are sisters (and we often played along with it).
But things changed in 2013 when I began to feel a strain in the friendship. It started off with a small thought: “Why is she part of the planning committee (for a church event) and not me?” This thought grew into something bigger as the months went by.
As I tried to sweep the thought under the carpet in the hope that it would somehow magically disappear, the devil, in his subtle ways, started to tamper with my thoughts and emotions. As my best friend became a more prominent figure in church, he capitalized on my feelings of inferiority, causing me to grow jealous and bitter towards her. She was pretty, likeable, talented . . . and perfect; she was everything I’d ever wanted to be, and she had everything I’d always wanted to have.
I became frustrated with God, and regularly asked Him why He seemed good to her, but not to me. Why did she have so many opportunities to serve? Why was I not succeeding in my ministry while she was receiving so many blessings? Why did everyone seem to like her more? I constantly tried to prove myself to others, striving to “up my game” and to be better than her. Before I knew it, I had given in to jealousy and selfish ambition; I had given in to the flesh.
The truth was, I had lost sight of what true success was. To be successful in the church setting, I had thought, was about how active I was. I thought I should serve in many teams, plan various events for the youth congregation, mentor younger girls, speak eloquently in youth meetings, and touch many lives. But God revealed to me that it was not about external appearances, and showed me what it truly meant to be a successful follower of Christ.
In Galatians 5:19-21, the apostle Paul lists out the practices of the flesh which will cause us to not inherit the Kingdom of God. Essentially, if we continually indulge in these practices, it shows that we have not submitted to Christ’s redemption and the Spirit’s renewal.
The opposite of living by the flesh is to live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). This is shown when our lives display fruit of the Spirit instead of sin, which includes envying each other. As God works in our lives to renew and transform us, we grow in our desire to please Him and reflect His heart and character through our lives.
In allowing myself to be overcome with feelings of jealousy, I’d unknowingly given myself over to the world; I was not allowing God to work in me and through me. I wasn’t living by the Spirit.
During this time, my best friend felt the tension in our friendship as well. We stopped meeting because we both knew there was something wrong—but we didn’t know how to fix it. I confided in my mentor at church about the frustrations I had. If not for her pulling us together to talk things through, we might have given up on the friendship entirely.
It took a whole string of prayers and heart-to-heart talks before we had our breakthrough. It wasn’t the usual “let’s-sit-down-and-talk-about-life” kind of talk we had before. Instead, we had to honestly tell each other what we weren’t happy about and the various hurts we’d felt.
On my part, I had to manage my expectations of the friendship and of her. I needed to understand that as much as we seemed to be completely alike, God had different plans for us. Our strengths were different and I should not compare myself to her. Instead, I ought to support her—not just in her ministry, but in all that she’s involved in.
To be honest, it wasn’t easy at all. But through this time, I learned to take captive every negative thought and surrender it to God. It took many sleepless and painful nights to let go of all the emotions and to rebuild our friendship from scratch.
But I can now say that it was all worth it. It’s been three years since it happened, and by God’s grace, I am happy to say that our friendship has since matured, and we’re growing and journeying on through life, stronger than before.