Where in your life do you find yourself getting angry that others have something you want?
- Maybe a co-worker got the promotion you felt you deserved.
- Or your ex is happily remarried, leaving you a single parent trying to raise your kids.
- Or maybe you’re angry at the overly affectionate couple in front of you at church, while you long for a same-sex romance that God forbids.
- Maybe for you it’s anger toward those who pushed for gay marriage and won.
- Or maybe you have a friend or loved one who seems to live a charmed life while you face trouble after trouble.
We see something similar in the parable I wrote about last week: The younger brother wants his inheritance. Without commentary, the father sells half the family property and writes him a check. And the son is on his way. When he comes back penniless and looking for a job, the father throws a party.
During the same time, the older brother works dutifully at his father’s side, takes care of his father’s business, does what his father wants him to do. One evening, he returns from his father’s fields, sweaty and covered in dust and dung, and gets what must have felt like a slap in the face: His brother is back and Dad’s killed the fattened calf to celebrate.
I said last week that in this parable, Jesus reveals the Father as a Lover brimming over with desire. This is why the father had to let the younger son go. And why he couldn’t just pay the older son what he deserved.
Because every lover wants to be loved.
And this is also why the father’s gift to the younger son was a gift to the older brother, too.
Because of the father’s over-the-top generosity to the younger son, something unusual happens for the older brother. In a moment of passion and anger, he sheds his compliance, shouting accusingly at his father: “I’ve slaved for you, been the faithful one, never complained! But this other son, the one who trampled all over you, you throw him a party!?”
What’s changed? He’s no longer happy being the dutiful son, the hard worker, the loyal one. A deeper desire in his heart is rising to the surface.
He’s coming face to face with the reality that doing what the father wants is not the same thing as being whom the father wants.
He could never earn what his younger brother was receiving. And that’s what he wanted.
What I want.
Is it what you want, too?
Would you dare to face this?
Because believing that what you want is within your grasp actually means you don’t know how deep your desire really goes.
Do others get more than they deserve? Sure they do. Do wicked men prosper? Yes. Does God allow people to misuse His gifts? He does.
Wherever you find yourself angry at what others have, how others are winning, what others are getting away with, let it incite desire in you. And turn your desire toward Him, daring to believe He is what you want, and He does indeed desire you.
Question: What are you typically more in touch with: your desire for what others seem to have or your desire for God? In what practical ways can you “turn your desire toward Him?” Leave a comment below.
have to say this post is both interesting,cause I find the older brother popping up in the area of being single (God has clearly given his good gifts to married friends). What do I do with it… “giving it to God” doesn’t really change anything so I just end up pissed.
MC, the older brother was pissed too, which was a step in the right direction (moving away from being a dutiful son out in the field, unaware of his deep desire for more), but only a step. Jesus doesn’t tell us how the story ends. The older brother could choose to remain angry that the father wasn’t doing more for him.
What I’m proposing in this post is that the older brother wanted more than he thought, and I’m challenging myself and my readers to dare to feel the deeper desire underneath the anger (and even underneath the desire for what someone else is getting that we’re not). Where we do not get what others have that we want, we can keep opening ourselves to God, choosing to trust He will fill our deepest longings, partially in this life and fully in the life to come.
I’m not saying this is easy, or easy to discern or walk through. I’m a novice at it myself. But I am saying the Father longs for us more than we know longing for anything. And opening our desire to Him is a better option for us older brothers than staying pissed off outside the party.
When I see others enjoying their relationship with their spouse and family, I desire what others have. To the point of envy.
“Turning my desire towards God” feels like the old admonitions of a religious upbringing that shouted “read your bible more, pray more” while not giving hope of intimacy with Jesus.
I don’t know how to let him invade my longings.
Hi Mark, I hope you didn’t hear anything akin to “read your Bible more” or “pray more” in this post. My point was all about pursuing deeper intimacy with the Father rather than just trying to do the “right” things. Or if we do those things (reading our Bibles, praying, working the family field, etc.), to do them while opening ourselves and our desires to the Lord, trusting He desires us more than we desire Him.
I’m a novice at allowing him to invade my longings. One of the ways I’ve been practicing this is when I feel the pain of longing for something I don’t have, I’m trying to cry out longingly for Him (rather than that thing). Sometimes this includes crying out for what I know God has that I may also get somewhere else (e.g. a newer car will give me more peace of mind, so crying out to God for His peace).
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I follow you. Up to the point where you say “let it turn your desire toward Him.” I mean, I suppose I should hope that happens, but I’m a man who only knows one thing, desires of the flesh. Years ago I seemed to identify more with the higher things, that God was more important than pleasing the flesh. But I guess over the years I got tired of putting my human desires aside. I’m 44 and single and never had a long lasting relationship, except in college, but the whole time I felt out of my element. I seem doomed to singleness even though my body and mind crave what others have, that girl. Crazy thing is when I had a girl seemingly in my grasp, I couldnt hang on for the unshakable feelings of inadequacy and insecurity in my soul that told me God would never prosper this relationship.
Hi Mark, there’s a lot here. Are you near one of our offices? It might be more helpful to sit down and hear more from you than to try to reply here.
Yes, I live in Woodbridge. I attend the Thursday night SALT class in Falls Church.
That’s great, Mark. Regeneration’s salt program with Bob Ragan and the other men involved is an excellent place to bring these thoughts and feelings.