I brought a rush of hot, summer air with me as I walked through my friend’s front door. I turned the corner down her hall, and there they were: my friend, just a handful of days postpartum, and her tiny child sleeping wrapped against her chest. Tears blurred my vision. I often cry when my friends have babies.
When she first told me she was pregnant, I had burst into tears.
“You,” I told her with utter sincerity, “are going to be a wonderful mother.”
It was true — motherhood was embedded in her DNA. But I wasn’t sure if it was embedded in mine.
Now, my friend stood up from her chair, a smile stretching across her cheeks, and placed the baby in my arms. I sat on her leather couch and stared at him, overwhelmed by his presence despite how little space he took up in my arms. He was light, precious. I couldn’t get over how tiny his nose was, or how I could feel his lips blowing the smallest stream of air each time he exhaled.
For the next hour she recounted her birth story. She wasn’t tired like I expected. She was vibrant and energized, as if motherhood had given her distinct purpose and a reason for being on this earth. Her face was awash with color; she bounced around the room even though she had given birth just a few days earlier. She was a woman who had partaken in the miracle of childbirth, and the adrenaline was still coursing through her body.
I held her son in silence while she spoke, my heart racing as I listened. I grew increasingly overwhelmed as she talked — like the very air was closing in on me.
With each word she spoke, the lurching in my chest grew tighter and more pronounced. I didn’t know what to say. Even though neither of us had acknowledged it, I knew everything had suddenly changed. I didn’t know what she needed now that she had a baby. I didn’t know what our friendship would look like now that she was a mother. A chasm had formed between us that I didn’t know how to cross. My envy was thick, and the depth of my loneliness felt inescapable. My friend didn’t know it then, but I wanted everything she seemed to have: a husband, a house, and now, a baby.
I wanted to celebrate with her, but I also wanted to leave. I sat on my hands instead. Eventually, I collected my purse and told her I should go. Her eyes were still radiant. She was in her own beautiful world, and she couldn’t help but glow.
I hugged her, kissed the top of her child’s head, and assured her to call me if she needed anything. Then I climbed into my car and cried.
My envy, pain, and loneliness crowded out my capacity for celebration. I didn’t know how to hold my envy and her happiness together in my hands. I was watching the hopes and dreams I had for myself play out in someone else’s life, and I was terrified that was the way it would always be.
I put my car in drive and cried the entire way home.
I would’ve liked my envy and loneliness to be fixed with a marriage and children. I would’ve preferred God to hand me a husband the way someone hands me French fries at the drive-through window. For so long I kept my eyes fixed on my friends’ lives. I felt like God was making all of their dreams come true and had somehow forgotten about me. Instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus and on the adventures He might have in store for me, I focused on what I didn’t have.
The apostle Peter had a similar experience. In John 21, Peter and Jesus share a deeply personal moment that offers much healing and redemption. Near the end of the chapter, Jesus gives Peter a glimpse of how he’s going to die. Talk about intense. Peter doesn’t know how to handle what Jesus tells him, so he awkwardly looks over at John and asks, “Lord, what about him?” (v. 21).
I imagine Jesus keeping His eyes on Peter as He replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (v. 22).
I do this a lot. I look out at the world, and I see my friends getting married and having babies, and I feel my heart shatter a little with fear and loneliness, and I ask Jesus, “What about her? Why is her life going the way she wants it to? Why are her dreams coming true?”
And I think Jesus keeps His tender eyes trained on me and says with kindness, “What is that to you? You must follow Me.”
You must follow Me.
Jesus hasn’t called me to follow my friends. He hasn’t even called me to necessarily follow my dreams. He’s called me to follow Him.
When we trust Jesus, we become free.
Free to live the lives and dream the dreams He has for us.
Free to celebrate what He has in store for our friends.
Free to rejoice instead of envy.
Even if it still hurts a little (which, in all honesty, it does), I can keep my eyes on Jesus through the pain. I can celebrate and rejoice with my friends over what God is doing in their lives—because I can choose to trust Him instead of envying others. Trust is more powerful and brave than envy anyway.
Envy is self-centered. Trust is generous.
Envy is fearful. Trust is courageous.
Envy sees only the negative. Trust chooses, over and over, to see the good.
I can cross our new life-stage divide with arms wide open, ready to celebrate all God has for my friend, and trusting Jesus has adventures in store for me.
And if, in the midst of my celebration and trust, the envy and pain and loneliness still sneak in, I’ll bring every ache into the light of Jesus. Because no matter what happens in the lives of the people around me, I’m choosing to follow Him.
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Michelle Stiffler says
May your honesty here be a source of joy and renewed hope. Keep trusting Jesus, Aliza. Thanks for encouraging me to do the same.
Aliza Latta says
Thank you so much for your kindness, Michelle. I so appreciate it
Ruth Mills says
Amen, Aliza!!! Follow Jesus, not our friends or even our spiritual leaders. Only Jesus. Perfect advice no matter our marital, parental, career status! Blessings!
Aliza Latta says
Thank you Ruth!
Thank you Aliza for your transparency and authenticity! It is not always easy to admit our struggles with envy, but as frail humans, envy or any other undesirable emotion can beset any of us at any time.
I have often wrestled with the Scripture that instructs us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. The mourning is oftentimes easier than the rejoicing based on what is happening in my life.
Thank you for sharing your heart in this devotional. We have to feel our emotions whatever they may be. The important thing, as you have noted is to talk to God about our feelings, that way we are living in truth.
Based on the situation one is facing it may be necessary to create a boundary as to how they will go about future interactions that cause them to focus on what they perceive is missing from their life, or a situation that may be a grief trigger.
For instance as an involuntary childless woman I do not attend church on Mother’s day. I also rarely will attend a baby dedication. These events are grief triggers for me so I practice self-care and stay away.
God understands our feelings and knows the longing of our hearts. Not all desires will be fulfilled and so the tension which can be created is to keep trusting God despite our disappointments. It is not easy but as we go on from day to day devotionals like these help us to know that we are not alone.
Aliza Latta says
Those are such good and kind boundaries, Nisa. Thank you so so much for sharing your heart
Aliza, thank you for this! I too have similar struggles, and this post was enormously helpful. I LOVE and can relate to this line in your bio, “she is always searching for the goodness of God, even when she has to squint to see it.” Blessings!
Aliza Latta says
I am so thankful it was helpful, Cheyla!
AMEN my sister! The Lord has brought me through this very thing myself. I LOVE how He has blessed you with the beautiful words that speak so warmly to my heart. And Glory to Him and thank you sharing because now I know I’m not alone in experiencing this. Love and Maranatha! Amy
Aliza Latta says
I’m so thankful you know you’re not alone in this, Amy! Thank you!
This did resonate with me , Aliza. I want to be a grandmother in the worst way, but it won’t be happening. My children have been clear about it and as they get older, the reality of it is true. I envy my friends who have grandchildren and get upset when they complain about them. They have no idea- at least I do not think they do. I feel their pity at times and was once told by my close friend that she was afraid to tell me she was going to be a grandmother yet again because she did not want to hurt my feelings. Mind you, I have never expressed this to them or anyone. I have always tried to be happy for everyone. I have worked with children all my life as a mental health clinician, social worker, school counselor, classroom aid and now as a substitute teacher since I retired. My children say what a terrific grandmother I would make but… I wonder why God has chosen this path for me? I appreciate your honesty in what you wrote. Thank you.
Aliza, I can’t explain how much I relate to this post! Wow! Single and 28 is no fun but God has not forgotten about us and He has good plans for our lives. May God continue to comfort us in our loneliness and may we grow closer to Him with each passing day. Thank You for your honesty and bravery in sharing your heart❤️
Thank you so much! My envy is rooted in something different than yours, but it occasionally raises its’ ugly head and truly devastates me, Your writing and reference to scripture have unlocked something in me that has brought me to a powerful understanding and ability to remember, “what is that to you. You must follow me”. Bullseye! Blessings!
You are so brave to share your feelings so openly! I’m sure a lot of young women are nodding and crying with you. Putting your future in God’s hands and trusting Him to give you His best, shows great courage! Well done, faithful servant!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Aliza I know how you have felt. But for a different reason. I know you think why can’t I have that happiness my friend has. A lovely Husband a lovely Home and a baby now to make it perfect for her. Yes we can envy what other people have. Wish we had it for ourselves. Like you and your friend. But mine is quite different. I envied my friend having lost of friends and being popular. She not married like me. Does not have anyone. But I do have a lovely Husband the best to me. He loves me for me. But I never have had many friends. Two sisters I have they live 86 miles away from me now. When they did live where I live they only lived 15 miles away from me. We see either alot even though I was married they not. We just had great friendship. Now they live in 86 miles away from me. I miss them and don’t see them as often. Like my other friend that lives only 10 miles away from me. That has lots of friends. I don’t see her that often as she is busy But I did at one time envy her being so popular. I said to myself why Lord at one time can I not just have one friend that I could see more often. We could pray together go for lunch or coffee now and then. But it still has not happened. God said to me Dawn don’t envy what anyone else has. Be thank full you have a lovely Husband who adores you plus a lovely home you both live in. I began before Got showed me all this began to think what was wrong with me no one wants to be my friend and the one that only live 10 miles away from me I hardly ever see. I tried to make friends with a friend of my friends who now live 86 miles away. The friend that I tried to make friends with that is friends with my friends that live 86 miles away. Only lived 3 miles away from me. When she did want to be friends with either it all got to me. Until God said what he said. I stopped and said God your so right. I have so much to be thankful for and should not Envy what other have. I prayed ask God to forgive me and he did. But it was not easy. So I can see where you were coming from over your friends life looking so perfect. God said don’t very envy what others have. Be thank full for what you already have. That is so true. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
I’ve had to fight this battle, over & over again, as time has gone, & societal milestone come & go. I too dreamed of marriage & children, but God had a different plan for me.
This envy battle, is in our lives in other areas too. Marketing & Advertising it Aimed at Creating Envy. Think about how many things you buy out of envy!
I’m so very glad doesn’t abandon me, as I fight this battle! His thoughts & ideas are past my comprehension. But what I do know is God’s Faithful, even when I’m faithless!
He created each of us as unique, one-of-a-kind. This didn’t stop at my conception, but continues with life, my relationships, my emotions, my mental abilities…Everything about me! And He does this with overwhelming Love, as He Rejoices over me!
Thank you Aliza for your beautiful honesty. I think that God must be wanting to deal with me on this same subject as I’ve also been working through another study book, called Unlimited by Jen Baker, which featured the same message from John 21 this week. I’m sure it’s a subject that we all struggle with from time to time. Loads of blessings to you and I know that Father has great plans in store for you
Beth Williams says
For years I was envious of my sisters & their children. Seemed like their lives were moving forward & I was stuck in neutral. “Must be nice.” was my go to phrase about these things. I had to cling to Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you & not for harm. To give you a hope & a future.” Kept on praying for what I wanted. In His timing He answered my prayers & moved my life forward. It took trusting that Jesus’s plans for my life were far better than I could imagine. We must learn to trust God & cling to Jeremiah 29:11. His plans for us are magnificent.