I’m going to share something with you that I think/hope will help someone who is struggling.
When I first married my husband I moved into him and his ex-wife’s home. My husband interacts with his ex-wife on a near daily basis. Nearly five days a week, my husband works out at a gym where one of his ex-girlfriends works. We have almost never been to one of our kids sporting events where at least a couple of his ex-girlfriends were not there also. I didn’t grow up in a small town and so I wasn’t used to this. These encounters and interactions used to make me so jealous, stressed out, angry, resentful, and bitter. I thought it was unfair that these women were still a part of our life and I felt that they were a constant threat to my marriage. Out of jealously and fear, I would spend a lot of time and energy trying to control my husband and everyone around me – making me more and more miserable in the process. I no longer struggle with these demons because through prayer and Bible study I came to realize a few things:
1.You can’t make people love you.
Think about it, even God can’t make us love him. We have all been given a free will and the only way we can truly love is when we voluntarily choose to love. No matter how much control I exerted, I couldn’t make my husband love me. (Fortunately, he already did love me more than anything; I just didn’t quite realize it at the time.) And even if we could MAKE someone love us, would we want that forced love anyway? You see, I had to come to terms with the reality that if I had to try so hard to make sure my husband loved me, then I don’t want his love. Just as Christ sets us free and allows us the freedom to choose whether or not we love him, we have to do the same for our spouse.
2.We can't always choose our circumstances, but we can always choose our reaction.
Well, on one hand, I did choose my circumstance when I married a man who lives in such close proximity to everyone from his past, but I didn’t quite realize ALL that I had signed up for at the time. In the beginning I used to think it was my husband’s fault, these womens' fault, or just my circumstance that was causing me so much pain. I would always think things like, “If only we didn’t live in this town, then I’d be happy,” or “If only my husband would quit talking to her, then I would be happy,” and on and on. Today I have a phrase that I say all the time: "If you are not happy right now, you will never be happy." What I mean is that if happiness is dependent on anything external, it is not true happiness, and will always be temporary. Even if we did move to a new town or my husband did stop talking to a certain person, that would only make me happy until the next thing I didn’t like happened. You see, it was not my situation that was messed up, it was my heart, and until I changed my heart, I would find a way to be miserable in any situation. It was not my husband who was making me hurt, it was not the other women making me jealous or angry, it was me choosing to feel these ways. It may sound simple, but the day that I realized I am not a slave to my emotions and that I can choose to be kind, content and happy even when I don’t feel those ways, was life changing and set me free in so many ways. Remember, you can’t always change the world around you, but you can change yourself.
3.Christ says love your “enemies.”
Now, the funny thing about this is that in the beginning of my healing process I would take this command and apply it to my situation and I would begrudgingly pray for these women and try to be as kind to them as possible because that’s what I thought I was “supposed” to do. Well, I put "enemies" in quotations because God revealed to me that these women were NOT my enemies except for in my own mind! Crazy, but true. Satan can make us believe such ridiculous lies. The truth was, these other women probably never even thought about me, and here I was considering them my enemies. Today, when a wrong thought creeps into my mind, I understand that I don’t have to accept it. If our thoughts do not align with the Word of God, then they are not true and we don’t have to accept them. Today when a wrong thought enters my mind, I get rid of it and I replace it with a truth. For example, if I catch myself feeling insecure or thinking a negative thought about myself, I may replace that thought with “I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works,” (Ephesians 2:10). The scripture is a sword that we can use to cut through the lies that Satan tries to convince us of. However, if we do not study the scriptures and know the truth, we will be very vulnerable and easily deceived – as I once was.
4. We are called to be Holy (set apart).
One thing that really convicted me was the thought that my jealously and control was a horrible witness; not only to these other women, but to my husband! If I claim to be a follower of Christ, and yet I’m walking around stressed out, angry, and jealous, then why on earth would anyone else want to be a Christian? As Christians we are called to march to the beat of a different drum and sometimes that means being kind, content, and peaceful even when it doesn’t make sense or even when we don’t feel like it. Once I got a grasp on this, not only did I quit behaving so rudely, but I wrote apology letters to these other women whom I felt I had mistreated. Only one wrote back, and that’s ok, because it wasn’t about them, it was about me being who I claimed to be: a holy and devout follower of Christ. You see, I used to have the mentality that people owed me respect, and that if I didn’t get it exactly the way I felt I deserved it, then it was an attack on me and that I must do something about it. That was nothing more than pride which is another form of fear. Today I have such confidence through Christ that I can be disrespected or mistreated without feeling the need to retaliate. Christ commands us to fight for peace and I think that a peaceful Christian is one of the best witnesses we can be!
Today, my situation is the EXACT same as it was years ago. Nothing externally has changed. What changed was my heart. I can honestly tell you today that I do not struggle with jealousy, fear, or insecurity. Christ has set me free from these things, but it is an ongoing process that requires me staying in the scripture and constantly leaning on Christ. If you had asked me 4 years ago, I would have never dreamed I could be as free, content, and joyful as I am today. If you are struggling with control, bitterness, resentment, or jealously and you think that you cannot be happy unless your situation changes, then let me assure you that you can be set free from these emotions and that you can learn to be happy right where you are at!