Have you ever had someone angry with you for years and not know it?
I have, and finding out about me taught me a few things about jealousy.
The phone rang early one Saturday morning with a familiar voice on the other end. A beloved friend was sitting at his wife's bedside waiting to witness her last breath. Jane had been battling a lung disorder for many years and now resided in a hospice facility. David was calling to let my husband and I know that the end was near.
Jane herself had never given in to fear, but for the first time we heard it in David's voice.
"OK, we're coming NOW!" my husband replied. David's response was, "Unless you're the guy with the nail-scarred hands, you'll never make it."
When we arrived at the care center and entered Jane’s room, the atmosphere was somber to say the least. Her entire family of four children with their spouses and one infant grandson stood vigil over the beloved matriarch of the family. Jane's labored breathing continued as it had for the past four days.
Three of the children seemed to be at peace with their mother leaving them. However the youngest daughter, Erica*, was literally wailing in agony over her mom’s impending departure. As my husband and I circled the room greeting everyone with hugs, Erica stayed at her mom's side weeping and did not acknowledge our entrance.
Approaching Jane's bed, I sat next to her and held her hand. It was only a matter of minutes before Jane sat straight up, looked at me, smiled, and then lay down exhaling her last breath. She was finally gone. Peaceful tears filled the room. Relief was on everyone's face — except for Erica's. She was crying uncontrollably, not leaving her mom's side.
In this hospice facility each room had its own outside terrace area. David asked me to take Erica outside to try to console her. She resisted at first but then with gentle nudging from her siblings, she acquiesced. I sensed her unwillingness to allow me to help, so I simply sat silently with her and allowed her to grieve.
Fast forward three years later.
We received a phone call from David alerting us to his upcoming open-heart surgery. His request was for us to come to the hospital before his surgery for support because his children had obligations out of town and couldn't come till later. We honored his request on surgery day, then went to wait in a huge room with several other families.
After a few hours, David's children arrived and Erica made a beeline for me. As I arose from my chair to hug her, she backed away and yelled out, "Why did it have to be you?" Stunned, I looked around. Everyone in the waiting room heard her, and now, along with Erica, were waiting for my response!
"Why did WHAT have to be me?" I asked.
Erica said, "I've been jealous of you for three years because mom waited until YOU got there to die! We told her it would be OK if she went, so why did she wait for you?”
Thankfully, my husband jumped in, as he could see I was at a loss for words. "Erica, we don't know why your mom waited, but being jealous all this time must have been really terrible for you. Let's talk about this."
"I just don't understand. I'm constantly thinking about it, I'm constantly mad, jealous, hurt, and confused. After all this time, why won't it go away? I've never told anyone — I just can't let it go!"
The waiting area proved to be the healing ground for Erica's hurt. Now exposed, her anger and jealousy could be dealt with.
Jealousy and anger are too often confused and dealt with as being one and the same thing. Divine jealousy, as stated in Exodus 20:5 — “I the Lord your God am a jealous God” — is much different than human jealousy. God carefully maintains and protects what is rightfully his. This is a world apart from human sinful jealousy that causes people to envy, suspect, and resent others. In Proverbs 27:4 it says, “Anger is cruel and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.”
Gently we prayed with Erica, always acknowledging her feelings, while reminding ourselves of Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I had to bury my own defensiveness and instead show her grace. In that waiting room, my husband and I were able to help Erica open those cleansing floodgates of forgiveness.
After we prayed, we watched Erica’s features soften, her heart slowly responding to the ever-present love of God. How blessed we were, when after many prayers, tears, hugs, and words of forgiveness, we emerged from the waiting room to receive even better news — David’s heart surgery was a success!
Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Both father and daughter had their hearts healed that day. The waiting was over. The issues were resolved…. It was time to begin anew.