Answer Envy
By Karen Ehman

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)

“How wonderful!!!” I exclaimed! “I am so happy for you!” This was my response to the breaking news that friends of ours from North Carolina had sold their house after it had been on the market for twenty days.

To them it had been a long twenty days. Houses are normally snatched up quickly in their neck of the woods. In our shaky Michigan economy, however, it takes a bit longer. In fact, on the day she announced that her home now sported a sold sign, we turned another page on our calendar marking how long our house had been for sale. Not twenty days, but twenty months to be exact. Although I was genuinely thrilled for her, I was also a tad green with jealousy.

I refer to it as answer envy. It is that “poor me” mentality that creeps into my heart when God answers someone else’s prayers more quickly than mine. Or when He responds with a “yes” when my answer seems to be a “no” or at least a “not right now.” I’ve had my fair share of answer envy outbreaks over the years and at all stages of life.

As a child, I was envious of the kids who came from two-parent homes while I resided in a family torn apart by divorce. No matter how hard I folded my little hands and prayed to God, He just didn’t make my daddy come back to us.

In high school, it was other girls’ good looks, cute clothes or even cute boyfriends that I longed for. Instead, I was granted average looks and donned department store blue-light-special fashions. And, as sports editor of our school paper, although I was every guy’s pal, I was usually nobody’s gal.

In college, I envied those whose prayers for a night in shining armor, complete with sparkly diamond ring, were answered while I remained single. Once married, I struggled with miscarriage and dashed dreams of motherhood. So, for five long years, I slapped a smile on my face to mask my broken heart and attended yet another pale pink or baby blue church shower.

Over the years I have discovered that the cure for answer envy is not always easy because I must play an active role in my own healing. What I need is a shift in perspective. When I “call to God” as encouraged in today’s verse, I must trust that He will keep His word. He will tell me “great and unsearchable things” that I do not know. Sometimes those things are the answers to my request. However, do you know what those great and unsearchable things more often are? They are the reasons He seems not to be answering my original request!

So, instead of only begging God to “sell my house” or “take away my pain” or “fix my kid,” I need also to ask myself some questions. Questions like, “What is my Creator trying to teach me that I might never learn if He were to suddenly pluck me out of this situation?” Or, “What character qualities is He trying to grow in me? Patience, trust, compassion, contentment?”

Not available in quick microwave form, the cure for answer envy must be cultivated moment by moment. We must believe that God will answer. He will clearly say “yes”, “no”, or “not right now.” He is able, ready and willing to answer our prayers—here is the catch—as He sees fit and to grow us to be more like His Son in the process.

So, our “for sale” sign has remained and I continue my stay in God’s waiting room. However, I now know this to be true: I must not merely seek the answer to my prayer. Instead, I must seek a deeper relationship with the answer Giver.

Dear Lord, as I bring my requests before You, please help me be mindful of what You are doing in my heart while I walk through life and its storms. As I wait for Your answers, make me more like your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Karen Ehman’s blog

A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman

Application Steps:
Recall a prayer request or two from your past where God seemed not to be answering. What else did you learn about Him as you waited for His reply?

List any personal prayer requests you currently have on a piece of paper or in a journal. As you continue walking through life in the next few months, next to your requests, chronicle all of the peripheral blessings that come from the waiting.

Reflections:
What category do your prayers to God fall into most often—help me, show me, rescue me or change me?

Power Verses:
Psalm 38:15, “I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.” (NIV)

Romans 8:25, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.


16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our house has been on the market now for months. It was so conforting to know that others have to deal with patiently waiting and to sometimes deal with the green eyed monster while they do.

Anonymous Judy Smith said...

I'm so glad to be able to put a name to this struggle: answer envy. I have been there so often with you! There were years when I was afraid to reach out my hands to God in prayer because the "no's" were so painful, but in the end, the answers were amazing. I'm praying for grace for you as you wait, and as you encourage us!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, how I fall into this trap of envy! It was good to read reminders that God knows what is best for me! Thanks for your helpful, encouraging words!

Blogger Edie said...

Thank you so much for this message Karen. It was meant for my heart. I am 48 and never married. 17 years ago God told me that He would give me a husband, then removed dating from my activity list.

He has give me Jeremiah 33:3 numerous times over the years to encourage me, and several times recently. It has been hard to push envy aside at times, just exactly as you described.

But He has given me a heart to encourage lasting marriages and pray for other marriages. He has taught me more about the way he wired men than I ever thought I would know. And He has given me a deep appreiation for the role the man plays in a marriage. I am sure this is to prepare me to be the kind of wife that would please Him, and be a helper and encourager to the man that He has chosen me for.

The wait is hard, but the lessons are invaluable. God Bless you and your ministry.

Blogger Edie said...

But apparently He hasn't taught me how to spell yet... "appreciation"
:D

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your devotion really made me stop and take a good look at myself and the way feel when others seem to get what they pray for so easily, and I have to wait and wait and wait some more sometimes. But, what got my attention even more was your "reflection question". "What category do your prayers to God fall into most often--help me, show me, rescue me, or change me. Mine, by far, fit mostly into the help me category. Thank you for showing me how this needs to change so that I can grow and change into the woman that God created me to be

Anonymous Whitney Morton said...

Could today's devo have been more perfect?! That's an answer I know - Nope! I praise God for the way He continually uses P31 to touch my heart and my life. Thank you Lord! Thank you for the waiting times, for the yes times and even the no times... Help us all deal with "answer envy."

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked reading what you wrote. I feel like in different parts of my life I felt like that too.
And it's funny because when I moved to california from a foreign country, I felt like in elementary school the people were smarter than me and all this things. But, then later in life God blessed me and I ended up in a good university like them. I guess, eventhough I didn't realize it till recently that he gives and provides for us and to not give up hope. Now, I'm almost done with college and I feel like I can use that. Now, I don't know what he is going to do in my life, but I can count on the fact that while I wait for a good job or finding the right person for me, God is working on me. And at the same time he is going to be building character traits in me.

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