I truly believe that one of the signs of maturity in a person's life experience is the development of the ability to take joy in the successes of others. Too many times in life we see our lives as a competition with those around us.
If I only had that house, I would be happy.
If I only had that relationship, I would be satisfied.
If only I reached that level of spirituality, I would be content.
The truth is that until we are satisfied with ourselves internally the external blessings and trials will not give us peace or clarity.
Many years ago, I had a strong bond with a young woman. I hoped for years that the relationship would develop into something more. After several failed attempts at dating, she, at last, confronted me with the fact that she didn't share my feelings. I took the news very hard. In all honesty, I had turned her into an idol in my heart. I based a lot of how I felt about myself on how she treated me. When she was enthusiastic about our relationship, I felt wonderful and alive. When her feelings changed and cooled, I felt devalued and humiliated. I let her have all the power in the relationship, and I believe she felt burdened by that responsibility. My response to this disappointment was to seek affirmation in other relationships. Some of the relationships I found were healthy and some were not, but I was still seeking validation from other people. Eventually, I found myself single, living alone, and without many strong friendships.
In the last few years, I have come to realize that you cannot put the burden of your happiness on other people. Happiness and contentment must overflow from within from a deepening relationship with self and with God. I am, at last, learning to accept myself based on who I am and not based on who other people expect me to be. My joy, as well as my pain, comes from my own experiences and not from another's expectations.
The young woman I mentioned has been happily married for several years and has a beautiful little girl. I believe that she is at very happy place in her life. I take joy in her happiness. Since she is someone that I still care for deeply, I can rejoice that she has found so much joy in her experience. Where once I might have been tempted to bitterness or envy, I now see that an experience that was painful for me has led to joy for many other people. As Scripture teaches, we should rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. If my past weeping has led to someone else's joy, I take comfort in knowing that God knows the number of my tears and that not one was shed in vain.
Life cannot be scripted; it has to be lived. I, for one, am thankful to be on this journey. I may not be where I planned to be at this stage of my life, but I trust that, by the grace of God, I have not yet gone as far as I will go. I take the joy and the sorrow of the journey, and I pray that my experiences give me new insights into myself and the world around me. God is not finished with me, and I can promise that He is not finished with you either. Let's continue to grow up in faith and celebrate with those who join us on this kingdom journey.