Have you ever experienced holy jealousy? I know you know what unholy jealousy feels like. We have all had that tinge of jealousy, especially towards someone close to us who seems to always get what we want. But there is a holy jealousy.
I guess the closest I have come to knowing what holy jealousy feels like was the day my son turned 18, and we were releasing him from the requirement of attending church on Sundays in order to live in our home. He and I sat together in our regular pew and followed the motions of a typical Sunday service. He was as present as he had been in years past. There were no outward signs that my heart was breaking.
As the service progressed I could not help myself. I experienced a deep sorrow that only now I can identify as holy jealousy. My sorrow was not for myself. My spiritual well-being had no bearing on whether my son sat beside me in church each Sunday. In fact, I was freer to worship without his occasional interruptions that were the natural ebb and flow of sitting through a service with another person by your side. What I felt was much deeper than this.
Through each song we sang and every prayer we prayed, I connected more deeply with the heart of God and felt how sad He was that my son planned to walk out of this church and never return. I didn’t call it jealousy at the time, but my heart’s pain soon poured out to tears that escaped from the corner of my eyes. I didn’t mean to disturb my son, but he couldn’t help himself; he couldn’t stand to see his mom cry. I explained that I was not crying for me but for God because He was hurting so deeply from the decision he was making on that day.
The tears were dried, the decisions were made and we went on from that time to where we are today. God continues to reach out to my son and me and teach us new meaning to unconditional love.
That day I remember my sorrow and my tears were not for me at all. I thought I was feeling what God felt for my son. I cried from a different place in my soul. I sensed that this was wrong and sad and not at all how the world should be. (I say this because I have cried over my son many times, and I am quite familiar with the distinction.) This memory came back to me as I was reading what James tells us about our God in James 4:5:
Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?
There is a reason I felt like I did that day. The reason is that God designed the spirit I have in me to link with His. I could feel the jealousy and sadness of another’s rejection of the goodness of God. It is a very holy feeling. His jealousy did bring my son back to the church and continues to keep me grounded by the church myself. I’m so grateful for God’s jealousy. I’m blessed because He is jealous of my soul. Something about my loving the world stirs up in Him intense emotions that protect me from my own foolishness. James 4:6 says:
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.