Nothing shoves our fear of inadequacy in our face like watching others succeed. It’s like a flashing arrow points down on them that says, “Winner!” and when we look in the mirror all we see is a giant L for Loser on our own forehead. We cite their success as proof positive that they have something we lack. Sometimes we look at them and think, “What do they have that I don’t? Why can’t I figure out what’s wrong with me?” In order to protect ourselves from these debilitating emotions, we disassociate from them. We may not even intend to be unkind or make them feel rejected, we just default into self-protection and try and flee from our dangerous emotions. We hang up on the relationship feigning a head cold, when in actuality it’s our icy heart that’s been crushed and shattered.
About thirty days after the exodus from Egypt, Miriam and Aaron become bitten by the bug of jealousy. God brings about a mighty deliverance and then follows it by the wonder of water from the rock, then the miracle of manna and quail. Right after the Red Sea miracle, we see Miriam take a position of leadership, leading the women in song in Exodus 15:20–21.
It seems Miriam had always been a quick thinker. Even as a young child, when her mother put Moses in the basket in the Nile, it had been Miriam who bravely approached the Egyptian princess suggesting she hire her own mother to nurse baby Moses (see Exodus 2). Miriam is a brave, no-nonsense firstborn, who thinks on her feet and takes charge, expecting to be heard.
But since the Red Sea event, when Miriam had led the people in song, she suddenly seems silent in the account. We don’t hear a peep from her. Until now. She wants to know why Moses is always the one in charge and it appears she goes to Aaron with her question. “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (Num. 12:2). Let me paraphrase: What does Moses have that we don’t?
God answers that question for Miriam and, indirectly, for Aaron. “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles” (Num. 12:6–8a). I hope you noticed what Moses had. Character. God did not exalt Moses due to his unique capabilities; He embraced him because of his character. Moses was faithful.
When our fear of inadequacy sets us into striving mode trying to gain new skills, greater knowledge, a wider networking arena, or a clever strategy to ensure success, we ought to pause and take a look in the mirror. When it comes to our character, do we have a flashing arrow that says, “Winner!” or a giant L on our forehead because we’ve neglected what matters most? Faithfulness.
D. L. Moody has been widely quoted as observing, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.” No one will ever outshine our faithfulness. We all ought to strive to hear the words of Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
But notice how Miriam began this jealous rant. She questioned Moses’ character. “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married” (Num. 12:1). Scholars vary on whether this woman refers to his wife Zipporah or a subsequent marriage, but regardless, Miriam poses a concern over Moses’ choices, as the Israelite men were not to marry foreign women who worshiped false gods. Notice nothing about the woman’s character is mentioned at all, and Miriam may have seen her as a possible rival in her current leadership position. Miriam enjoyed being the most influential woman in Israel as Moses’ sister.
God heard Miriam’s complaining and immediately confronted her. His admonition is to all of us when we question others’ successes: “Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Num. 12:8). God makes it clear to Miriam, who appears to be the instigator in this confrontation, that her behavior angers Him. He punishes her with leprosy. A bite from the jealousy bug will always lead to death if left untreated.
“God can and will restore us as we wait for Him.”
Moses, in great humility, intercedes for her and God heals Miriam’s leprosy. But God still sends her out of the camp in shame for seven days. And Israel stays stuck in their campsite waiting to move on until her punishment is over. Though Miriam’s jealousy was dealt with, it still had consequences for others. We are foolish to think we can foster jealousy in our heart and it remain unnoticed. Eventually it will surface. Jealousy reveals our fear of inadequacy and the lie that God withholds good things from us. God longs to grow our faithfulness before He fosters our success.
Instead of striving so hard to achieve what we desire, we ought to surrender our dreams to God, asking Him to build His faithfulness within us. When we trust God to grant us the good things He has planned for us when our character is ready to handle it, we focus on what He is doing within us rather than what He is doing through others.
Moses faced the blame and the rejection of the people of Israel countless times. Now his own brother and sister betray him because they’re jealous he is God’s chosen leader. Miriam doesn’t see any of the burden, she only sees the benefits—her brother’s the one in power, the problem solver, and the deliverer. The guy on the stage. She doesn’t feel the weight of the burden.
This had to hurt Moses. His own brother and sister! Rejection from our own flesh and blood is brutal. If we can’t count on them, who can we count on? Yet God shows Moses that even in their jealousy and cattiness, God would prove to be Moses’ friend and come to his aid. Just as He will come to ours when we run to Him.
As we take strides in overcoming our fear of inadequacy, we encounter others who have been bitten by the bug of jealousy or consumed by their own previous scars. They will rip open our old wounds and invite us to nurse our fears. God teaches us that He will be enough when others disappoint us. Sometimes we become bitten ourselves and as we sit alone in shame we need to trust that God can and will restore us as we wait for Him. It took lots of tears to overcome my jealousy. My body never did bear life but my heart overflowed through adoption of our beautiful children. God grew our family by His bounty instead of biology. (And you moms who went through labor can keep your agonizing birth stories—I walked out of the hospital feeling like a million bucks each time!)
Do we trust God to be enough? To make us faithful so we neither strive ourselves to exhaustion nor lazily quit? And when others become jealous over the work God is doing within us and then through us, will we trust God to confront their jealousy on our behalf ?
by Erica Wiggenhorn
Everyone thinks you’ve got it together. But inside, you’re asking, “Am I enough?” No matter how good we look to others,...
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