Green With Envy, Or Green And Growing?

This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday: write for five minutes on a one-word prompt.  The prompt today is “green.”

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On reading the Five Minute Friday prompt this week, two contrasting thoughts come to mind.  The colour green is often associated with envy, but it also indicates growth or flourishing.

As I reflect on two situations I’m currently facing, I can see that in each of them I could be drawn either way.  They could make me green with envy, or they could be opportunities for growth.  And, interestingly, my default is the opposite in each of these situations, which makes me ponder the difference.

What is it about our attitude that affects whether a situation drives us to envy or encourages us to grow? (An ambitious question to attempt to answer in five minutes.)

Situation number one: the lockdown.  It’s been almost a year now and I’m weary.  Aren’t we all?  The difficulty is knowing that the restrictions we’re facing here are much tighter than in most other places.  When I hear people talking about meeting together, travelling to see family, gathering for church, singing together… I definitely have to guard against envy creeping in.

Situation number two: I can’t go into detail, but it’s a situation where I took a step of faith, trying to pursue a new ministry opportunity, and an amazing new door opened… for someone else.  I suppose I could feel envious at how my hopes for myself in that situation are no further forward while God is using them, but I genuinely don’t feel that way.  They have the opportunity to do something I could never do, which could have a huge impact for God, and I am so excited for them.  I also know it would never have happened without the part I played, and if my part was simply to be the catalyst, I am content.

And maybe that’s a key difference – contentment.  In the first situation I’m finding it increasingly hard to be content with lockdown.  In the second situation, I’m content that God is working, content to let him do his work in his way, willing to let go of trying to control the situation.

I think another key difference is a sense of purpose.  In situation one it’s hard to see any purpose behind the whole situation dragging on so long, while in situation two there is a sense of purpose in that God is obviously working, even if it’s not in the way I’d envisaged.  I can also see that God is teaching me important lessons about trust and control, and that there is growth happening.

So, the question is, how can we change our perspective in those situations where we’re tempted to be green with envy?  How can we instead follow James’ advice?

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”  (James 1:2-4 NLT)

I definitely don’t have all the answers on this, but two things come to mind.

Firstly, look for the good.  It can be tempting to be caught up in all we lack, but if instead we look for the reasons we have to be thankful, there are usually more than we think.

Secondly, give God the benefit of the doubt.  Trust that he is working even if we can’t see or understand.  In the second situation I describe, it seemed for months like God was not working at all, but then I saw how he had been quietly working behind the scenes in amazing ways.  Just because we can’t see what he’s doing doesn’t mean he’s inactive.

I’m struck by James’ description of how situations like this give us “a chance to grow”.  The opportunity is there, but the growth is not guaranteed.  The choices we make have a part to play in whether we turn green with envy or become green and flourishing, and I know which shade of green I’d rather be!

26 thoughts on “Green With Envy, Or Green And Growing?

  1. When I read what you wrote about situation #2, I literally moaned out loud for your disappointment. Ohhhhhh!

    I encourage you with a reminder of the story of Joseph, who I have been thinking about a lot lately. He had a God-given vision, but he had to go to prison for it to come true. So, while this time probably feels a lot like prison to you, stay focused on God and the word He has spoken to you.

    Amie, FMF #20

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Amie! It is encouraging to remember that Joseph’s vision from God was fulfilled even though he had to wait so long and go through so much on the way.
      My word for 2020 was “vision” and a lot of it was about clinging onto my vision despite the delay caused by the pandemic. And it is frustrating to still be in that place, but I am honestly excited about the opportunity that has opened up for someone else. It doesn’t in any way conflict with my vision and I am just happy to see evidence of God working even though it is in such an unexpected way.

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  2. What an interesting take on the topic. I agree with your conclusions about the choices before us. I have a partially developed draft for a blog post about when we’re not the chosen one, thinking about how Jonathan in the Bible could have been envious of David, but instead assisted him–opposite of how his father, Saul, handled the situation. The only problem was, this was right around the time of our elections here, and I didn’t want people to think it had anything to do with politics–so it’s still in my draft folder. 🙂 Whatever God has not chosen us to do, He has something else in mind for us at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Barbara! The contrast between Jonathan and Saul is a great example. I’d love to read your blog post when you finish it. And yes, I think it’s trusting God’s plan for us and letting him work in his way. The opportunity the other person has doesn’t in any way work against my vision. I think it’s just a question of timing and God taking things in a slightly different direction than I expected.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Envy makes the grass grow green,
    but, not like it should.
    I really have to set the scene;
    it’s kind of like spilled blood.
    Envy takes it from the heart
    and sends what’s good to hell
    where the devil makes a start
    upon our souls as well
    to draw all that we have and are
    away from the Most High,
    and just like Johnston’s Motor Car
    we’ll find that we won’t try
    to reclaim what once was ours
    because its theft its value sours.

    “Johnston’s Motor Car” is an IRA song about an actual event, the hijacking of a Ford belonging to a certain Dr. Johnston during the Troubles; in the end, fearing British reprisal, Dr. Johnston refused its return.

    Interestingly, the actual vehicle still exists, and was discovered beneath a pile of peat in 2017.

    If you’re interested, here are the Irish Rebels, performing the eponymous song.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Perspective is everything isn’t it? If my view is self-focused (which it often is) that green envy can color the situation, but when I’m focused on God and His plan, the lush green of growth in Him can flourish! Wish I’d react the second way more often. Thanks for the wise reminder, Lesley!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I absolutely hear what you’re saying, Lesley! I consider this post to be an invitation to think of green in ways that reflect health, growth, and promise. Thank you for putting that on my heart.

    It’s too easy to head in the other direction. Absolutely, friend …

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think we are all a little weary of the long deprivations instituted by the Covid pandemic. I must admit to feeling a little envy when I hear of others receiving their vaccines when I know it will be months before it is my turn. That is definitely one instance when I need to heed James’ advice and look at the situation as an opportunity for growth. I think too, we need to give ourselves the grace given to us by the Father. He understands the human condition better than we do ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh Lesley … I wish things were different for you in regards to the lockdown restrictions. But what a blessing to be able to see someone else get the opportunity you wanted and know in your heart that you are happy for them and can see God’s hand at work in the situation. Hugs, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lois! We had some good news this week about the plans for restrictions to begin easing at the end of April, so hopefully it will start getting better before too long. Hugs to you too!

      Like

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