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