May 17, 2010
Battling the Green-eyed Monster
Sarah Jennings, Family Editor, Crosswalk.com
For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father.
Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV
Have you ever been in a situation where another was blessed with the very thing you ached to have?
Lately, the green-eyed monster of envy seems to be lurking everywhere. I think she comes out of hibernation right around the month of May - when the weather changes from chilly to divine and traditional celebrations such as graduations, pregnancies, births, and weddings fill up our schedules.
These events are truly worthy of celebration but can be especially painful if we're struggling with our careers, family size, or marital status. It's easy to feel left out of the celebrations, especially when it seems like everyone around you has a miracle or blessing to announce... except you.
Sometimes our loved ones don't make the struggle any easier on us. I'm not proud to share this story, but I might have burst into tears at a friend's wedding reception once. So many happily married guests had inquired about my lack of a ring that I lost control of my emotions.
Why does God allow this to happen? Why does it appear as though there are some seasons when he showers his blessings on so many except a few? I don't fully know, but I do empathize with the complex emotions that come with these situation. And even though I am in a different phase of life than I was at that fateful wedding, I've come to realize this monster can make an appearance at any phase of life and rob you of your joy.
I think at the root of the struggle often lies fear:
*Fear of being left out by those you love.
*Fear of God not loving you as much as he loves everyone else.
*Fear of your life going "all wrong."
*Fear that God's blessings are limited and he'll run out before he gets to you.
If you grew up feeling second fiddle to a sibling or family member, these fears may be even more deep-seated. So when I was reading this week's scriptures for church, I was struck by this simple gospel reading in John where Jesus assures his followers that the Father loves them and hears their prayers. After Jesus' resurrection and ascension, we aren't left with a Father who merely puts up with us. No, the Father himself loves you and hears you. In fact, Scripture is clear that through Christ we are adopted sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ.
Oh, and nowhere in Scripture does it say "except you." Yes, if you're a Christ-follower, it looks like you're pretty much stuck with the Father's love.
So what do we do in the meantime? When our feelings are wreaking havoc on us and causing us to question God's Word? I've found opting out of the comparison game helps tremendously. You know that sneaky little voice in your head that says, "Wow, look how much better her life is... "? Smack that voice. Yes, I give you permission. It's a completely unfair way to judge yourself and another person and a quick way to disturb your peace.
In fact, right when I find myself thinking such thoughts I try to stop and pray for that person... for any trials they may be going through (because if they're human, they have a cross even if it's not showing).
I've also found forgiving myself is especially helpful. After all, God doesn't condemn us for feeling sad so why should we condemn ourselves? When we're truly mourning a loss, it's okay to cry. We're not less holy just because we have emotions, and I think sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to be "perfect" Christians. I think it's even okay to bow out of an event early or send a gift in the mail if a situation is too charged.
When nothing else helps, I meditate on the times Jesus was left out. I'm sure he had some great times in his life -- being God no doubt has its perks. I always imagined him being popular as a kid and having a great family life with Mary and Joseph. But we know for a fact that there was a time when he truly felt alone and was treated like an outcast, a criminal, and a nobody. When I meditate on Christ's sense of humiliation, isolation, and shame, I realize I am not really alone when I feel most alone.
I don't have all the answers for why life sometimes feels incredibly unfair nor am I a wild success at coping with the emotions that come wtih that. But what I do know is this: God hasn't forgotten any one of us, and we are not alone.
Intersecting Faith & Life: If you're struggling to get through the month of May, give yourself a break. Allow yourself to RSVP "no" and spend some time with a good friend or on a short spiritual retreat.