Comparison vs. Contentment
Pride…Envy…Bitterness…Self-loathing…Self-pity…Covetousness…Jealousy…These are just some of the sins that come with the heavy baggage of comparison. This has been weighing on my heart this past month. In the past two weeks alone, 3 sermons at church and at my school chapel have been on the topic of contentment in Christ alone. The Lord has had so much to say about this topic, and has encouraged me and convicted my own heart at the same time.
I know contentment is difficult for all of us to embrace in our different seasons of life, but simply because of having talked to more women this past month about this as opposed to men, I’ve realized how much of a real struggle it is for us females. So although the issue is relevant to all of us, the following questions are directed toward my sisters in Christ. Ladies, how often do you compare your looks to those of another woman? You may even start to envy her beauty and lose sight of how wonderfully and fearfully the Lord created you. Ladies, how often do you compare your spiritual walk to that of someone else’s? Do you find yourself envious of their godliness and lose sight of the personal race you are running? Ladies, how often do you hold bitterness in your heart when someone else’s ministry seems to show more success than yours? Ladies, how often do you bury yourself in self-pity when going through difficult circumstances or hardships, while watching a friend enjoy a joyous season of life? We compare often and it’s DEADLY!
This example at Passion one year that I went has stuck with me ever since Christine Caine (founder of A21 campaign) spoke. She said that so often we want a formula of how to be like someone, or how to be successful in ministry, in church life, in parenting, in marriage, etc. Some people have asked her how she got to be where she is today. Some people say they want to be the next Christine Caine, speaking at large conferences, having a big public ministry, doing great big things for God. And Christine would say, “That’s awesome. But you would have had to be born in a hospital in Australia, abandoned in that hospital by your mother. Then you would have had to be sexually abused for 12 years in Australia. Then you would have had to grow up in the poorest local government area in Australia. Then you would have had to make a whole bunch of mistakes and develop incredible patterns of destructive behavior. Then you would have had to walk into a church 25 years ago on Sunday and gotten saved. Then you would have had to work in a youth center for the next 7 years and then run a youth movement in Australia for the next 7 years. Then you would have had to become the Hillsong network leader for the next 7 years, then plant some churches in Europe. Then you would have had to be walking in an airport in Greece in 2007 and seen some posters that broke your heart about the tragedy of sex-trafficking then would’ve started A21, and then would’ve been in 10 countries. And yeah that’s all you have to do to be Christine Caine. It just takes 48 years. Why I’m saying this is because our logic is ridiculous! We want a formula of success rather than the challenge of wrestling with the Holy Spirit to discover what the new thing is now so that we can do what God has called us to do. There is no formula. We need to get behind what God is already doing. We need to stop comparing and competing! I just want Christ’s image forged in me; in whatever profession that is, whatever season I’m in, whatever you’ve called me to do.” God is working through every person’s life entirely different for His glory. Every person’s testimony is unique. May we embrace how the Lord is sanctifying us particularly and focus on running the race for His glory instead of being distracted in sin and comparing ourselves to others.
John 21:15-23 says, “15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16 He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17 He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ 20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ 22 Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? YOU FOLLOW ME!’”
God has a great purpose for each Christian, but we won’t realize it until we stop being busy comparing our lives to those of other people! God’s plans for others should not concern you, just like in this passage where God’s plans for His disciple John shouldn’t have been a concern for Peter. Christ clearly says to Peter, “You follow me.” And don’t worry about what my plans are for others. Our focus and our gaze should thus be on Christ alone. The cross-bearing life is always worked out differently in God’s children. As one pastor stated this Sunday, “There’s no cookie cutter discipleship; God deals individually and personally with each person.” Just because you are suffering or may not feel successful in ministry, as your neighbor may be, doesn’t mean God loves you any less. Rest in His Sovereignty. This truth should put worship back into our souls. God is doing a personal work in every Christian’s life, in mine and in yours. Life is not about how many likes we get on Facebook or how many Twitter or Instagram followers we have. Christ says, “You (insert your name), follow me.” John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease!” May we be humbled by God. Learning your capacities and contentment is the path to joy. Run your race with the promised grace that will sustain you until the end, gazing your eyes upon Jesus.