One of the World's Greatest Joy Killers
It comes in like a shadow of the devil, carrying the name of thief and the banner of destruction. It creeps in our hearts, captures our minds, and stomps on our spirits.
It makes us drain our bank account, resent our singleness (or long for a different spouse once we have one), impatient with our children, distracted in our jobs, apathetic or impatient in our ministry, bitter toward friends...and sadly, so much more. I’ve seen it bleed out the joy in my own heart at times and weary the souls of those around me. Indeed it’s one of the world’s greatest joy killers:
Comparison, which leads to discontentment. Whether it’s short-lived or pervasively long-term, minds and hearts are being stolen by the sly but deceitful idea that If I just had what that person had, my life would be better. But we can’t treat this joy killer of comparison casually- with a pat on the head, a squeeze to its cheek, and telling it to, “Run along now”. This joy killer should be taken seriously, and not because there is a God in heaven shaking a finger at the one beholden to comparison. We take this joy killer seriously because we have a God in heaven who loves us fiercely and came down to rescue us from burdens that are weighing us down.
Comparison Blinds Us
One of my extended family members has a rare degenerative eye disease and twice a year she has to fly across the country for a couple weeks to see an eye specialist. She takes time off work, has to help her husband find childcare for the kids while he works, and she makes drastic financial decisions. My family and I are amazed at the extreme measures, but we all agree that eyesight is worth fighting for and we would all do whatever steps necessary to keep our own vision. And comparison? Comparison blurs our spiritual and emotional vision. We lose sight of the gifts God has given us that are right in front of us, and we miss out on the ways God wants to use us while we are longing for a different picture for our life. And in the same way that most would agree we should fight for our physical vision, we should fight even more for our emotional and spiritual vision.
And the entrapment of comparison not only blinds us but steals from us arguably one of the most important aspects of living:
Having a heart that overflows from joy in God.
Hope in our Fight
And yet the dark and dismal affects of comparison can fade when we realize that comparison has no rival for our God. This truth leads into three suggestions about our struggle against comparison:
1) Remember Jesus died for and will
help you continue in freedom.
Sometimes it’s easy to read quickly over words about God being able to help us. No. Let’s stop. Let the weight of this next sentence sink in: The God who knows the very hairs on our head has also given us the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). God not only empowers us with His Spirit, He Himself is with us in the battle and wants to restore our joy. We can pray this truth would imbed itself deep within our soul, and that our belief would follow.
2) Go deeper than the
surface level of the behavior.
Invite a friend in to pray with you, and to ask you the hard questions. What truth about God and His promises are you missing as you believe He should have given you something else? What lie are you believing about what you think would bring you true happiness? What affection toward the thing you think you want, do you need God to restore toward Him? These are simply examples that point to the truth that:
Heart work is hard work.
But indeed, heart work is the most important work. Because true freedom from comparison and the restoration of our joy in God lies in the heart, not simply a change of our behavior.
3) Ask God to reveal
what you might
need to change
as you seek freedom.
Indeed, there may be things that we need to change in our life that cause us to compare. Matthew 5:30 points to the difficult nature of obedience and our desperate need for a Savior to help us against things that cause us to sin: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away”. Jesus is not advocating for self-mutilation, He is using a hyperbole as a picture of how serious to take the things that draw our heart away from God.
I have a friend who prays regularly, asking God to help her not compare her husband to others and to have joyful contentment in her marriage. Another friend who is unmarried prays she would be content in singleness, not comparing her season to her married friends. I have a friend who is careful about picking up house decor magazines. I have another friend who takes breaks from social media, and another who has blocked accounts that frequently tempt her to compare her life.
These aren’t individuals setting up nit-picky legalistic rules for themselves…these are women fighting for joy in God. They know that while these things aren’t bad and may not cause others to struggle, they do for them personally. They are fighting for freedom from the lie If I just had that, my life would be better. These are women who love Jesus, believe His words, and follow His call to take the enticement of temptations seriously.
Yet these women are not simply cutting things out of their life. They don’t want to be behavior exterminators, they want to be freedom seekers. They are imperfectly pursuing God, asking Him to increase their delight exponentially in Him more than the things they think they want/need but don’t have. As their delight in God grows, the things that entice them or cause them to compare become less sparkly. Because the truth is:
A heart full of fervent love for God leaves less room for comparison.
And as our joy in God grows and the comparison diminishes…our eyes will be opened to the wondrous grace and generosity He has poured out in our own life. Even in the imperfections. And this freedom from the joy killer of comparison, is a fight worth fighting.