By Andrea Lennon, Evangelism and Church Health Team
Comparison is a trap because it takes our eyes off Jesus and His individual and unique plan for our lives. At the heart of who we are, we must know that God loves us and has a plan for our lives. We were created in the image of God to be His image-bearers. Nothing about our lives is an accident and our lives are never out of God’s control. We ultimately find our meaning, purpose, direction, and value in the context of our relationship with Jesus. This truth is all over scripture. Jesus is the way! Jesus is the truth! Jesus is the life!
Sometimes life is hard, and we struggle to understand because we have these hard places. Places of pain or loss. Places of fear and regret. Places we never dreamed we would be with our kids, jobs, physical health, financial situation, marital relationship, or unfulfilled dreams. What do we do with these hard places? It is often the hard places that leave us vulnerable to the trap of comparison as we look at ourselves or others and think… “If only!” “Maybe someday” or “Why not, me?” It is crucial to remember that the hard places do not surprise God, overwhelm God, or negate the plan of God for our lives! During the hard places, God is directing us and always positioning us for freedom and redemption.
Comparison is multi-faceted. This means it looks different based on situations and people. While one person may struggle with comparison in one area of life, another person will struggle with comparison in a different area of life. Recently, I placed a question on social media and asked, “How does comparison steal your joy and focus?” I was overwhelmed by the number of posts and inbox messages. Here are a few.
• “I compare myself to everything. Most of the time I’m comparing myself to other wives and moms that seem to get it all done. And then I walk into my kitchen and see dishes in the sink, laundry on the bedroom floors, and dirty carpets. The whole time I’m beating myself up because things aren't done, plus the guilt that I didn't get the kids to bed with a bible story and sweet prayer time.”
• “My struggle with comparison shows up most fiercely as I compare myself with my own expectations. I’m constantly berating myself for not measuring up to what or who I think I should be… in all areas of my life.”
• “I struggle with comparison in the church. I look at what other people do, as compared to what I do, and feel like my part does not matter.”
• “Sometimes being happy for the accomplishments of friends with ‘normal’ kids can be a struggle. I often ask why my child can’t be on the honor roll or receiving the scholarship?”
• “When I tell people my husband's profession, immediately an image or stereotype flashes in their mind that is not me! I am tired and I isolate myself because I can’t compare to the preconceived expectations others place on my life.”
• “I have struggled with body image my entire life. Here’s the thing, when I was younger, thinner, I almost always thought I was too big. I was chasing the perfect image, but no matter how thin or toned I was, I still felt flawed. The thing is I look back at pictures now and wonder, what in the world was I worried about? I’ve spent so much time letting my body image steal my joy.”
• “Interacting with groups of women used to give me major social anxiety. Still does to a lesser degree. I have to constantly guard against feelings of inadequacy because I’m just not as good at friendships and relationships as other women. I thank God that He has surrounded me with women who are better at the social stuff, but I can dwell on how “NOT” good I am at it and it really steals my joy.”
All of these feelings can lead to a comparison trap if we put our eyes on ourselves, others, circumstances, or a temporary definition of success or wholeness. When we get caught in the comparison trap, there is only ONE way out! Psalm 25:15 shows us the way out of the comparison trap!
“My eyes are ever on the Lord for only He will release my feet from the snare.”
Let me unwrap this verse for us.
• My Eyes: “Where is our focus? Who are we looking to? What are we looking for? What is our definition of success? We will look to and cling to that which matters the most in our hearts and lives. Our focus determines the direction of our lives.
• Are Ever On: How often are we focusing on the person or thing that is giving direction to our lives? “Are ever on” in the Hebrew means continually, perpetually, daily, morning, and evening, without interruption. This type of focus denotes commitment, determination, resolve, and a walk with Jesus that is not based on circumstances or feelings.
• The Lord: Who is the object of our attention and focus? Notice that everything in this passage points to THE LORD! Our lives must mimic this pattern. Everything points to Jesus and we find our center in Him. He alone is our safe place, our Rock, our Refuge, our Standard.
• For only He: God is the set apart One! He is the one Who sees all things, knows all things, and helps us with all the things. Our path out of comparison is a path of knowing, loving, serving and trusting God as we find HIM to be our all in all.
• Will Release My Feet: The word release means to come forth, to go out, or to proceed. The word carries the idea of movement. “Feet” means feet. God gave us feet so we can walk. The take away: When God sets us free from the snare of comparison, He is moving us forward in our walk with Him. He is changing us into the image of Jesus!
• From the Snare: Snare means net and often is actually translated as net. If you have gone fishing, you know the purpose of a net. It is used to capture the fish. When the fish is caught in the net, it can’t work its way out. The only way out is to stop fighting and surrender to the fisherman as he or she reaches into the net, picks the fish up, and sets the fish back in the water. The same is true for us! We can’t work our way out of the snares, nets, and traps of life. We can try hard, but we don’t have the resources, abilities, experiences, or knowledge. We are limited by sin, flesh, circumstances, and the enemy. The only way out is to surrender to the ONE who can remove us from the net. When we do, we stop fighting and we start trusting. We accept the good plan God has for us, even if is it hard or confusing. We start asking the Lord, “How can this place in my life bring You glory?” When we do, freedom is ours in Jesus Christ and comparison is slayed because our eyes are ever on the LORD!
Comparison is a trap because our eyes are on ourselves, others, circumstances, and how the world defines success. Worldly success or acceptance is illusive and never the place where God created us to get our purpose or value.
We can stop the comparison trap by refocusing on God. A few steps include:
1. More time in God’s Word. Not checking our quiet time off the list, but really digging in to the Bible every single day.
2. More time in focused prayer. Thanking God for the struggle and asking Him to use the struggle to make us more like Jesus.
3. More time in genuine worship. This is so important! Genuine worship paves the way for a change in our focus. Every day we should praise God, sing to Him, and pray to Him. This is a total game changer.
4. More time in real conversations. It is time to move beyond the masks. We need to engage in real conversations about real life. Take the chance. Be vulnerable. God’s GOT you!
When we slay comparison, we avoid the extremes of "we are enough", and "we are not enough". We avoid the temptation of thinking we have to be someone God never created us to be because we know that Jesus is enough. We know who God created us to be and find joy in living a life of surrender to His plans and purposes. And there is peace, rest, hope, and comfort in the One who made us for Himself no matter how surprising or difficult life turns out to be.
Andrea Lennon serves as the Women’s Ministry Specialist at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and can be contacted at email@example.com. Andrea offers additional resources to help women grow in their faith at www.andrealennonministry.org