Comparison. It’s dangerous rut to fall into. Is it safe to say that we all struggle with it to some degree, even though we know it’s not healthy or productive? After it settles in and makes a home in your heart and mind, comparison only brings discontentment and jealously. But really, right now I’m not talking about wishing you had some other girl’s wardrobe or that gorgeous house on the corner. Heaven knows I’ve been there, done that.
This is the kind of comparison that cuts deeper, past daily dissatisfaction over material goods.
I’m talking about the kind of comparison when
you’re facing yet another failed relationship, or just another season of no prospects, and your friend found their “happily ever after”. Bittersweet pain. Really, more bitter than sweet.
Or when your marriage feels lonely and spiraling out of control and your coworker just received more flowers and love notes from her husband “just because”. Hurt, confused tears well up despite your attempts to smile.
The kind where you’re crying over another failed pregnancy test and you open up facebook to see yet another pregnancy announcement. For a moment it’s hard to even breathe.
Or when you’re feeling like you’re on the last straw in your parenting-not just today but every day for the last week. You drag yourself to the play date and see the fresh faced happy mom who’s “got it all together”, and that sight just dissolves any last bit of motivation you have.
So life isn’t how you planned and some hurts don’t heal quick and some longings never go away. This overly connected world with Social media is no help to remind us of those things we’re “missing”. But can I remind you for a second:
it’s just an airbrushed, Photoshoped, Instagram filtered image of a a life that has hurts, struggles, and unmet longings just like you.
Does that make it any easier? Not really. I know. It’s hard to look past the hurt and rise up from beyond the emotion of the moment. I’m totally with you.
Then how do you rejoice with others when their blessing is a painful reminder of a season of hardship and waiting for you?
I’m really asking. I don’t have any solid answers…
But perhaps it has something to do with trust. With choosing to put your trust in what you know about God.
He is sovereign (Duet. 4:39)
He is constant (Isaiah 40:28)
He is faithful (Hebrews 10:23)
He is our Refuge (Psalm 46:1)
His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23)
He knows you (Psalm 139)
He provides all you need (Phil. 4:8)
He restores your soul (Psalm 23:1)
So maybe it’s making a decision to rehearse those truths to your heart daily and then trusting Him to bring the joy that is impossible for you to muster up on your own.
“You words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of Hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16
And can I make it clear, that rejoicing with and for another does not mean you should discount, reduce, or belittle your struggle. Hear me on that. I’m not suggesting you sugarcoat your season and put out a facade of a perfect life.
But then how does that play out in daily relationships?
Could it be as simple as communication? To let them know “I’m rejoicing with you. I’m so happy for you. I’m also struggling personally with this ____________ season.”. To then have an honest conversation about how best to walk in that tension together. If this is a true friend, the last thing they want to do is rub their season of abundance in your face. And the last thing you want to do is to make them feel guilty for it.
Pray for each other. Listen to each other. Encourage each other. Cry and laugh with each other.
That is what fruit bearing, life giving, community looks like.
Again, I’m not suggesting I really know the answers. If someone with more wisdom and years of experience wants to speak into this, oh my heart, please do. I think we’d all love that.
I’ve been so humbled to be able to read through a pre-realease copy of Ruth Chou Simons’ lovely book. Pre-order order it here. It’s full of rich reminders of God’s truth for every season. In it, Ruth quotes John MacArther:
“Christian Joy is the emotion springing from the deep-down confidence of the Christian that God is in complete and perfect control of everything, and will bring from it our good in time, and our glory in eternity. That’s Christian Joy. Christian joy is not an emotion on top of emotion. It is not a feeling on top of a feeling. It is a feeling on top of fact. It is an emotional response to what I know to be true about God.” (emphasis added)
Then she goes on to say:
“Suffering won’t discourage us from rejoicing if it gives us context for it. And like the forest that’s eager to begin again, the seeds of rejoicing mature into a canopy of hope, which in time fills in all that feels barren in our lives. Our savior is making all things new.”
So maybe we can’t escape all the reminders around us that tempt our hearts to compare our season to others and grow discouraged. But when we make the choice to rest in God’s promises and trust in who He is, we can find the grace to live somewhere in the tension and beauty of Christian joy.