Do you want to know how your friends are doing? Just pick up your phone and check their Facebook status updates. Within seconds, you can see photos of their amazingly behaved children, read about their romantic date nights, view their relaxing and luxurious vacation photos and eavesdrop on their most recent political/religious discussion/argument.
Believe it or not, there was a time when we didn’t know the daily details of our friends’ lives and we only had to deal with our envious, covetous, jealous or angry selves just once a year – when we received the Christmas Newsletter.
It’s difficult to read all the wonderful things that everyone is doing and not feel a little down about the mediocrity of our own lives. Unfortunately, when we compare ourselves to our friends we usually come out on the short end and we quickly grow discontent.
We must remember that when we look at the beautifully frosted cakes of our friends’ lives there are usually messy kitchens just out of sight. No one puts their sloppy mixing bowls, dirty ovens, and cluttered countertops on display; but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
When we believe that our friends’ pretty presentations are their entire realities we become discontent with our children, homes, decorating, spouses, jobs, churches, families, vacations, incomes, health, ministries… you name it! And that discontent fuels our temptations – our hearts become the Devil’s playground.
“But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:13-16 NIV
We must be wise when we compare ourselves to people who appear to be doing better than we are. We don’t know what God is doing in their lives. We do know that God is at work in our lives and that we are not lacking in anything.
“For in him you have been enriched in every way – with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge… Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 1:5-8 NIV
It seems that I typically compare myself to people who I think are doing better than I am, but it would also be wise to compare myself to people who are hurting more than I am.
On Memorial Day weekend in Texas there was a flash flood that swept away houses and destroyed lives. One family in particular lost twelve members spanning three generations. The destruction was overwhelming …
A flagpole, a foundation and the pilings that supported a structure are all that remain here…
The force of the flood knocked down trees over a hundred years old and stripped the bark off forty feet up.
When I see the devastation that ripped through the lives of so many people, how can I think for a moment that it is alright for me to be discontent with my life? I have a home, a family, food on my table, clothes on my back and security in my salvation. Do I really need more?
However, I confess, there have been moments when I’ve said things like, “I know there are people hurting, and in a lot worse shape than I am, but that doesn’t negate or even lessen my pain.” Pain? Or discomfort? Or discontent?
Why doesn’t comparing myself to people who are in terrible circumstances cause me to stop and count my blessings? Maybe it’s because I want to indulge a little self-pity every now and then? But what is self-pity? It is telling God that he is insufficient for me. Ouch.
What if my house did wash away? What if my family was taken in a moment? What guarantee do I have that it won’t happen – none. I must trust God’s wisdom in all that he allows and in all that he withholds.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” – Romans 12:33-34 NIV
It would be wise for me to consider God’s wisdom when I compare myself to others. He gives and he withholds. He sends showers of blessing. He sends floods and storms. He is always right. He knows what is best for me.
How well do you fare when you compare yourself to other people? Does your comparing breed discontent? Does it cause you to pause and count your blessings?
Will you trust that God knows exactly what to allow into your life? Will you seek to learn contentment in what you have, rather than be discontent with what you don’t have?
Click here for week 1 — “Not That One, That One!”
Click here for week 2 — “Contentment Defined!”
Click here for week 3 — Tool #1: “Search The Heart”
Click here for week 4 — Tool #2: “Remember That Life Is Short”
Click here for week 5 — Tool #3: “Listen To Your Words”
Click here for week 6 — Tool #4: “Compare Wisely”
Click here for week 7 — Tool #5: “Live Out Your Faith”
Click here for week 8 — Tool #6: “Enjoy Your Pasture”
Click here for week 9 — Tool #7 “The Promises of God”
Click here for week 10 — “When Discontent is the Right Thing”
Click here for week 11 — “In Defense of Discontent”
Click here for week 12 — “Breaking Bad: The Danger of Discontent”
Click here for week 13 – What’s Next
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