Dare Not Compare
She lives in a spacious house, beautifully decorated, just like you've always wanted. Her kids are well-mannered and always respectful. She even got her kids into that prestigious school, the one where everyone has their child on the waiting list--including you. Maybe she has three children, while you painfully tried for years to have your only child. Or maybe she is successful and talented and everyone who meets her loves her instantly. Whoever she is, she has what you want.
I've looked at friends who always seem to have it together and wish I could wear their shoes, at least for a day. I have seen my friends' children and compared the way my own have grown and developed. I've seen friend's homes with the amazing school room I've always wanted and my skin nearly turned green with envy. When one friend puts her child into an activity or sport, I don't want to be left behind, so I do the same.
Call it mommy comparison, jealousy, or envy. With some mothers we long to look the way they do, have what they have, or experience what they experience. We wonder why our life pales in comparison and why God hasn't blessed us the same way. Secretly, we may hope to find an unraveling thread, a chink in their armor, or some other sign that things aren't always perfect for them.
The problem with comparing our lives to others can be traced to our hearts that produce the comparison. When we desire the life someone else has, we are saying in our heart that the gifts God has given us just aren't enough. Our discontentment, jealousy, and bitterness points a finger at God and tells him that he has gotten the story of our life wrong, and we can write it better. Like the Israelites, we grumble and complain and say that the manna he gives us every day is tasteless, the water of life we drink isn't refreshing, and we'd rather be back in Egypt, enslaved and under a heavy yoke.
Battling the Sin of Comparison
The challenge in facing the sin of comparison is realizing it's there in the first place. Sin is deceptive, and like a frog in a pot of cool water slowly heated to boiling, we don't notice the danger it until we're nearly cooked. It hides in the corners and recesses of our heart like dirt and grime behind the kitchen appliances we never move. We don't go looking for it, so we don't think it's there.
We need to ask that God would convict us of comparing ourselves to others and ask him to show us the roots of that comparison-- our discontent and seeking our joy outside of him. When we see our sin of comparison, we should be grieved over it. But we are not without hope. The apostle Paul was also grieved over his sin when he wrote, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing" (Romans 7:15, 18-19). Paul then reminds us of our only hope: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25) Jesus came to rescue us from ourselves. He came to cleanse our heart of its filth and stains. He came to free us from our selfish thoughts and desires, sinful deeds, and all the evil that entangles itself around our heart.
Jesus has the cure for our discontent. He himself is the source of our contentment. We need to return to the wellspring of all our joy and satisfaction. It is Christ whom we were created to love and adore. When our heart is centered on him, we have all we need.
When seeing our sin overwhelms and discourages us, we must remember the gospel and what Jesus accomplished for us at the cross. His sacrifice secured for us a forever forgiveness, casting our sins as far as the east is from the west. "Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin" (Acts 13:39). And the same grace that saves us from our sin also empowers us to fight against sin and live for Christ.
Discontentment and comparing ourselves to others is a sin we all battle. It's easy to overlook and ignore. Yet it reveals a heart that needs rescue and cleansing by the gospel. It also reveals a heart that needs to find joy and satisfaction in the only One who can fill the longings of our heart.