The Waters of Comparison

It’s amazing how we so easily compare ourselves with others. Our gaze is so quick to rest on the horizon and ignore the vertical, our true reality. It is so easy to look around at others, and yet we have to fight hard to look up to the Creator and Sustainer of all things. 

Discontentment loves to breed in the waters of comparison and I think many of us are just about drowning in the swimming pools of discontentment found in our own heads! I am so thankful that the words that fill our minds are not readily available to the watching world! I am so thankful that the Lord did not create us with ever-changing billboard foreheads, advertising the thoughts and intents of our hearts! I don’t know about you, but there are days I need to repent more for my thoughts than for my actions. I am so thankful that Jesus died for both! 

As believers, we want to see Jesus glorified and we want to see His name magnified in our lives…but it’s so easy to believe He could be better glorified in our lives if He gave us the speaking ability of our Sunday School teacher, the energy of that one elder’s wife or the hospitality genius of our Bible Study hosts. Or maybe we have started to believe that if our husband was just more of a spiritual leader, or if our kids were walking with the Lord or we just had a different job…then we could truly spread the fame of the name of Jesus wherever we are. If we just had a life like someone else, we’d be a joyful, fruit-bearing child of the King. 

When we see things we want (even good things…godly things!), but don’t have, we tend to compare ourselves to others, don’t we? We do it almost without a thought and its effects can be crippling. We are not alone. It’s a temptation that is common to man, even a man like Peter. And I am so thankful for John 21 and this small window into a conversation between him and Jesus. It helps our own hearts battle comparison and fight for contentment. 

(Jesus said)” ‘Truly I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.’ He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. After saying this He told him, ‘Follow me.’ So Peter turned around and saw the disciple Jesus loved (John) following them, the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and asked, ‘Lord, who is the one that’s going to betray you?’ When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about Him?’ ‘If I want him to remain until I come,’ Jesus answered, ‘what is that to you? As for you, follow me.’” 

Jesus told Peter how he was going to die, and what is the first thing Peter did? He wants to know about John and what his life would be like? Would he be dragged where he didn’t want to go and die in a way he didn’t want to die? The battle for contentment was starting to brew in the mind of Peter.

Jesus’s response is blunt and beautiful in its simplicity. He basically say, who cares about John in this regard…you follow me. You, Peter, fix your eyes on me…the Author and Perfecter of your faith and stop trying to compare yourself to John. 

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hinderance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-3 

True joy and contentment is found when we fix our eyes on Christ and trust Him with every detail of our lives.  God is writing each of our stories…and each story looks different because God knows best how to glorify Himself in us! Yes, we are to rejoice when others rejoice and mourn when they mourn (Romans 12:15) and we are to bear one another burdens (Gal. 6:2) but we are not to covet and we are not to envy. That is sin. And, ultimately, that is saying to God, “I don’t like what you are doing and I don’t think you know what is best.” Remember, He did not spare His own Son…how much more will He graciously give us all things?!!! (Romans 8:32) 

I don’t know where today finds you, friend. Maybe everyone around you is either getting married or having kids and you are still single. Maybe you were waiting for that new job to open up only to find out it was given to someone else instead of you. Maybe you have been diagnosed with an illness or disease that will follow you around like an unwanted friend for the rest of your life. Maybe it’s not the big things but the little ones, and they just keep piling up. Your boss at work just seems to have it out for you but not others. Your house seems so much more disorganized than your friend’s. Your car is constantly breaking down and the rust spots keep growing, unlike the neighbors whose cars are pristine. Or you look at the extra ten pounds you gained during quarantine and wonder if you are the only one struggling to lose them.  I don’t know what you are facing…but I know that the waves of life can come hard and fast. What we need is a new perspective: 

“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.”   Charles Spurgeon 

God is using every hardship, every pain, every irritation to cause us to cling to Christ; to help us see that He is “able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8) We don’t need to compare, we need to trust. We don’t need to compare, we need to rest. We don’t need to compare, we need to walk by faith…a faith that boldly declares with the author of Psalm 16:5-6 “Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”  

“There is nothing, no circumstance, no trouble, no testing,
that can even touch me until, first of all,
it has gone past God and Christ, right through to me.

If it has come that far,
it has come with a great purpose
which I may not understand at the moment. 

But as I refuse to become panicky,
as I lift up my eyes to him and accept it
as coming from the throne of God
for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart,
no sorrow will ever disturb me,
no trial will ever disarm me,
no circumstance will cause me to fret,
for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is!

That is the rest of victory!”

-Alan Redpath

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