Comparison: the thief of joy.

I love this little Pinterest Quote Print Out:

So true!!!! I've had to remind myself that a lot lately.

When I look at my friends who are having a singleton pregnancy and they're able to pretty much go about their ordinary lives... I have had to fight a lot of jealousy! I really thought that I'd be one of those pregnant women who would be able to do EVERYTHING and exercise everyday and keep up with grad. school, work, our home, church things, be a good wife, a good friend, etc. I really didn't even consider the idea that pregnancy would/could have me so wiped out in life. So when it happened and all of my other pregnant friends were still going strong (& looking cute)... I started comparing myself to them and pointing out my obvious "failures."

"You're just weak." "You're getting fat." "You're just not smart enough."  "You're way too sensitive." "You'll never get your body back." "You're life will never be the same; it's ruined! You're not going to be able to go anywhere for years with two!" "Your husband will never be attracted to your body again after the hell it's going to be put through." "With two babies, your hips will never be the same."

Lies. All Lies.

And it's amazing how we, as women, put so much pressure on ourselves to be/do it all. But God in His graciousness has brought people to speak truth to my life. I started to think about how it would be Satan's pride and joy, to be able to steal my joy about these babies and replace it with fear and shame. I've been thankful for other pregnant women who have verbalized similar feelings and written great blog articles on them (For one on weight gain: HERE. For one that portrays pregnancy as an analogy for Christ's sacrifice: HERE).

But then I think it goes further than just pregnant women... I'd argue that one of our enemy's favorite strategies in our society is to steal our joy via the tool of comparison. Whether it is our marriages/single lives, boyfriends/girlfriends, materialistic items (Houses, cars, clothes), physical appearance, jobs, school placement, social network presence, etc. we are CONSTANTLY comparing ourselves to others. This comparison game is so prevalent that it has earned itself a name in our society: "Keeping Up with the Jones."  It really is absurd how it has infiltrated our society and now affects what we buy, wear, who we hang out with, who we vote for, where we shop, the types of phones we have, etc.

In light of this becoming a recent issue in my life, I've been doing a lot of thinking on the topic. Here is what I've come up with and it is by no means an original idea. I've heard it my whole life: Comparison can truly only cause two responses: (1) Pride in ourselves which causes our discontentment with others who aren't meeting our standards or (2) Disappointment in what we don't have or can't achieve.

For the first response, I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 and how Martha was comparing herself to her sister Mary. Martha was busy running around making sure everything was just perfect for Jesus and his disciples, while Mary was just thrilled to be with the Christ so she slacked off in the prep department. This is a perfect example of the first type of discontentment brought on by comparison. Martha was so proud of all she was accomplishing and frustrated by her sister Mary who was obviously content doing "more important" things and "not helping." Martha was so consumed that she didn't even consider that her sister was perhaps picking the important thing: spending time with her savior instead of doing things for Him. How quick are we to point out others who aren't meeting our standards? I see this story told on repeat in our churches, but not in our sunday school classes... instead it's in our body when we comment on people who aren't meeting our behavioral standards. These people "aren't serving enough," "aren't leading a small group," "aren't doing all the right things,"  and "Lord, look at us! We're so tired from doing good things! Maybe if they'd help us we might actually get to spend some time with you too!" Sound familiar?

To be honest, I don't struggle with the first type of discontentment as much as I do the second. I love the picture of the first church in Acts 2: 42-47. This was a diverse group of people who were unified in Christ. These people were selling what they had and shared their possessions. They broke bread with one another and it says that they "received their food with glad and generous hearts." This is a beautiful picture! Some have more, others have less... but no one is pointing fingers asking God, "Why couldn't I have been like them?!" No, instead they are all using their individual gifts and blessings to encourage the body of Christ. This is where I fall short for sure. I'm the one looking around going, "Why can't I have ______? Why can't I be all belly instead of a growing whale? Why can't I still run while pregnant with twins?" I look around, see what others have and I immediately want it instead of receiving my portion with joy and generosity.

When we get stingy with our gifts and expect others to be like us pride takes root and discontentment spreads, but when we look at what others have and start longing for what's not ours, jealousy takes root and discontentment spreads. Both paths in comparison can lead to discontentment.

So what's the solution? I think it involves an identity check. What I've been doing to fight these lies is remind myself of who I am and who I belong to. I am a child of a sovereign God. Proverbs 21: 1 tells us that the Kings' hearts are in the hands of the Lord. If I belong to a God who changes the hearts of kings, who controls history, who has promised to make all things new one day... what do I have to fear? Who do I have to compare myself to? My circumstances do not change my identity, but they do give me the opportunity to choose how to respond to them. Do I trust the God who is sovereign, who designed my body and my babies? Do I know that regardless of tragedy or success, my God is able to abundantly more than anything I can imagine? Do I believe that He is for me, not against me? Do I know that any outcome requires Him getting glory? Do I weep with those who weep and celebrate with those who have reason to be joyful? Or do I weep because they have something I don't, and get excited when I have something they're lacking? These are all daily choices I have to make. And I refuse to allow Satan to steal my joy...

Proverbs 10:28 The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Psalm 19:8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

Psalm 9:2 I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 13:5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

“What I am anxious to see in Christian believers is a beautiful paradox. I want to see in them the joy of finding God while at the same time they are blessedly pursuing Him. I want to see in them the great joy of having God yet always wanting Him.” ~ A. W. Tozer

“Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” ~ C. S. Lewis

 For those of you who are fighting for your joy as well... I hope these verses and quotes are a comfort to you!

Much love,

Posted on April 9, 2012 and filed under Ordinary Life, Spiritual Journey, Motherhood.