It can be crippling to compare ourselves. We look at celebrities and wish we had their flawless skin and glamorous lives. We look at the man who just got his second promotion and wish our own hard work would be rewarded. We look at the pretty girl with the perfect boyfriend and wish someone would look at us the way he looks at her. These kinds of comparisons reveal insecurities that we all face. After all, nobody is perfect. We all have things we wish were different in our lives and it’s easy to look at others and wonder why we don’t have what they have. But the most crippling kind of comparison goes much deeper on a spiritual level.
Have you ever been in a Bible study with someone who seems to quote Scripture from memory in almost every sentence? Or heard an incredible story about someone experiencing a miracle first-hand? Have you ever felt so disconnected from God only to see your best friend at a spiritual high? I sure have. I have cried out to God wondering why it seems such amazing things are happening in the lives of others when I feel like my own life is in total confusion. I have been jealous of friends who have gone on life-changing overseas mission trips and felt like a failure in my own desire to serve God. I have struggled with feeling insignificant when I see how others are taking huge steps of faith, and how God is multiplying fruit in their lives. When I succumb to these comparisons, I feel crippled in my faith.
But, this is not how God wants us to feel. I’ve heard it said that comparing our righteousness to others is like standing at the base of Mt. Everest and arguing with someone about who is taller. In the presence of such greatness, it is almost silly. So it is with God. Next to His complete perfection and power, we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 NIV). Yet, even in our weaknesses, we can see God working and moving. In fact, one of the beauties of God is that He chose broken people like ourselves to be vessels for His kingdom. We are invited to be a part of something greater, and remembering this can help combat the lies that many comparisons make us see as truth.
Instead of letting destructive comparisons cause you to feel insignificant, remember these positive comparisons that will build you up in truth and encourage you in your daily walk with the Lord.
Compare Yourself to a Child
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 NIV.
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3-4 NIV.
Remember the feeling of pure joy you felt over the simplest of things as a child? Running to your dad when he came home from work or seeing presents under the tree on Christmas morning? When did life become so difficult? We tend to overcomplicate our role in the Christian life. We strive to work hard for God, and although we are called to make disciples and live our lives as sacrifices, we were not created for this purpose. We were created simply to enjoy and love God as our Father. It is easy to forget this sometimes, yet when we embrace a childlike faith we allow ourselves to be in wonder of the Lord and our love for Him grows. It is only out of an increased love for God that we can serve Him more fully. Trying to compete with others will only end in frustration and insecurity.
In the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10, we see a picture of the best posture to take towards the Lord. While Martha runs around preparing food and worrying about insignificant tasks, Mary simply sits at Jesus’s feet to listen to Him speak. So often we find ourselves in Martha’s shoes, thinking that so many things need to be done to earn God’s approval. But, listen to the words of Jesus at the end of this story.
“Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 NIV.
The best thing we can do is to enjoy the presence of the Lord and be filled with His truth.
Compare Yourself to Christ
One of the most discouraging things is to be stuck in a pattern of sin while everyone else seems to be perfect. Of course, we know that’s not true. We know that everyone struggles in different capacities. We’re all human. But, regardless of that truth, our emotions can drive us to see ourselves as damaged goods when we compare ourselves to the “perfect” outer works of those around us. We may feel beyond redemption, or feel as if we’ve disappointed God. In a lot of ways, this becomes a greater struggle when we become a Christian. The more light we let in our hearts, the more dirt and grime is exposed. We see ourselves more clearly when we come to know God’s perfection more clearly, and that includes seeing more of our sin.
Yet, we can rejoice in the truth that, when we know Christ as our Savior, we lose our past sins in His saving grace. The slate is wiped clean. In fact, there is no more slate. God no longer sees us as broken, but as redeemed and spotless through Christ.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV.
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. Philippians 3:8-9. NIV.
We can compare ourselves to Christ because when He died for our sins, He also imparted to us His righteousness and perfect-standing with God. We no longer have to be afraid of disappointing God or falling outside of His forgiveness. Christ already covered all of our past, present, and future sins, so we can be secure in how God sees us and how He is working in our lives, even in our darkest sins, to make us more like Christ.
Compare Yourself to Your Past Self
Sometimes, it seems like our lives are stagnant, like we haven’t grown into better, stronger people. As Christians, this can be frustrating and even saddening. We want to become more like Christ, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like anything has changed. We know that, eventually, we will be fully sanctified. God promises us that He will not stop working in us.
…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6. NIV.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t upsetting when we don’t physically and spiritually see that change on a consistent basis. This is even harder to accept when we compare our growth to the growth of others. That’s why it can be helpful to take some time to really reflect on how God has worked in us, from before we became Christians to now. Remember what it was like before you knew God. I know when I do this, I am immediately more grateful and aware of just how far God has grown me in my faith and just how much Christ has set me free from. And I also remember how long it took me to really understand God’s grace. I remember that life and growth is a process and, as cheesy as it may sound, the in-between moments are just as important as the life-changing ones. Sometimes we need to be in a stagnant season. Sometimes these are the times God can teach us and show us His love and compassion the most.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5. NIV.
When you find yourself comparing yourself to others, remember instead all of the ways you are seen in the eyes of God. Remember the fullness He has brought you into and the depths from which He has saved you. Remember that life abundant is found in Christ and, through Him and by Him, we are made whole.