One day a thief crept into our home. We were going about our business while he crept about undetected. Infinitely dangerous but we never suspected a thing. Until some things came up missing.
Like peace of mind.
Comparison is the thief of joy
I keep running into that quote online and it will not leave me alone. If you have followed my journey thus far then you know that comparison was a struggle for me a couple of years back. The Lord has been gracious since then and I have learned how to steward my own portion remarkably well. It goes without saying that I may not have perfected the art of never envying another person’s life or possessions, but honestly, I am being perfected on a daily basis.
When I came across this quote yet again this week, it got me thinking about what exactly has been stolen from me in the years I spent neglecting my own life to envy another’s. One instant that immediately came to mind was that of a former friend. This was someone I had known since childhood but did not establish a genuine connection with until we were adults. By that time she had grown into a confident, beautiful, self-assured, take-no-prisoners of a woman and I was still finding myself but putting up a good front. I cherished our friendship because we genuinely cared for one another and we were each other’s trusted ear for our most sensitive secrets. But under the warm embers of our friendship was this nagging need to prove that I was good enough to be her friend. That toxic mentality gave way to competition. Although I loved my friend, I was also keenly aware of how much more popular and sought after she was compared to me. I did my best to mimic some of her style; I shopped where she shopped, wore similar hair styles and befriended the people in her life. My prayer was that some of her “certain something” would rub off on me and I would be more sought after and well-liked by association. In that instance, comparison stole my ability to be a true friend. Which one of us would want a friend who felt compelled to compete with us? Yet there i was being exactly that type of friend. For all the love I had for this woman, there was no way I was presenting her with the best version of myself as her friend if a part of me was jealously seeking to have something she effortlessly possessed.
When I think a little harder, I remember another friend with whom I found common ground based on our passion to see young people in Christ and flourishing. This woman of God is a natural at getting young people of any age to open up to her. She befriends them easily and keeps their confidences. I am the same way to a certain extent but the grace of God operating in this lady’s life made me question my own. Eventually, things went sour between us (it is a long story that I cannot tell without divulging intimate details that may cause embarrassment to all parties involved). Over the past five years, God has healed my heart and given me the hope of reconciliation. But honestly, I am embarrassed and ashamed of myself for the manner in which I acted. In my jealous comparison of the gifts operating in my life and the life of the young woman in question, I have treated her unfairly and without compassion. When I think back to some of the words I have spoken to this woman in the heat of the moment, I cringe. Here, comparison stole a sister in Christ and a partner in ministry. I have asked the Lord for forgiveness and have taken some steps to correct my missteps with the person in question but I know there is room for more. Reconciliation is the heart of my Heavenly Father so I am keeping my heart open to that possibility in this situation.
Lastly, this quote reminds me of the first few days and weeks (and maybe even the first year) of my marriage. I went into marriage with the expectation that my husband would be praying the heavens down daily over me, lavishing me with gifts and words of love, and meeting my needs spoken and unspoken without issue. Once we came home from the honeymoon and began living as husband and wife, I quickly realized that my amazing husband was very much flesh just like me and not the second coming of Jesus Himself. What made my reality harder to accept was the flood of Instagram pictures I had visually consumed and mentally stored away. Where was my breakfast in bed? Where was my surprise getaway trip? Where was my “just because it’s Wednesday” flowers? I wanted everything social media had shown me that marriage was suppose to entail. As I compared my reality to the filtered promises on the internet, I was crestfallen. Comparison stole my joy and had me questioning the gift of God that is my husband. Thankfully, I am surrounded by wise and godly counselors and the Holy Spirit Himself would not leave me to my foolish devices for long. The Lord intervened and opened my eyes to the ridiculous jealousy and envy I had for other people’s supposedly perfect marriages. The Lord reminded me that viewing the highlight reels of others would never improve my marriage or increase my joy as a wife. If I wanted a joyful and romantic marriage, I needed to get to work being a joyful and romantic wife. Learning to serve my husband from a place of unconditional love has infused everything I ever hoped for into our home. I still regret those moments I allowed the thief of comparison to steal my joy and plant seeds of bitterness in my heart against my husband. But I thank God daily that He has uprooted every evil planting of the enemy of my soul and my marriage. Comparison stole my joy for a moment but if I had allowed it, it could have stolen my marriage.
Friend, what has comparison stolen from you recently? If you still recognize this thief working in your life in ANY regard, I implore you by the mercies of God to drive out this enemy from your heart before it steals, kills and destroys the blessings that God has richly bestowed upon you.
Yours in Christ,