“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt, truer words have not been spoken about my life. For as long as I can remember, I have been comparing myself to others. I was the smallest kid in my class all through middle school. High school wasn’t much easier. With braces and a bad haircut, not many girls wanted to talk to me. And being cut from the junior varsity baseball team didn’t help my self-esteem. When I started following Christ around that time, I began to find some peace, although it was hard not to look around and wonder why others had and I had not.
The comparison game got even easier to play as I got older. After college, I got a job (that I didn’t like) and moved to a new city (that I wasn’t crazy about). While many of our friends were moving up in their careers, buying new cars or houses, and going on vacations, my wife and I lived in a one-bedroom, basement apartment. Everyone has their struggles – emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually – but I couldn’t stop feeling sorry for myself, so much so that it led me into depression. There were other contributing factors, but I remember being jealous of so many people in my life who were now so much more “successful” than me. My fear of not measuring up had taken over. As I was throwing myself a pity party, I felt a lot like Gideon, who referred to himself as the weakest of the weak. He doubted that even God could do anything in his life:
14Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”
15“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
Just about the time God healed me and brought me out of my depression, I lost my job. Talk about embarrassing for someone who was so concerned with the perception of others and desired to have what they had. Little did I know that it was during this season that God would humble me to the point of acceptance, revealing himself to me in new ways. My wife and I prayed constantly for provision, and God used the same people I thought were so much better than me to bless us many times over. Our rent was paid anonymously, and friends pooled together to pay our bills and buy groceries. I was envious of these friends for what they had, but through their generosity, I became envious of their willingness to love us in our time of need and to serve where God called them. The Lord told me the same thing he told Gideon.
“I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
I still encounter the green-eyed monster of jealousy from time to time. I would be lying if I said I never compare myself to others, because I do. Now, though, I am less concerned with their job title and more interested in how I can know Christ the way they do.
Comparison led me to a place I don’t want to revisit. I still want to be like other people, but God’s promise to Gideon is a promise to all of us – that he will be with us. He made the same promise in Deuteronomy 31:8: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Do you find yourself stuck in the comparison game, like Gideon?
How should the fact of God’s presence change the way you view yourself?
Prayer: Father, help me to understand how you see me. Help me to listen to and love you so that I am not comparing myself to others or thinking that you couldn’t do anything through me. Thank you for your presence and for your mercy in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is the business director at Chick-Fil-A in Toledo. He enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and daughter, and watching Cleveland sports as much as anyone can. Follow him on twitter @cookfila
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