You have something I want.
There is something you have. And I want it. And I don’t understand why you get to have it and I don’t.
It honestly doesn’t matter who you are. I know it to be true because I’ve started to learn just how broken I really am. I know I’m supposed to fix my eyes straight ahead on Jesus (Prov. 4:25), but instead I find myself looking to the left and to the right—at you. At everyone around me.
At what they have. At what they’re doing. At where they’re going.
Do you ever catch yourself doing this? You’re feeling okay about life. Heck, maybe you’re even feeling good. Things are coming together for you just fine. Despite life’s difficulties, you know you have a lot to be thankful for.
Until you notice that someone else has more. Or better. Or easier. Or honestly, sometimes even just different.
For me, I’m embarrassed to admit it can happen with just about anything.
Maybe it’s a material thing: bigger house, nicer car, higher income. Maybe it’s a personal thing: fitter body, healthier relationships, stronger talent. Or, maybe it’s a circumstantial thing: easier job, closer family, or even—and you probably know where I’m going next—better fertility.
(A quick note: I promise that this whole post does not revolve around infertility, but the reality is that infertility often breeds painful comparisons. For many men and women, this is really important to work through. If that’s you, keep reading. If it’s not you–if you’re one of the lucky ones where fertility is not something you’ve ever had to compare–I encourage you to read on to learn more about what others may experience, but you can also jump down to here to skip over the next part if you’d like.)
Yepp. Infertility gives you one more thing to compare on an already never-ending list of comparisons.
Why do they get to have three babies when I can’t have one? Why do they get to have a surprise pregnancy when I have to spend thousands of dollars and years of time to get there? Why is their treatment covered and mine’s not? Why did their procedure work and mine didn’t? Why did they get to have their baby and I miscarried? Why did they have success the first time and I’ve been through multiple rounds?
Though I haven’t experienced all these things personally, I know these are real questions asked within the world of infertility, and these questions are coming from experiences of deep pain and frustration.
I saw a quote recently that said, “Infertility is still being jealous of others’ pregnancy announcements even when you’re pregnant.”
That seems so strange, right? Someone who struggled with infertility and is now pregnant should feel like she’s made it, right? She got what she wanted, so why would she still be jealous?
As she compares to that other woman’s story, she’s reminded that it didn’t just happen for her.
That other woman was able to get pregnant naturally by enjoying the marriage bed with her husband. Instead, she got pregnant after thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and dozens of medications.
That other woman got to spend secret weeks with her husband, planning the perfect reveal to share the good news with friends and family. Instead, she had to tell everyone through insignificant texts and phone calls because everyone already knew about medicated cycles or the IUI/transfer date.
That other woman will likely be able to decide if/when they want a sibling, and then just get pregnant again. Instead, she’s forced to face mountains of uncertainty when it comes to giving her child a sibling—if she can, how long it will take, how much it will cost.
And worst of all, she knows that if something were to happen, it’s not as simple as “just trying again.”
The “Fruit” of Comparison
And really, we all know this kind of comparison thinking that stirs up discontent “even when…” isn’t just limited to infertility.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately because I find myself doing it so often, especially now as I watch many friends and family move into new seasons of life. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one who struggles with this.
But why? Why do we do this?
I mean honestly, this kind of comparison never helps me. As Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life.Church, says, “[Comparison] either makes you feel superior or inferior, and neither honors God.”
Oh, how TRUE that is.
And yet, I keep coming back. I keep drinking the dirty water leaking from the hose of comparison, hoping that it will fill me up and make me satisfied, instead of drinking the living waters flowing from the fountain of life.
See, the interesting thing is that comparison isn’t inherently bad.
What? Isn’t this entire post about how we shouldn’t be comparing and how harmful it is?
Yes. But the problem isn’t really in the comparing. The problem is to whom we’re comparing.
In truth, “comparing is how we discover what holiness is” (Abigail Dodds, Comparison is Not the Thief of Joy). When comparison is in its proper place, we’re able to honor others who are following God well, learn from each other, and build one another up as we strive to look more like Jesus.
But much like everything else in creation, the devil loves to twist this. He loves to get us comparing ourselves to each other instead of to Jesus.
Jesus is both our standard and our audience. And yet, we’re usually looking all around, seeing how we stack up to everyone but Him. And that’s no accident. Let’s be real: when it comes to deception and destruction, the devil knows what he’s doing.
Again, I love the way Craig Groeschel puts this: “The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it to something else.”
Ouch. I don’t know about you, but that word goes STRAIGHT.TO.MY.HEART. (I highly recommend checking out his whole message on this topic. So compelling and convicting.)
How many special things has God wanted to do in me that I’ve killed off because I was too busy comparing it to what He was doing in other people?
See friend, I’m realizing that the devil not only wants to take our eyes off God, but he also wants to take away what God is doing.
Satan is a liar. He wants you to feel like God has forgotten you. Like God hears everyone’s prayers but yours. Like God wants to bless everyone but you.
But the TRUTH is that God is with you, and that He will strengthen you and help you (Isa. 41:10). The truth is that He invites you to bring absolutely everything to Him in prayer, and He promises His peace, mercy, and grace (Phil. 4:6-7, Heb. 4:16). The truth is that He gave you his one and only Son; how could He not also give you all things (Rom. 8:32)?
So what do we do? How do we guard our hearts and remember the truth when ugly, covetous comparison creeps in and starts whispering lies?
To be completely honest, I still really struggle with this. I don’t have the perfect formula. But, here are four things the Lord has been teaching me lately as He and I have been working through this together:
1. Ask the Spirit to renew your mind.
When those thoughts creep in, take them captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Don’t let them take over. For me, this looks like actively rebuking the thought, confessing to God when I’ve let the thought sow seeds of discontent, and asking Him to give me His thoughts instead. Whether in my mind or out loud, I’m trying to deliberately say, “That thought is not of Christ, and I refuse it in the name of Jesus. I give it no power. Father, instead, replace it with your thoughts. Forgive me for my jealousy and doubt. Humble my heart as you help me to think like You.”
We simply don’t have the power and strength within us to do this work of renewal ourselves. We need the Spirit to transform our minds, taking us from crippling comparison to limitless love.
The Spirit renews the mind. It is first and decisively his work. We are radically dependent on him. Our efforts follow his initiatives and enablings. … We join the Holy Spirit in his precious and all-important work. We pursue Christ-exalting truth and we pray for truth-embracing humilityJohn Piper, The Renewed Mind and How to Have It
2. Look past the temporary to eternity.
Honestly, some of the things we’re comparing just don’t matter. Nice cars, fancy houses, big salaries. We all know these things don’t even matter now, let alone in eternity. And the things that do matter now—things like our health, family, or safety—even these things will pass away (Matt. 24:35). Along with heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1), we will be made new (Phil. 3:21)—whole, complete, and eternally satisfied in our magnificent Creator.
When I find myself comparing our journey of expanding our family, I often have to remind myself that it.won’t.matter. Yes, the pain of not being able to conceive a child with my husband is still real here and now. But the “here and now” is very, very temporary. This is not my forever.
3. See the privilege in your pain.
Comparison often reminds us of what we don’t have. And sometimes, that’s really, really painful. The “thing” we don’t have isn’t just a thin body or a dream vacation. It’s a baby who was never born. It’s a sober life, free from the bondage of alcohol or drugs. It’s a marriage that fell apart. It’s a parent who passed away too soon.
It doesn’t look like it and it certainly doesn’t feel like it, but to trudge those dark valleys of deep brokenness is actually a privilege—a privilege of preparation.
Preparation for the good works God has just for you (Eph. 2:10). Preparation for the eternal glory that is far beyond all comparison, awaiting you in your true home (2 Cor. 4:17). Preparation for God to show up and show off, working for your good and His glory (Rom. 8:28).
I’m not saying this perspective is easy or that suddenly your pain will turn into unicorns and rainbows. To be honest, when I try to shift my heart to this perspective, my gut reaction is, “Well, I don’t want this privilege.” But deep in my soul, the Spirit reminds me that there is truly no greater honor than to be chosen and sanctified by the God of all creation. He knows me, He sees me, and He loves me—personally and intimately—and as such, He is transforming me from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).
I suffer with Him, but I will also be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17).
Instead, continue to rejoice, for you, in a measure, have shared in the sufferings of the Anointed One so that you can share in the revelation of his glory and celebrate with even greater gladness!1 Peter 4:13 TPT
4. Practice gratitude.
We have to be intentional about gratitude, because it won’t be our default response to adverse circumstances. As broken, sinful creatures, our flesh tends to first focus on what we don’t have, to complain that it’s not fair, and to wonder why it’s so easy for everyone else.
But our Spirit must declare war on our flesh.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances [emphasis added]; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thess. 5:16-18 NIV
It may seem overly basic, but when I find myself comparing, I’m learning to redirect my thoughts to the many things God has graciously given me—not the least of which is my very salvation and a promised inheritance in His Kingdom as His adopted daughter—and I’m beginning to thank Him for those gifts. From the seemingly simple to the incredibly impossible.
For the beautiful sun or for the much-needed rain. For a house that provides both shelter and comfort. For green trees outside my window. For a body that can walk and work and move. For a computer to learn and connect and share. For delicious desserts. For supportive friends and family. For the smell of coffee. For music that moves me. For my amazing husband.
And the list literally goes on and on and on.
And as I thank Him, I’m reminded of just how good He really is. Not because of all the “things” He’s given me, but because of who He is and what He’s done. Because of His generosity, kindness, and faithfulness to me, even when I’m not faithful to Him. Because of the unconditional love he lavishes upon me every single day, even when I sometimes turn away from it. Because of His sacrifice to make me His own, even though I could never, ever deserve it.
As I work to surrender my comparisons to the Father, He’s been faithful to remind me that He’s my greatest treasure. So for all of us that struggle with comparison, my prayer is that we would truly come to know the surpassing worth of Jesus, counting all else as loss (Phil. 3:8), and that Psalm 73:25 may be true of our hearts:
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing [emphasis added] on earth that I desire besides you.Psalm 73:25 ESV