Online buzz says that comparison is a new epidemic, a product of the social media generation. This modern woman's problem feels like it requires modern answers. If we follow current wisdom about comparison, we will support trends like community over competition. We may encourage each other to focus on the blessings God has given us instead of obsessing over what He's given to the women we follow online or know in real life. We remind ourselves that social media feeds don't show the whole picture, that a pile of toys or paperwork lies just beyond the camera angle of our favorite home d√©cor accounts and that the lifestyle blogger we follow probably has a team of people helping to curate her life. We try to fix this modern problem of comparison with modern answers. But comparison isn't an issue unique to the social media age; it's woven through the stories of the Old Testament and the admonishments of the New Testament letters. It's written all over the pages of Scripture as the sins of envy, coveting, and jealousy. While the current strategies for defeating comparison feel like wisdom and may fix our sin temporarily, all our efforts never last. It seems impossible to avoid comparing our lives to those perfect pins and squares–no matter how much we try to value community, remember that we don't see the ugly side of each other's lives, or focus on our blessings. The problem with these conventional wisdoms is that they seek to retrain the mind instead of changing our hearts. Only the gospel is powerful enough to produce heart change, the wisdom of the world will always be transient. Contentment truly is impossible–without Jesus. Only understanding our lives by the light of the gospel will lead to long-lasting heart change. When speaking about contentment, the apostle Paul says that we "can do all things through him who strengthens
" (Philippians 4:13). The context of that powerful promise isn't battling hardships or even defeating sin, but instead Paul is assuring us that we can be content no matter our circumstances through the strength of Jesus.
Despite the powerful pressure of the social media age, the strength of Jesus is enough to quit comparison and find contentment. All we need to combat comparison is found in good application of gospel truths:
Four Comparison-Killing Gospel Truths:
- Identify the root of comparison:Comparison is a trendy name we use for the sins of coveting, jealousy, and envy. Sisters, it really does matter what we call things. If we are guilty of occasionally comparing ourselves to others, it doesn't sound that harmful. We think all we need is a catchy saying or a goal for thankfulness to control a sporadic comparison. On the other hand, coveting, envy, and jealousy are sins, plain and simple. As a Christian, identifying a sin is actually good news. When something isn't a sin, we try to fix it by our own good works, but sin requires heavenly rescue. Jesus holds the power over all sin because of His work on the cross. Through His blood, He bought our freedom from sin. By the work of Jesus, we don't have to live in the muck of comparison. We can have freedom to be content in the lives God has given us.
- Remember your standing before God: Even when things appear unfair, the gospel reveals that we are all equal. Our culture believes we are entitled to blessings based on our good works, but the Bible disagrees. God's Word says that we are sinners, and that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 5:8). The message of the gospel is that instead of giving us what we deserve, Jesus laid down His life so we could receive grace upon grace (John 1:16).The good news is that although we deserve only God's wrath and immediate death for our abundance of sin, Jesus died so we can receive endless grace to cover all our past, present, and future sins. The blessing and grace we receive is a result of Jesus' sacrifice, not any of our hard work or self-powered goodness that will always fall short of perfection. We have done nothing to deserve grace in this life, and we certainly don't deserve the joy of God's presence that we will receive in the next life–but in Christ, we get them! We all start out equally deserving God's wrath, and we all become equally declared righteous before God. When tempted to compare your life to another Christian's, remember that you are equally redeemed.
- Understand Contentment: Contentment is not found by focusing on the blessings God has given you–be it the perfect family, a happy season of life, a good job, or a dream house–and saying your blessings are enough for you. The secret to contentment can't be found in the things of this world or by your own work, but comes from understanding God's ever-present support in every circumstance. Because He never leaves us, we can have His joy despite our current trials. Contentment comes from confidence in His faithfulness despite our circumstances. Contentment abounds when we recognize that He is working out His plan to draw us closer to Him. Receiving more of Jesus satisfies our longings for eternity and develops a content heart.
- Embrace His Sufficiency: Instead of simply counting the blessings God has given you as a substitute for focusing on the blessings God has given the woman in your Bible study or the woman you follow online, recognize the sufficiency of the blessing of God himself. In our entitled culture, we often fall into the pit of expecting blessings in return for our faithfulness and obedience. When we focus on the blessings God has given us, we miss the purpose of those blessings–to point us back to the Giver of all blessings. The ultimate blessing isn't whatever good thing you've been pining after, but God Himself. God made us to be people who desire, creating an emptiness in our hearts that causes us to desire God. Unfortunately, we are too often like C.S. Lewis describes: children playing in the mud when they could have been playing in the ocean. We focus so hard on the blessings of our mud puddle (or the mud castle of the woman next to us) that we don't see that the ocean of knowing God more is waiting for our enjoyment. If we recognize that God Himself will meet every desire of our hearts, the sufficiency of God crowds out the need to have the blessings of the woman next to us because we are satisfied in Him.