Theodore Roosevelt is credited with saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” The Bible warns against envy and jealousy. “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
We know that no one’s picture-perfect online depictions convey real life, at least not all the time. Everyone has trials and issues, faults and failures. Yet we’re discouraged and depressed when we don’t think we measure up to everyone else.
But what if we really do fall short?
Different personalities and gifts
In early married life, I had a good friend who seemingly could do everything and do it well. While I seemed to struggle to keep my head above water with three children, she had the same number, her house was not only clean but well-decorated, she sewed for her family and for others for pay, she was active in a number of church ministries.
While wondering what was wrong with me for a long time, I finally concluded that God gave different people different capacities. Jesus told a parable of three men who were each given different amounts of money and then had to give account according to what was given them. I could learn from this and other friends and enjoy their different gifts, but I didn’t have to be just like them. God didn’t make us with cookie cutters. I could only be faithful with the abilities He gave me.
One night this particular friend and her husband invited our family over for dinner. Everything was wonderful, as expected. But I noticed that this friend could hardly sit still for more than a few minutes. She would excuse herself to go do various things and then come back. It seemed like she didn’t know how to just sit back and relax for very long. And I began to think, if that’s the price one pays for getting so much done, then maybe I don’t that after all. I’m not criticizing her. We just had different personalities.
One former pastor used to say that every strength has an offsetting weakness. One organizational whiz I knew had trouble with flexibility. Someone with a take-charge personality is great when you need someone in charge, but they come across as controlling otherwise. A person whose primary gift is mercy might have a hard time saying “no” when she should. If we find ourselves envying someone’s gift, we need to remember they have their weaknesses, too. We all have issues for which we need God’s grace.
Many times in the Bible, God set His choice and blessing on particular people. He chose younger Jacob over older Esau, even though by the standards of the times, the older brother received the family blessing and a bigger share on the inheritance. Peter, James, and John had more experiences with Jesus than the other disciples, and Peter got the lion’s share of attention in the gospels. All we know about some of the disciples is their names. Does that mean they were less special that Peter? No: God just had different purposes for them.
A former pastor who preached a series about the disciples said that these lesser-known ones were faithful in obscurity. That’s where most of us find ourselves. We’re not the big names. We don’t have the big followings. When I was growing up, I often heard the saying “God must love the common folk, He made so many of them.”
Accepted in the Beloved
We all fall short of God’s perfect righteousness. But He loved us so much, He gave His only Son to die for our sins, so if we turn from them and believe on Him, we’re saved and cleansed (John 3:16). When I really got hold of the idea that I’m “accepted in the Beloved,” as the KJV puts it, all my securities and self-image issues melted away. Our position in Him has nothing to do with our looks, our abilities, our works, our talents, and how they measure up to anyone else. He made us the way He wanted us. He gives us everything we need to live for Him and grow more like Him.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:3-4).
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).
We each have a gift from God, a purpose, and a unique job to do. We may not have the same reach as others, but we each have a unique sphere of influence. God doesn’t call us to do what others do. He only calls us to be faithful to what He wants us to do.
Someone will always be better than us in every aspect of our lives: better-looking, better cooks, better writers, better home managers, etc. That’s no reason for dismay. We will be better than some in those aspects, too. That’s no reason for pride.
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
(1 Corinthians 4:7, NIV)
The main point isn’t how we compare to others. The main point is being faithful with what God gave us. We seek His purposes and plans for us, grow in grace, knowledge and abilities, and use them to reflect Him, glorify Him, and serve others.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV)
(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Kingdom Bloggers, Literary Musing Monday, Hearth and Soul, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, Happy Now, Tea and Word, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Truth, Let’s Have Coffee, Worth Beyond Rubies, Recharge Wednesday, Wise Woman, Share a Link Wednesday, HeartEncouragement, DestinationInspiration, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Faith ‘n Friends)