Originally published Monday, 29 July 2013.
She lives in a spacious house, beautifully decorated, just like you've always wanted. Her kids are well-mannered and always respectful. She even got her kids into that prestigious school, the one where everyone has their child on the waiting list--including you. Maybe she has three children, while you painfully tried for years to have your only child. Perhaps she gets to stay at home with her little ones while you leave for work each day. Or maybe she is successful and talented and everyone who meets her loves her instantly. Whoever she is, she has what you want.
We often have people in our life that we look at and wish we could switch places. We long to look the way they do, have what they have, or experience what they experience. We wonder why our life pales in comparison and why God hasn't blessed us the same way. Secretly, we may hope to find an unraveling thread, a kink in their armor, or some sign that things aren't always perfect for them.
Or at least I do.
How many times have I longed to have the gifts that others have, that ability to make friends quickly, to speak with confidence, or to weave words into beautiful prose. I've also walked into friend's homes and wished I could bring my suitcase and make it my home as well. And those friends who have kids who listen the very first time, I sometimes want to do a trade just so I could experience what it's like.
The problem is, when I compare my life to that of others, I am saying in my heart that the gifts God has given me just aren't enough. My discontentment, jealousy, and down right bitterness points a finger at God telling him that he has gotten the story of my life all wrong. I grumble and complain and say that the manna I'm given every day is tasteless, the water of Life I drink isn't refreshing and I'd rather be back in Egypt, enslaved and under a heavy yoke.
Yikes, when I put it like that, my wishful thoughts for a different life doesn't look so pretty anymore!
But sin is like that. It's deceptive and like a pot of cool water slowly heated to boiling, we don't notice it until we're nearly cooked. It hides in the corners and recesses of our heart like dirt and grime behind the kitchen appliances. We don't go looking for it so we don't think it's there. Yet it is.
When I last pulled the stove away from the wall and saw the grossness underneath, I was overwhelmed, appalled, and disgusted. Frankly, I wanted to just push it back against the wall and forget about it. When it comes to the discontentment in my heart, when I finally see it for what it is, I am overwhelmed and appalled. Sometimes I want to stuff it all away, shut the door, and hope to never see it again. I wonder if I'll ever stop comparing my life to someone else. I doubt that I'll ever be contented and gracious for all God has done. And I'm certain that I'm a hopeless case.
The Apostle Paul was also grieved over his sin when he wrote in Romans, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do... For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." (7:15, 18-19). Yes! This is me. And then Paul reminds me of my hope, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (vs.24-25).
Jesus came to rescue me from myself. He came to cleanse my heart of its filth and stains. He came to free me from my selfish desires, sinful wants, and all the evil that tangles itself around my heart.
It's all Jesus. He is the source of my contentment and he has the cure for my discontentment. When I compare myself to others, it means I am seeking contentment outside of Jesus. I need to return to the wellspring of all my joy and satisfaction. He is who I was created to love and adore. When my heart is centered on Christ, I have all I need. My heart is so full that there isn't room for discontentment. And when I'm overwhelmed by my sin and discouraged by my wandering heart, I need to remember the gospel and what Jesus accomplished for me at the cross. His sacrifice secured for me a forever forgiveness, casting my sins as far as the east is from the west. The very same grace that saves me from my sin is the same grace that empowers me to fight against sin and live for Christ.
Discontentment and comparing ourselves to others is a sin we all battle. It's easy to overlook and ignore. Yet it reveals a heart that needs rescue and cleansing by the gospel. It also reveals a heart that needs to find joy and satisfaction in the only One who can fill the longings of our heart: Jesus Christ our Lord. "Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin" (Acts 13:39).
Do you ever struggle with comparing yourself to others? What is the source of your discontent?