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The Day I Stopped Comparing

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

Who remembers dial-up Internet, a limit on the amount of texts you could send per month, and the handy-dandy flip phone? What about the Gameboy, LeapPad, and board games?

Now it’s the Xbox, Wi-Fi, and live streams for everything. Our generation has seen so many technological advancements, and we’re still young. It’s pretty scary to think about how much technology will continue to change everything, and not always for the better.

And then there’s social media: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter. My niece has a bunch of other apps too that I’ve never even heard of.

It takes literally seconds to post a status or photo. But it can impact someone else for much longer. How often do we think before we post something? Is it something that will encourage others, or tear someone down? Is it posted out of spite and bitterness, or love and hope, to bring others joy?

Every day, I see engagements, weddings, pregnancy announcements, babies, happy couples, new jobs, vacations and more. I love being able to stay connected with people I’ve met throughout my journey, especially since many of them live all over the US. It makes it easy to keep up to date with their lives.

This is the good side of it. Now, let’s talk about the bad.

 

Down the online rabbit hole

We’ve become harsh with our comments, envious of the lives of others, stuck in a rut of comparing our behind-the-scenes lives to someone else’s highlight reel.

We see people our age getting married and wonder if we’ll ever meet our significant other. We see others going on vacations and take for granted the time that we have with our family and friends on a little weekend road trip, because it isn’t an island resort, so how could we have a fun time?

We become so focused on what others are doing that we forget to be present and appreciative and thankful for the blessings right in front of us. We forget that we’re blessed beyond measure, even if it isn’t in the same ways that our family and friends are.

If you’re reading this right now, you’re alive. We aren’t ever promised tomorrow, so isn’t the gift of another day something we should not take for granted?

If I’m honest, I used to struggle with comparing myself to others. I’ve never really known what I’ve wanted to do with my life. Until I started blogging and writing, I really had no idea, and now that’s all I really want to do, even if people think it’s silly. I was envious of those who’ve known since childhood what they were going to do when they “grew up”.

 

Looking for a purpose

It was two weeks before my college graduation and I still hadn’t found a job, unlike many of my friends. There I was, a little nervous but expectant, because God had been stirring in my heart that He had something planned for me. It was something I would never have expected, and something that’s challenged me but allowed me to grow my faith and trust in Him daily.

You see, I’ve worked six different gigs since graduation. These opportunities have taken me all over the place, on planes and subways and BMWs and Ubers and more. It took me way out of my comfort zone, but led me somewhere new.

The first took me away from home for four months out to the east coast, with a team I’d never met until I arrived for training. We put on events in over 50 different locations, all of which brought fresh faces and new places. After that, I worked other contract positions for the same company, all of which began with me not knowing anyone beforehand. I could choose between two things when I began: be afraid and timid at the idea of being uncomfortable in not knowing anyone or anything about the location I was in, or embracing where God had led me and make the most of it. While everyone else is coming up to their two-year job anniversary, here I am. And I couldn’t be more glad.

If He led me somewhere, then He needed me to be there. If He put a group of people in my life, I needed them, or I would somehow be a part of their story that they needed. I learned everything I could, experiencing every moment as it came, and loving in any way possible.

I didn’t want to waste my time wondering why God wasn’t showing up in certain areas of my life while He was busy showing up big in other areas. Instead, I had to choose to show up where He wanted me, and to be joyful, patient, and expectant in the other areas.

For the first time, I stopped comparing myself, my journey, where I was at and where I was going and every other aspect of who I was with others. Instead, I put my focus on God’s plan for me and being completely present wherever I was.

 

My plan vs God’s plan

But it didn’t mean I stopped having desires and expectations. While in Michigan for a few months last year, I started dating a guy from there whom I was pretty convinced I was going to marry.

God must have laughed at that. He knew that I’d have my heart broken more than once (yes, by the same person) and that it would challenge me to the core. He knew that I’d be stuck comparing myself to someone else for way longer than I care to admit. But He also knew that through that trial, I’d learn to lean on Him more than I ever have.

While I was praying for our relationship to grow, God knew I instead needed my relationship with Him to grow. He knew what was going on behind-the-scenes, while I was clueless. He knew the man I had picked out for myself to marry had instead picked someone else to pursue, sometimes simultaneously, other times after our “break-ups”.

When the truth wound its way out one night, I didn’t know how to feel or what to do. It hurt, a lot. There stirred in me my self-doubt, wondering why I wasn’t good enough to be someone’s first choice, what I did wrong, how I could have been a better girlfriend—the list goes on.

It’s funny how we think we know what we want, when it’s sometimes totally different from what we need. I had wanted a Godly relationship more than anything, but what God showed me is that a relationship with Him was what I needed then and what I need right now—to take my focus off another person, and instead focus on getting my heart and soul back to where it needs to be, back in the center of His embrace. Back to knowing that I am God’s first choice— always and every day.

The day I stopped comparing my life to those around me, I felt the chains break. I felt joyful, hopeful, excited, and free.

 

Your place in God’s plan

Where God has you right now, whether you’re in the valley or on the mountaintop, He is there with you. He wants you to be free of all of the lies and labels society tries to put on you. He doesn’t want you to be addicted to the virtual world when there’s so many in the world right in front of you that need your light and love.

If you’re in a season of waiting, wait expectantly. He has a plan for you, and it’s so good. 

If you’re feeling undeserving and not good enough, stop.

Know with your whole heart that you’re loved, you’re more than good enough and He’s going to use you in ways that you can’t even imagine.

Don’t let social media sucker you into believing that your life is less valuable than another. Don’t let the words and actions of others cause you to question who you are or whose you are. Don’t spend your time wishing your life was like someone else’s.

Marvel at God’s goodness to grant you another day because you’re here for a reason, and that reason isn’t to dwell on what you do not have.

The day you stop comparing is the day you will be free: free to be the one God created you to be. Embrace it and be the hope, the love, the flame that could ignite a fire in the souls of every life you touch.

My Netflix Had No Chill

Written By Tiffany Rogers, USA

Let me tell you a story: A young woman comes home after a long day. She sets her things down, throws her hair up, and changes into comfy clothes in record time. Breathing a deep sigh of reliefshe grabs her laptop and flips it open. The screen illuminates, showing the last webpage she visited: Netflix. 

The familiar words appear on the screen: Playback Timed Out. Her muscle memory kicks in and she hits “refresh” as the episode she fell asleep on continues, right where she left off. 

This is how she spends her evening. Maybe she eats, maybe she showers, and maybe she talks to some people. But at any given moment, and especially in bed getting ready to fall asleep, she is watching Netflix. 

The end. 

Now, let me tell you a secret: For months, that girl was me.

Don’t get me wrong; I had a social life, I had friends, and I even had a boyfriend. But when people asked what my “hobbies” were, I had to lie by deflection. I said things like, “Oh, I enjoy reading. I write sometimes. I love the outdoors!” Because I certainly couldn’t tell them, “I literally spend all of my free time watching The Office on Netflix.” 

Here’s the thing: Netflix was my escape from life, from stress, from feelings, and from people. I used the shows I watched on Netflix to keep fear and depression at bay. If I was watching Netflix, nothing could hurt me. 

I know that sounds extreme because it was extreme. Netflix was my therapy, my shield, and my safety. I couldn’t even go in the kitchen to make food without bringing Netflix with me to play in the background while I cooked.

That was my reality. But it wasn’t that I was a lazy bum without anything better to do. It was that at the root of my incessant Netflix binge, something was terribly wrong. Something was awry in my heart, and it caused fear and depression to hover over me like an individualized dark rain cloud, and Netflix was my perpetual umbrella. 

Then, something happened. The relationship I was in was crumbling. I had known for a long time it wasn’t right, and I suddenly found myself at a place where everything I held dearest was slipping through my fingers: my future, my plans, my pride and my love.

That breakup was how the Lord got ahold of me. For a long time I knew I needed to turn back to Him and finally listen to His voice. He had been whispering into my soul, like a parent whispers too closely in a child’s ear when chastising at a dinner table, and the whisper makes them flinch and squirm because it tickles, but not in a funny way. I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves, He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12) 

In my life, I had stopped seeking God. I chased feelings and intuitions instead of prayerfully asking the Lord for guidance and peace. I listened to my own overly emotional and foolish heart over listening to the wisdom and discernment of the Holy Spirit. In no uncertain terms, I was running. I had found what I thought I wanted, and I didn’t want to hear what God had to say, for fear it would contradict my desires. 

And on the surface of it all, I Netflixed the days away. While my heart was wasting in torture and turmoil, I naively believed the longer I watched Netflix, the longer I could put off the change I knew needed to happen. 

As a result, I gladly gave Him the attention I once rendered to Netflix and all my social media platforms. I found a year-long Bible reading plan and started reading the Bible as well as embarking on some devotionals. I also dove into Christian books by authors like Gary Thomas, John Bevere and Timothy Keller, among others. I used that time instead to seek Him diligently. My desire became to know Him intimately and to grow my love for Him unlike ever before. Now, I can humbly say that God is my greatest love, and my desire is for Him. 

Maybe for you it’s not Netflix. Maybe it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Maybe your job is your shield, or your spouse is your escape. Maybe a hobby, an addiction or a toxic relationship is causing your growing separation from the Lord. In any case, I want to challenge you to look inside your heart. Ask yourself honestly if you’re running to anything before running to God for guidance, safety, and peace. Is anything besides Jesus taking the first place in your heart? 

If so, be encouraged. Just as you are sick of running and hiding behind something or someone, Jesus is just as eager and ready to receive you with open arms. Matthew 7:7 tells us: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” It is a breath of fresh air knowing that as we seek Him, we find Him. He doesn’t hide Himself from us, rather, He pulls us out of our deep ruts (which we often create ourselves), and places us right next to Him with nothing but love in His heart and tenderness in His eyes. 

Are you ready to make a change? Here’s a prayer you can follow:

Lord, forgive me for placing other things or people on the throne of my heart. I surrender to You, and my desire is for You to be my greatest love. Give me courage to remove whatever is taking up my affection, that I may replace it with my earnest love for You. Teach me to love You more than ever before. I want to know You, God. Reveal yourself to me through your Holy Spirit, that I might grow in closeness with You, my Heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog  here. This version has been edited by YMI.

Life online and offline

Title: Life online and offline
Materials: Graphic Illustration
Description: 
Are we reflecting our true selves to others or is the light off our phone screens glowing brighter? Perhaps these 4 points will shed light on what it means to reflect Christlikeness in our social media saturated world.

 

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Do you show virtual empathy or real empathy?

Hitting the reaction buttons on Facebook to express our empathy towards someone or something is easy. But is it real concern? How can we communicate our feelings in a genuine and real way? Instead of reacting virtually to the news of the day, explore opportunities to get involved and serve those affected by the event.

 


 

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Do you capture life or live your life?

Sharing the events of our day on social media can be a fun way of looking back and remembering a moment. But what do we miss when we pause to take a photo instead of just taking in our surroundings? Do we pause to see God’s blessing or just type #blessed for more views? Whether it’s a beautiful landscape, a delicious cup of coffee, or a day at the beach with friends, don’t forget to stop and take in all that God has to share with us in that moment.

 


 

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Do you rant or exercise thoughtfulness?

What’s on your mind? Whether you’re excited, disappointed, or indifferent, social media encourages you to share unfiltered opinions with friends, family, and strangers. Before clicking that post button, do you ask yourself if you would say the same thing out loud? Let’s not be so quick to complain and comment, but instead be slow to anger and exercise thoughtfulness beyond our screens.

 


 

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Do you spend your time online or offline?  

The refresh button is our best friend and worst enemy. Social media has its benefits, like keeping us up-to-date and connected but it also encourages jealousy and ingratitude. How often do you leave your phone in another room and take a break from life online? Giving yourself a limit on how much of your day is lived with curated feeds and grids can be refreshing. Use this time to step outside and spend time with your creator.

 

Why I Went on a Social Media Fast

Written by Phyllis J.en, Singapore

About two years ago, I decided to delete or deactivate most of my social media accounts for a while. Things remained that way for the next six to nine months.

It took much thinking and hesitation before I was able to bring myself to do it. “Can I live without it?” “How do I contact people?” “How will people take it?” After all, social media had become a big part of my life.

But there were two main reasons that propelled me to do so. First, I wanted to go offline to reconnect with people face to face. Social media had affected the way I treated and viewed people. I wasn’t being loving or intentional in my relationships with people. During meal times, I would rather text or scroll through my social media newsfeeds than talk to people and get to know them personally. I found their timelines and posts more interesting than their actual persons.

Secondly, and more importantly, I realized that social media had become an idol in my life. Whenever I did my daily devotion, I would keep glancing at my phone, unable to concentrate on what I was reading or writing. And whenever my phone alerted me with notifications, I would put the Bible aside to check them. It was scary—I couldn’t seem to be able to restrain myself: I had to check my phone immediately. I felt like I had to reply immediately even when it wasn’t about something urgent.

In fact, it was an incident of this nature that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. One day, I got really angry when a friend I messaged did not reply me quickly enough. When I cooled down and reflected on my reaction, I realized that it was irrational and showed how emotionally dependent I had become on social media.

But I didn’t delete or deactivate my apps all at once. What I did was to delete apps that didn’t really matter to me first. Snapchat was the first to go. Next was Instagram, followed by Facebook. The last to be deleted was WhatsApp, which I was the most reliant on, as I used it the most often to contact my friends and disseminate information—I was a subject representative in school and had convey information from my teacher to the rest of the class.

Initially when I “lost” everything but WhatsApp, the loss didn’t feel so apparent. It was only when my WhatsApp was gone that I felt the impact fully. Deleting WhatsApp was the most painful and difficult thing to do, partly due to my dependence on it, and partly due to how people reacted when I told them about my plans.

“Are you crazy?” some said. “That’s so drastic!” “Why must you be so extreme? Don’t you know that’s going to cause a lot of inconvenience to people around you when they want to contact and connect with you?”

But a few affirmed my decision, calling it a “wise” one.

I was hurt by some of the comments. But being the stubborn person I was, I decided to carry on with it. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was how lost and empty I felt. The sudden silence and disconnect was disconcerting. I didn’t know what to do. I found myself checking my phone often—even though I knew that there would be no messages. I even contemplated downloading the app again. I was more addicted to it than I thought.

Although being offline changed my lifestyle a lot, it did not automatically change my mindset. The vacuum created by the loss of social media was filled by other forms of entertainment. K-drama, anyone? I watched so much K-drama that I got tired of it. Then, slowly, I started to spend time reading the Bible and praying. And that’s when I came to the realization that only God can satisfy. None of the other things could fill the emptiness in me.

Deleting my apps also made me realize how much time and energy I had been wasting. With the amount of energy and time spent on social media, I could have been doing more important things such as evangelism, meeting, and praying for others. Going offline made me more intentional about the relationships around me, and improved my spiritual walk. It made me realize that I had not been fixing my eyes on God’s kingdom.

The other thing I learned was about my over-dependence on people. Prior to the “loss”, I would turn to my friends and family for help and advice every time I faced a crisis—and not the Bible. As for prayer, it was usually an afterthought. Don’t get me wrong, turning to friends and family for advice is not a bad thing. They just shouldn’t be the first people we turn to.

So I am really thankful that through this social media fast, God helped me learn how to depend and listen more to Him.

Although I’ve since reactivated my Facebook account and reinstalled WhatsApp, these platforms don’t appeal to me as much as they used to. In fact, I send mostly text messages to my friends; WhatsApp is reserved for those friends who I know have limited number of text messages they can send out every month.

But even though the temptation is not as strong these days, addiction in any form will always be an ongoing struggle. What I find very helpful is to keep praying and asking God for wisdom and depending on Him daily. Also, having an accountability partner helps!