Written by Sherrill Wesley, India
Have you fallen prey to the comparison trap? I have. Many times.
Growing up, I was constantly compared to my non-identical twin sister, in terms of our looks, character, or talents, and even the different paths we were pursuing. Any question directed at me would usually be followed by a “And what is your sister doing?”
I guess you can’t help but compare twins, right? Fortunately, these remarks were from well-meaning friends and relatives, and did not affect me negatively. By God’s grace, and as a result of the close relationship I share with my sister, they taught me to recognise her positive traits and talents, and cheer her on.
But a few years ago, I was introduced to another kind of comparison, one that wasn’t the least beneficial. I had graduated but my career had yet to take off. I was far from achieving the accomplishments I’d set for myself. As I grew increasingly frustrated at the uncertainty of my future, I started to compare my situation to peers who seemingly had it all together. When was God going to answer my prayers for a job and alleviate my disappointment in myself?
As I asked the Lord for help, I was led to meditate on John 21:15–25. After Jesus had foretold the kind of death that awaited Peter (v. 19) and asked him to follow Him, Peter noticed that another disciple, John, was walking behind them. He then asked Jesus, “Lord, what about Him?” (v. 21). Jesus’ answer truly surprised me, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (v. 22).
What is that to you?
I felt Jesus asking me this very question in regard to the negative comparison I was indulging in. And I didn’t have an answer. It seemed rather unexpected to receive tough love from our loving Father. But Jesus knew that it was time I tamed my thoughts and stopped wallowing in self-pity.
It might have sounded harsh, but Jesus wanted Peter to see that what was going to happen to John was irrelevant to Peter’s own calling. In my mind, I felt that God was asking me, “Sherrill, you must focus on fulfilling your purpose by fixing your eyes on Me. What does it matter to you how others are fulfilling their life’s calling?”
God Has No Favourites
As I thought about these words, I slowly realised that I was discontented because I had erroneously believed that God had favoured my peers over me. It was as though God only had a limited amount of love and blessings to give. And since He was helping them live out their calling, He had less time to help me live out mine. It’s almost funny how my mind misconstrued my circumstances and led me to believe such baseless notions that are clearly not from God.
But the truth is, His capacity to bless His children is infinite. In fact, Romans 2:11 states that God does not show favoritism. He has enough love and care to shower on all His children. No matter how much I try, I will never be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep His love for me is (Ephesians 3:18).
However by fixating on what my peers had and magnifying what I didn’t have, I failed to see how God had poured out His love in my life. And by equating my calling with my perfect job, I was limiting God’s purpose to my own will. I became blind to the way Jesus was shaping His special purpose in my life.
So, I learned to do the next thing and take each day as it comes. Some days, that might be focusing and preparing for Sunday school lessons in my church. On other days, it would be assisting my parents in their work or simply sitting at the feet of Jesus and drawing strength from His word to deal with yet another job rejection.
As long as I was doing the next thing before me, prayerfully and truthfully, it didn’t matter that my next thing differed from that of my peers. Yes, it hurts that my plans did not transpire. But nevertheless God still holds me in His palms. And so, I will choose to trust Him.
Let Go of Your “If Only”s
On days when things get especially tough, I find myself retracing and recalculating the decisions that I have taken in the past. If only I did that . . . if only I didn’t do that.
The doubts and the questions only seem to increase when I give them room to fester. When my eyes stray and focus on my ‘don’t have’s and ‘if only’s, I can quickly spiral into bitterness and frustration. But these lines from the beautiful hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” remind me to “gaze at God and glance at this world”, as someone rightly said.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
The more I look to Jesus for wisdom and guidance, the more I’m beginning to see what really matters. Our confidence comes not from our credentials—there will always be others who surpass us—but in knowing Who is in control and to Whom we belong.
God never changes, His goodness to us never changes; this gives us a joy and peace independent of our circumstances, and sets us free from the pressure of comparing ourselves with others.
No matter where we are in life, there will always be new circumstances that will attempt to thwart our focus—but I’m learning to fix my eyes on God, the author and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2), and what He has for me. That helps me stay on my assigned track, remember the depth of His love for me, and steer clear from envy, bitterness, anger, and self-pity.