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3 Ways To Live A Joy-Filled Life

Written By Anna Chee, Singapore

For three years, I joined netball as an extra-curricular activity in school. Looking back, that season in life was overshadowed by a deep sense of joylessness. I had joined netball with a childish hope that I would somehow “glow up” to become like one of those typical netball players—pretty with a tall and willowy frame, but also strong, agile, and fast.

However, each training session only served to aggravate my insecurities. I became resentful about my non-netball-player-like frame and my sub-par performance on court when I compared myself to my fellow teammates. This worsened when I sought validation from my coach, as she often ignored the weaker players altogether.

Every training session left me on a downspiral: I was fatigued, disappointed, and joyless. Frustrated, I eventually decided to turn to God, asking Him how I could find joy and strength to be a light for Him in this situation. Here are three keys I learned that helped me in my journey towards a joy-filled life:

 

1. Don’t compare yourself with others

Comparison is the thief of our joy. It is normal to compare ourselves with others, but it becomes unhealthy when we go about it obsessively, and put ourselves down for not measuring up to them.

For some of us, we might be guilty of comparing in the areas of our financial status, popularity, academic results, or talents. In my case, comparing my figure and athletic skills with others caused me to lose the joy I used to have in playing netball.

These days, it has become even easier to feel discontented with our own lives when images of influencers’ perfect lives pop up all over our social media platforms, but I have since learned to be content with my lot, because everything I have is from God, and He knows what’s best for me.

If you’re struggling in this area, don’t be afraid to weed out the profiles on social media that drive your discontentment—and click that unfollow button! It also helps to remind ourselves that each person is uniquely formed by God. We do not need to be as skilled, talented, or popular than someone else to be loved or valued—we are already loved and valued by God. Let Christ—and not the standards of the world—define our value.

It can be difficult to fight the battle of comparison alone, and I’ve found it helpful to surround myself with friends I can share my struggles with, and who will commit to pray with me about my struggles and keep me accountable in this area.

 

2. Firmly place your trust in God

One sure way to kill our joy is to complain about the difficulties we are facing or allow ourselves to worry too much about the future. When I was too focused on my shortcomings, it was more difficult to motivate myself to go for training sessions.

But I was convicted about my attitude when I read a passage from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional: “Take up the arms of faith against a sea of trouble, and [this] shall end your distresses. There is One who cares for you. His eye is fixed on you, … and his hand omnipotent shall bring you the needed help.”

This passage prompted me to ask myself: If God has promised me that He will help me through my troubles, am I mocking Him when I wear a brow of worry or moan to my friends all the time?

Spurgeon’s words also reminded that I can cast all my anxiety on Him because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7), and I can rest secure in God’s arms because He will give me all the help I need to face the challenges before me. That is the knowledge that leads to true joy.

Having a firm trust in God’s will also meant coming to terms with the fact that He has placed me in the netball team for a purpose. Eventually, God helped me see that my other teammates were also feeling demoralized, and I could be a light in this situation by being a source of encouragement and spreading God’s joy during the training sessions.

Here’s a journal entry I wrote from one training session: “[The reminder to bloom where I am planted] really encouraged me to do my best and spread the fragrance of Christ’s love to the team—and it worked! It turned out to be a really joyful training [session] with everyone.”

Remembering how I endured through tough times and persevered filled me with joy. Through this experience, God taught me what it looks like to “bloom where you are planted”— it means not looking for an escape from every tough situation, but living for Christ wherever we are.

 

3. Cultivate a thankful heart

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says that it is God’s will for us to “give thanks in all circumstances”. It’s easy to type this, but incredibly difficult to live it out. This is why we need to continuously depend on Christ to help us keep our eyes on God and cultivate a thankful heart.

Despite the strenuous netball training sessions, I found that giving thanks for small things, like having friends on the same team or the cool weather helped me see God’s hand working for my good, and granted me joy!

It’s far easier to gravitate towards negativity, but when we count our blessings (literally), we can see how much God has blessed us with, and our hearts will naturally well up in thankfulness.

 

Although my time with the netball team was a tough one, I’ve learned that our experiences can make or break us, but if we give them to God, He will weave them into something beautiful.

Despite not “glowing up” physically as I had hoped to at first, God graciously let me “glow up” mentally and spiritually. As a result of persevering through those few years, I’ve found a stronger will to press on when going through difficulties and have grown deeper in my faith.

I also find it easier to empathize with the struggles that my friends are facing, and can now point them towards Christ—the true joy-giver. If you’re also struggling to find joy in your life, I pray that you will find these three principles helpful, and find the same joy that sustained me.

I Thought I Needed To Be Beautiful

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

 

My colleagues and I were having lunch at the pantry when we saw a colleague heading for the office door with her purse.

“Where is she going?” someone in the group asked.

Another colleague answered, “Oh, she has taken half the day off to watch a Korean pop concert. She has a premium ticket.”

“Wow,” I said, “she really is a K-pop fan.”

That exchange brought me back to years ago, when I was a teenager. At the time, I really enjoyed Korean dramas and pop music. I even idolized some of the celebrities. They seemed to have everything I wanted—looks and popularity.

I decorated my school binder with their photos. I spent pocket money on magazines and newspapers featuring them. I diligently immersed myself in details of their lives. If there had ever been an exam on details of my idols, I would have passed with flying colors.

But in addition to admiring the celebrities, I also compared myself to them. All the celebrities I liked were pretty and slim. But when I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw only an average girl. I found fault with my facial features. I was only 1.5 meters tall. I was not slim.

Soon, I started feeling dissatisfied with myself and resented my body. I thought that the celebrities were popular and well-liked because they look good.

When I read about celebrities dieting to achieve their figures, I thought—wow, I should restrict my calorie intake too! Many celebrities also endorsed slimming products and programs even though they were not fat. Moreover, whenever celebrities lost weight, fans and the media voiced concerns for their health. It seemed like the celebrities were getting even more attention and popularity when they dieted—and I thought it would be the same for me if I followed in their footsteps.

I came to believe that skinny was beautiful. While I could not change my looks or my height, I could change my weight. So even though I was already underweight, I went on a diet. But no matter how hard I tried, I could never achieve the celebrities’ figures.

Furthermore, reducing my calorie intake often left me feeling moody and lethargic. When I started working, I began paying less attention to celebrities since I was busier. But I continued to restrict my diet and watch my weight.

However, things changed when I came to know the Lord personally four years ago. As a result of some family trials, I began reading God’s Word fervently, and I found great comfort in it during those times. Because I was so immersed in God’s Word, my interest in celebrities became a thing of the past. During this troubling time, my emotional needs were fully satisfied in God and I finally found my identity in God.

Isaiah 43:7, for example, reminded me that we are created for God’s glory. The purpose of my existence was for God’s glory! I may not be as beautiful as the celebrities, or the smartest, or the best at anything I do, but that didn’t matter, because my purpose is found in Christ!

I also learned from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I am not my own, and my body belongs to God. I am to steward it well because it is a dwelling place for the Lord. This means eating a balanced diet to keep my body healthy.

Gradually, I learned to accept my looks, because I know that God created me and is well-pleased with me. He does not compare me with any celebrity. In fact, He loves me so much that nothing can separate me from His love (Romans 8:35)!

When I recently read about the increasing number of suicides among K-pop stars, I could imagine the darkness they faced—the endless comparisons, the industry pressures, the social media critics. Nobody wants to commit suicide.

But I also remembered the lyrics to a children’s Sunday school song, “With Christ in the vessel we can smile at the storm, smile at the storm.” They reminded me that in our darkest hour, we can cry out to the Lord who does not forsake us or leave us to deal with our own problems, and He will turn our darkness into light (Isaiah 42:16). If only those K-Pop stars could have known how much God loved and cherished them!

Comparison is a terrible thing. It made me miserable during my teenage years and prevented me from fulfilling God’s purpose in my life. But now I’m able to see that the celebrities that I so admired will inevitably grow old. Their physical beauty and admirable figures fade away. But God’s purpose for us has eternal value. The attention and love that I sought for does not come from looking beautiful, but is actually found in Christ alone.

Instead of chasing after celebrities and physical beauty, I now try to spend my time wisely by reading God’s Word wholeheartedly so that I can continually learn more about Him. My pursuit has changed from popular songs to songs of everlasting praise. God was my great comfort and joy in my darkest days, and the joy of the Lord shall continue to be my strength and my shield forever (Psalm 28:7). My heart has found rest in Him.

What to Do When You’re Stuck in Comparison

Written By Breonna Rostic, USA

I don’t know when it started. I don’t recall the first girl I looked at and thought to myself, she’s so much prettier than me. Surely it started before I began to mumble excuses under my breath regarding my lack of abilities.

I don’t know if it began in ballet practice as a little girl, when the other dancers executed their moves more skillfully. Or if it was when I was a cheerleader, and my toe-touches were the highest and movements were the tightest, but somehow I was sitting out of competition rounds because of my weight. And maybe it flourished when the boy I had a crush on in middle school told me I wasn’t cute enough to be his girlfriend.

Somehow, comparison made an uninvited appearance in my life and decided to stay around for a while. And before I knew it, I was making my decisions based on what others around me were doing.

Comparison has become normalized in our society. Our culture highlights manufactured beauty while downplaying the splendor of reality. It’s more common to see a photoshopped image than it is to see an unaltered photo. And to make matters worse, we demand each other to live up to cultural standards—such as fitting into skinny jeans, or dying our hair to keep up with trends.

Comparison plagues us every day. So much so that during the most important milestones in my life, I remember not being satisfied with myself: my dress size at my wedding, my makeup for graduation, my “no-so-Instagram-perfect” birth photos of my son.

But somehow, we learn to cope while living in a social-media-obsessed culture, pressured to meet unrealistic goals. We even have apps to alter our photos so we can look our best online. Slowly, we are convinced that comparison is an innocent part of our lives. We start to believe our very human nature is to look at the lives of others and wish we had what they have, including their lives.

I started to believe that it was natural to compare, that it was the best way to know if I was on the “right path” in life. The Word of God says we shouldn’t covet anything from our neighbors (Exodus 20:17), but in the information age, is it possible not to covet? Does it really affect us? If you’d asked me five years ago, I would have said I don’t believe so.

Recently, however, I was taking some time to ask God what He wanted me to do with my life. I didn’t hear anything. I waited for a revelation, a clear indication that I was heading in the right direction—silence. I was searching for purpose, seeking to fill an empty feeling. And when I couldn’t find anything where I thought I would clearly succeed, I slowly started comparing myself to others.

I would look at people I thought I was similar to—in our stages of life, or talents and abilities—and start to measure my life against theirs. I justified my position in life based on proximity to others around me! If someone was “ahead” of me for a “good reason,” then I approved. For instance, when my friends graduated college before me, I thought to myself: that’s okay because I just had a baby. If I didn’t find a good reason, I would question myself, “What’s wrong with me?”

This pattern continued until finally I had an overwhelming feeling of being stuck. Everybody’s life seemed to be progressing, while mine was not. This took me into a deep depression. I began to doubt myself and question if there was ever a purpose for me. Was I alive just to be alive? I allowed enviously looking at others to affect the way I perceived myself. I was stuck in a constant state of comparison.

It took me a while to get “unstuck.” It wasn’t an easy task, but it was simple. The thing was, I was so focused on everyone else that I stopped focusing on what mattered—my relationship with God.

See, I spent so much time on the purpose and the assignment, that I neglected my most important role, a daughter of God. I needed to get back to an intimate place with Him. So what did I do? I began to pray. I repented of my attitude that unintentionally reflected ungratefulness about my position in life.

And when I shifted my focus back to God, my perspective changed. It wasn’t that comparison didn’t flare up, but I knew how to deal with it. If a thought came up, I would pray to God and recite Bible verses. I would also stop thinking about how I compared to people around me, and start thinking about how I could love people around me.

I was once in a meeting with a woman that I admired very much. The topic of leadership abilities for a project came up, and immediately, the woman I loved and respected started to compare me with another young woman in the room. Instantly, I felt comparison and envy rising up in my heart. But I remembered what to do when comparison came. Instead of engaging it, I took a moment to gain control of the situation. I explained that I was confident in my abilities, but I also stated the things that I loved about the other young woman. And soon my heart was settled, and I realized I didn’t have to compare or compete. I believe this is how we can all be victorious over comparison.

Here are a few of my favorite verses to reflect on when comparison makes an unwanted appearance in my life. I hope that you can find some of your favorites too, and will find them helpful if you struggle in the area of comparison like I do!

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. . . . (2 Corinthians 10:12-18)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

The Pitfall of Comparison

Written by Agnes Lee, Singapore

I can’t stop comparing myself to others. “Is he smarter than me? Is she prettier than me? Does she have more friends than I do?” While it can sound like an innocent habit, I ended up being sucked into it, unable to be thankful for whatever I had.

It started when I was a child. In my country, there is strong emphasis on education, and  naturally, my parents wanted me to do well in my studies. Being in a competitive environment where everyone would try their best to outdo each other, I studied hard. At the back of my mind, I was always thinking, “Did I do better than my cousins or my friends?”

As a teenager transiting into adulthood, my focus shifted. I compared my physical appearance to others’.  At my first job, I compared my salary with my friends’. I looked at the material possessions they had—their new clothes and new cars—and wondered if I could afford the same things.

Once I started, I could not stop. I found myself comparing every single detail about myself with others.  I became a perfectionist and developed a severe fear of missing out (FOMO). I wanted to be just as beautiful and rich as my friends were.

Blinded by the god of the world, I mistakenly thought these things would make me feel better. I worked hard to obtain what I wanted but my heart only felt emptier after. I craved for more and it became an endless pursuit that left me more tired than satisfied. I didn’t occur to me that I needed something magnificent and eternal—God—to fill the void in my heart.

In the end, my toxic habit of comparison made me lose a good friend of mine. At my first job, I got to know another lady who was a fresh graduate just like myself.  We joined the same department and were tasked to do the same role at work. We learned the ropes together and everything seemed to be going well.  However, I couldn’t stop comparing myself to her.

While I seemed like her good friend on the outside, I secretly disliked her. She was tall, slim, and beautiful, while I was short and average looking.  She was friendly and sociable, while I was reserved and quiet.  Our colleagues seemed to like her more than me.  The more popular she got, the more bitter I became. “Why is she better at everything that I am? That’s not fair,” I would think to myself.

Jealous of how she seemed to have everything going well in her life, I started ignoring her and giving her strange glances.  I could not accept that I was inferior to her.

She was naturally puzzled and angry by my actions and our friendship soon soured.  Fed up with my behavior, she started ignoring me and voiced her displeasure of me to others. We were no longer on talking terms, and soon, I felt like a loner in the company. I left the organization and lost contact with everyone there.

 

A New Perspective

 Many years later, after I came to know the Lord, I was reflecting on my quiet time passage from 1 Corinthians 12:15-18.  It struck me that all of us are different from each other for a reason—it allows us play a different role in the Body of Christ. That way, no one is more important than another.

It dawned upon me that my habit of comparison was not biblical since each member of the body is meant to be unique, so that the Body of Christ can function as one. Whatever traits I had were meant to enable me to contribute in a special capacity to the Kingdom of God.

I had allowed my insecurities, low self-esteem, and lack of self-love to consume me. The real problem was not that others were better than I am. It was with my own negative perception about myself.

Psalm 139:13-14 gave me great reassurance. It says I am fearfully and wonderfully made by my Creator. God Himself formed my inward parts and knitted me together in my mother’s womb. My seemingly “negative traits” were not mistakes that He made—How I am is exactly the way God intended.

God has given us different gifts and talents (Romans 12:6a) along with different looks. His thoughts and wisdom are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9) and He has planned a unique life for each of one of us that only we can live.

A life of endless comparison is not in His plan for us. Rather than wasting our lives away in such a manner and wallowing in self-pity, we can choose to surrender our lives to God, trusting in His plan.  When we anchor our identity in Him, we can be secure and will not be easily shaken by the world.

As I became convicted by this truth, I found myself increasing my love for God. His views became mine and I wanted to do His will and love those around me. I thank God that He has increasingly freed me from my natural tendency to compare myself to others.  His Word is like a lamp to my feet (Psalm 119:105) leading me out of the darkness of comparison. Whenever I think of comparing myself with others, I will remind myself of His truth from the living Word, of His sovereign will and unique plans for me during my limited time on earth.

Overtime, my relationships with others have improved. Although it is sad that my ex-colleague and I are no longer friends, I hope to meet her again someday to apologize to her, with hopes of eventual reconciliation.

Instead of a worldly FOMO, I have developed a holy FOMO—a fear of missing out God in my life. I now place pleasing God as my first priority. Tasting the kind of joy and freedom that only He can give, I never want to give Him up again for the life of darkness and comparison.