3 Ways the Comparison Game Cripples
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,… (Eph. 1:16-18 ESV)
In Christ, we all have a ministry. Some work for a “public” or vocational ministry, others less formally minister “privately” to coworkers, colleagues, friends, etc. There are three things we typically tend to compare ourselves to in ministry –
- Insiders – Ministries, other peoples’ ministry efforts, organizations, or businesses
- Outsiders – People in “secular” careers, the unsaved, or those not following God’s call (“but I’m doing God’s work!”)
- Ideal vs. real – Our internal vision of how things should be vs how they actually are.
Generally it’s when things aren’t going well. It commonly manifests as either shame, self-doubt, or anxiety. Shame says “Woe is me, I should be further along, like so-and-so.” Doubt says: “If I were all I should be for God, I’d be making a bigger difference doing x, like them.” Anxiety (fear) says “what if program x flops?”. In all of these cases, we’re putting the course before the heart. Why? Because, it’s not about you.
Can I rub some salt in? Really, it’s not… about… you. Contrasting where we are to where we think we should be, where others are, or where we’d like to be factors out where God has placed us and what He desires of and for us. God didn’t make you them… He made you you. Does that clear anything up?
Repeat that to yourself while I do the same, so we both remember it, mmkay? Guilty.
Matters of the Heart
At the heart of this struggle is this: by grace, God has me right where He wants me. If I’m disappointed with where I am, I have a vertical issue: an idolatry issue with God. What I’m in effect saying is this –
Core issue: we’ve taken a man-centric view rather than a God-centric view of things. But, take heart – “no temptation has seized you, but that which is common to man.” Easy enough mistake to make. As a card carrying member of the “been there, done that” club, I ain’t mad at ya…
My dissatisfaction with where He has me, even if I’ve been disobedient along the way, is ultimately dissatisfaction with His sovereignty. He can do whatever He wants and He’s not out to make you or I rich, famous, or even successful in and of ourselves. If He has me stalled out (which I’ve felt like many times in “full time ministry”), He’s aware of it. There is not a circumstance that has come about in history that hasn’t passed through his fingers. Nothing surprises God.
Satan‘s very first ploy was to get Eve to believe she was missing out on something. Trouble is… If you’re longing to be doing something else, there’s a good chance the only thing you’re missing out on is what you’re supposed to be doing right now. Read on, and we’ll uncover what it is we’re really missing…
Did God Allow It or Cause It?
I’ve been wrapped around that axle before, too. So, let me ask you… What difference does it make? Are you going to prosecute a case against the God who told the oceans how far they could go and no further? In my darker, heavier moments, I’ve tried it. Losing battle. Turn back.
Scripture contains enough references to God causing disaster and affliction (e.g. Daniel 9:14, Psalm 119.75) and God allowing the same (just search “God permitted”) that the doctrine of sovereignty ought to put to rest our anxieties over what isn’t, what could have been, and what calamities or shortcomings are yet to come down the pipe at us.
This isn’t to say that our desires and dreams don’t matter to God. Louie Gigilio recently tweeted: “What you do matters to God and man, but you matter because of what God has done. First things first.”
What’s Really Missing?
Paul gets it. His unceasing prayers (above) for the church at Ephesus are that they would know God, not see their ends to their desires met. Rather, that through a deeper heart knowledge of and intimacy with the Father their desires would become His desires. How about you?
If a dissatisfaction is a holy dissatisfaction, it is the kind that points us toward knowing God, not questioning Him or our circumstance. I would argue that sanctification is about God purifying us from matters of the heart that obscure us from truly knowing Him. Agreed?
I pray today, that you would come do a deeper intimacy with God so that your anxieties, fears, disappointments, and shame over what is not would be eclipsed and replaced with joy over who He is and what He has done. Don’t be robbed of present joy by what went wrong in the past, is missing in the present, or looms in the future.