Last week I spoke at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church at their monthly Refresh event. What a great group of ladies! I spoke on the topic of Comparison. The Lord was so clear during my time of preparation as He revealed areas of sin and pride in my life. (My toes, Y'all!) In order to process all the Lord was teaching me, I wrote out my teaching outline. I am sharing my outline with you today. Please know this was never meant to be published so my thoughts are in bullet point format. If this can help even one person, I am so thankful to share it with you! Let's get in the spiritual fight when it comes to comparison and slay the lies we tell ourselves. God has a good plan! Let's fight for it!
Comparison is a trap because it takes our eyes off of Jesus and His individual and unique plan for our lives. At the heart of who we are, we have to know that God loves us and has a plan for our lives. We were created in the image of God to be HIS image bearers. Nothing about our lives is an accident and our lives are never out of God’s control. We ultimately find our meaning, purpose, direction, and value in the context of our relationship with Jesus. This truth is all over scripture. Jesus is the way! Jesus is the truth! Jesus is the life!
Sometimes life is hard. We struggle to understand because we have these hard places.
Places of pain or loss
Places of fear and regret
Places we never dreamed we would be with our kids, jobs, physical health, financial situation, martial relationship, or unfulfilled dreams.
What do we do with these hard places? It is often the hard places that leave us vulnerable to the trap of comparison as we look at ourselves or others and think… “If only!” “Maybe some day” or “Why not, me?” It is crucial to remember that the hard places do not surprise God, overwhelm God, or negate the plan of God for our lives! In the midst of the hard places, God is directing us and always positioning us for freedom and redemption.
Comparison is multi-faceted: This means it looks different in different situations and for different people. Comparison has many roads into our lives. I placed a question on social media and asked, “How does comparison steal your joy and focus?” I was overwhelmed by the number of posts and inbox messages. Here are a few!
“I compare myself to everything. Most of the time I’m comparing myself to other wives and moms that just seem to get it all done. And then I walk into my kitchen and see dishes in the sink, laundry on the bedroom floors, and dirty carpets and floors. The whole time I’m beating myself up because things aren't done, plus the guilt that I didn't get the kids to bed with a bible story and sweet prayer time.”
“My struggle with comparison shows up most fiercely as I compare myself with my own expectations. I’m constantly berating myself for not measuring up to what or who I think I should be… in all areas of my life.”
“I struggle with comparison in the church. I look at what other people do, as compared to what I do, and feel like my part does not matter.”
“Sometimes being happy for the accomplishments of friends with ‘normal’ kids can be a struggle. I often ask why my child can’t be on the honor roll or receiving the scholarship?”
“When I tell people my husbands profession, immediately an image or stereotype flashes in their mind that is not me! I am tired and I isolate myself because I can’t compare to the preconceived expectations others place on my life.”
“I have struggled with body image my entire life. Here’s the thing, when I was younger, thinner, I almost always thought I was too big. I was chasing the perfect image, but no matter how thin or toned I was, I still felt flawed. The thing is I look back at pictures now and wonder, what in the world was I worried about? I’ve spent so much time letting my body image steal my joy.”
“Interacting with groups of women used to give me major social anxiety. Still does to a lesser degree. I have to constantly guard against feelings of inadequacy because I’m just not as good at friendships and relationships as other women. I thank God that He has surrounded me with women who are better at the social stuff, but I can dwell on how “NOT” good I am at it and it really steals my joy.”
All of these feelings can lead to a comparison trap if we put our eyes on ourselves, others, circumstances, or a temporary definition of success or wholeness. The outcome can be feelings of:
Self-sufficiency: I am enough! (When we think we have it together)
Self-Doubt: I will never be enough! (When we know that we don’t have it together, yet still totally focused on ourselves)
Fake: I have to hide who I really am!
Unfulfilled: My life will never really matter!
Isolation: I can’t let anyone see the real me!
Exhaustion: I have tried and tried and now I am done!
While there are many ways comparison enters our lives, there is only ONE way out! Psalm 25:15 shows us the way out of the COMPARISON trap!
“My eyes are ever on the Lord for only He will release my feet from the snare.”
Are Ever On: How often are we focusing on the person or thing that is giving direction to our lives? “Are ever on” in the Hebrew means continually, perpetually, daily, morning, and evening, without interruption. This type of focus denotes commitment, determination, resolve, and a walk with Jesus that is not based on circumstances or feelings.
The Lord: Who is the object of our attention and focus? Notice that everything in this passage points to THE LORD! Our lives must mimic this pattern. Everything points to Jesus and we find our center in Him. He alone is our safe place, our Rock, our Refuge, our Standard.
* My eyes are ever on who? THE LORD
* Why? Because THE LORD will release my feet from the snare
For only He: God is the set apart One! He is the one Who sees all things, knows all things, helps us with all the things. Our path out of comparison is a path of knowing, loving, serving and trusting God as we find HIM to be our all in all.
* Release: The word release means to come forth, to go out, or to proceed. The word carries the idea of movement.
* Feet: feet means feet. God gave us feet so we can walk.
* The take away: When God sets us free from the snare of comparison, He is moving us forward in our walk with Him. He is changing us into the image of Jesus. (The very process of sanctification!)
From the Snare: Snare means net and often is actually translated as net. If you have gone fishing, you know the purpose of a net. It is used to capture the fish. When the fish is caught in the net, it can’t work its way out. The only way out is to stop fighting and surrender to the fisherman as he or she reaches into the net, picks the fish up, and sets the fish back in the water. The same is true for us! We can’t work our way out of the snares, nets, and traps of life. We can try hard, but we don’t have the resources, abilities, experiences, or knowledge. We are limited by sin, flesh, circumstances, and the enemy. The only way out is to surrender to the ONE who can remove us from the net. When we do, we stop fighting and we start trusting. We accept the good plan God has for us, even if is it hard or confusing. We start asking the Lord, “How can this place in my life bring You glory?” When we do, freedom is ours in Jesus Christ and comparison is slayed because our eyes are ever on the LORD!
Andrea’s Comparison Trap: In a few minutes I am going to ask you to share your comparison struggle with each other. The Lord has challenged me to go first.
A few months ago if you asked me, “Andrea, what is your comparison struggle?” I probably would have given the answer: my weight, my gray hair, my (half) eyebrows, or other physical things. After preparing for tonight and walking through three months of personal evaluation, my answer is much different. It is much deeper. I share this struggle with so much transparency, and a desire to proclaim Jesus over this area of my life. I also want you to know we all have hard places and struggles…. it is so good for us to be real with ourselves and each other!
Often I find myself on a stage talking to or teaching women. And for the most part, I think people think I have it (somewhat) together. But, what i want to share with you is that I often wake up in the morning and wonder “How can God use a girl like me?” I come from a place of struggle as I look at others and wonder why God didn’t call someone stronger or more gifted or more sure or better able to live out His plan. Before you think that is a noble or a humble thing, let me tell you it is not. Sin is at the heart of this thought because it leads to a constant comparison mindset as I look to others to determine if I am “enough” or “OK.”
Here is how it plays out in my life… when I feel like I measure up to someone’s standard or level, I feel good about myself. I am confident and ready to serve. Conversely, when I think I am not up to a certain standard or level, I feel anxious and overly worried about everything. How I look, what I say, how I am perceived, etc… The entire time the reality of my life is that MY EYES are ever on ME instead of the LORD. That is the deal with comparison. Our eyes are on ourselves, others, circumstances, and how the world defines success. This is such a trap because worldly success or acceptance is illusive and never the place where God created us to get our purpose or value.
We can STOP the comparison trap by realizing we can’t work our way out of it. Working harder in our strength will only cause us to spiral more. Instead, we need to surrender to the truth of God’s Word. God loves us and has a plan for our lives. We were created in the image of God to be HIS image bearers. We ultimately find our meaning, purpose, direction, and value in the context of our relationship with Jesus. And as we walk in step with HIS plan by surrendering to His work in and through our lives, we experience His ability to rescue us from ourselves and from the trap of comparison because Jesus is the way! Jesus is the truth! Jesus is the life!
So what can we do about comparison? We can evaluate our spiritual eyes. We can refocus on God. We can live determined to make the LORD our rock and refuge. For me this means:
More time in God’s Word: not checking my QT off my list, but really digging in for a WORD from the Lord every single day.
More time in Focused Prayer: Thanking God for the struggle and asking Him to use the struggle to make us more like Jesus.
More time in Genuine Worship: Y’all, this is so important! Genuine worship paves the way for a change in our focus.SING to HIM every single day. Total game changer.
More time in Real Conversations: Move beyond the mask. We are not OK. We don’t have it all together. Engage in real conversations about real life. Take the chance. Be vulnerable. God’s GOT you!
Conclusion: When this happens…
We will avoid the extremes of we are enough and we are not enough.
We will avoid the temptation of thinking we have to be someone God never created us to be.
We will KNOW that Jesus is enough.
We will KNOW Who God created us to be and find JOY in living a life of surrender to His plans and purposes.
And there will be PEACE and REST and HOPE and COMFORT in the One who made us for Himself no matter how surprising our life turns out to be.
Table Talk: OK. Let’s get real about Comparison.
Talk about your comparison trap. Where do you struggle? What sets you off?
How does the comparison trap impact your life?
How does the comparison trap impact your view of God?
What truth from Psalm 25:15 will help you fight the comparison trap?