Comparison Gets You Nowhere But the Gospel Takes Us Far

I have struggled with comparing myself to others since my childhood when I would compare the giftings my sister had in relation to my own. She was more gifted creatively, musically (having to put half as much into her practice as I), and physically. I knew nothing about how to take care of my hair, makeup, and dress attractively. Practically everything I know was gleaned from her. She could speak well and won numerous awards where I miserably failed in speech/drama class.

And you know where all these comparing and envious thoughts got me? The truth is, they got me no where. It damaged relationship, stirred up discontentment, and robbed me of fruitfulness in my own life and relationship with the Lord.

In all reality, I doubted God’s goodness. This was at the core of my sin. I thought that if I was in the spotlight, then I would be happy. I imagined that if I had her giftings, I would be happy. I doubted His love for me. In my heart of hearts, I thought that God didn’t care about me unless I looked and acted in that manner. I wanted to be acknowledged. How far from the gospel I had slipped! I needed to stop those envious thoughts with the gospel truth – I am a recipient of undeserved mercy. The cross is the undeniable evidence that God loves me. He was willing to separate himself from heaven’s glory, come to earth, and suffer and die in my place. He chose to graciously love the unlovely. Through His resurrection, His love for me is secured. I am a guaranteed recipient of His grace and mercy and eternal life. His righteousness has become mine. I needed to stop and mediate upon these simple truths:

“For the Lord is good.” Ps. 100:5

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Rom. 8:28

“No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Ps. 84:11

The foolishness of envy is brought to light through these passages:

2 Cor. 10:12, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”

Do you see that? To compare myself with another is a sign that I am ignorant. I am without understanding. I have forgotten God’s selfless love for me.

Upon learning that he would be martyred, Peter responds to Jesus: “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] following them…When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:20-22)

Jesus brings it home. When Peter wants to know what will happen to John, Jesus simply says, “what is that to you?” It was an eye-opening jolt to reality. Jesus was challenging Peter to not even go there. Don’t even let the thought go through you mind. If the Lord wills that another receives the blessings and giftings I desire and don’t receive, or is not the recipient of the struggles and sufferings that I am called to endure, what is that to me? God has a unique plan and purpose for me, and it is not for me to know the outcome of another’s story. He is creating a beautiful tapestry of my life. Instead, my eyes should be fixed on my Savior. Jesus offers the simple command, “You follow me!”

As Carolyn Mahaney shares in response to this passage, “He [Peter] did not need to hear or do anything else. These three little words were sufficient to enable him to face the agonizing death assigned to him by God: You follow me! Our Lord gives us the same command. For every unwanted experience or withheld blessing, the Lord would say to us: You follow me! And just as these words were enough for Peter, so they are enough for us.They are all we need to hear and obey in order to glorify God in every difficult experience God assigns us. You follow me!”

God’s love for you is real. It is eternal. Your purpose is to follow Him. Not to look around horizontally to the people around you, but to fix your eyes vertically on the cross and our beautiful Savior.

God’s grace can free us from the destructive comparison thoughts if we stop, pray, remember the gospel, confess our sinful doubting of God’s goodness, and embrace His love for us.

Another powerful response to envious thoughts is to stop and pray the Lord’s blessing upon that person. I remember when recently struggling with envious thoughts of another’s successful ministry, a true friend stopped me and said: “Just pray for them. Pray that God would bless their work.” That is certainly not an easy task, nor did it prove to change my feelings overnight. But in the end, God mercifully changed my heart. God can change us into loving people as we confess our sins and seek freedom in the cross of Christ.

And finally, start journaling your thankfulness. Have you thought about how He has immensely blessed you lately? The simple fact that He loved and died for you is an immeasurable gift. Start making your own thankfulness journal, recording his gifts to you every day. And see your life transformed!

God created an apple and an orange both within the fruit category but that is the only thing that is the same between them. In all other ways, the taste, texture, color, and smell are completely unique. Different but equally delicious. In similar manner, you are a unique and beautiful person, fashioned with your own set of gifts. Every part of the body of Christ is valuable and needed for the health of each other (1 Cor. 12:12-26). Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to the head, hand, or neck of the body. Focus rather on serving the Lord together – we all have something unique to contribute that another cannot offer. Let’s follow Him together!

Recommended Reading:

For further rich thoughts on the topic of envy, I heartily encourage you to read Girl Talk’s thorough series on this topic, which can be found here or in a PDF version here.
Pleasing People: How Not to be an “approval junkie” by Louie Giglio
When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man
by Ed Welch

Photo Credit

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

36 Responses to Comparison Gets You Nowhere But the Gospel Takes Us Far

  1. Cassandra Marie July 27, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    Thank you for posting this! Just found it and it was for a reasons that I have not read it before. A few weeks ago I landed in Africa, full time. As the new person on the field it is hard not to look at the others who have been here for years and decades and say “I should be like that.”

    In reading this I can see how important it is to be who Christ made me to be and look to others for advice but not comparing myself to them. Thanks again! I look forward to reading more from the mission field of Africa.

  2. Tammy July 9, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    Something that God has revealed to me lately is that HE does not compare me to others! He has made me one-of-a-kind, so why compare? No one else in this life has had your experiences,the exact same circle of influence, or relationship with God…This has freed me to be able to thank God for the people he has put in my life and or their gifts, without being jealous.

  3. Alicia April 2, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    The interpretation of John 21: 20-22 really struck me in this post. Also hope I am able to check out some of the recommended reading. Thanks!

  4. Valerie April 1, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    Wow, this is good. “Approval junkie…” that is so powerful. I’ve also heard “Do not worship at the altar of other people’s opinion.” Thanks for posting. It spoke to me.

  5. Emily April 1, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    I have been in a great spiritual battle and your blog always centers me back to the one who deserves the attention–Jesus. I find it ironic that you don’t realize how much of a ministry you have through this forum. I have been distracted, but I am going to focus more and that means you will see more often. ;) You are a blessing and an amazing gift from God.

  6. Melissa April 1, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Thank you! God has spoken to my heart through your words, sister.

  7. Lisa P April 1, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    It is easy to forget that while we may wish we had the skills, opportunities, etc. of another, that there is someone looking at us who wishes that they had what we have. We are all blessed without measure- even though it is so easy not too feel that way! Thanks for such a great article!

  8. Angi April 1, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    Great post! I think comparing yourself to others is such an easy trap to fall into,especially when you are a mom as well.

  9. Beka March 31, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    I just wanted to thank you for your blog! I now have it on my favorites bar and check it often. It has been a huge blessing to me! I have found that in seasons when I have been most thankful, my marriage & my mothering have been most joyous! No matter what is happening around me, when I make thankfulness a practice & choose to meditate on God’s truths, something truly amazing happens! Thank you for your thoughts and for your wisdom, but mostly thank you for sharing from God’s word and thank you for your obedience :)

  10. Carrie March 31, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    Contentment is something I struggled with many years ago and the Lord did an amazing work in my heart and taught me to be content with where He had me. And then I got married, moved to a different city, became a mom and all of a sudden I found myself battling contentment again even though He has blessed me in so many ways. I guess it’s a never ending battle to be aware of!

  11. [email protected] March 31, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    This was a really great post and a good reminder to me. Something I too have struggled with for a long time now!!! God’s grace can deliver and I pray that He will. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Kristina @ Crunchy Soup March 31, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    THANK YOU! I have struggled with discontentment for quite a while, though I know this feeling will not subside overnight, through Christ and prayer I have faith . This was exactly what was on my heart today.

  13. April March 31, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    This was exactly what I needed to hear this morning. Thank you so much for posting this!

  14. Evelien March 31, 2011 at 4:00 am #

    Thank you for this wonderful post!
    I too am always comparing myself to others. What do they have that I don’t have? Which things/gifts do they have that would make me happy?
    It’s just so useless! You are right, we just have to focus on Jesus and what He gives us!

  15. Fiona March 31, 2011 at 12:54 am #

    Thank you for the honesty and great message of this post!

    I am struggling through being a young wife and living in a place where my husband’s life is coming on in leaps and bounds, and I am currently still seeking work and a purpose to my days. I think this is the biggest issue women deal with and even as a long committed Christian, it is one of the toughest concepts to grasp.

    Grace is beyond our full understanding and where we fall is in trying to understand Grace by looking at others…. Grace and love exists despite the everyday or larger struggles.

    Thank you for the concept of the thankfulness journal – this is a great accountability tool especially for those of us who tend to panic and look at the gloom!!

    • Emily April 1, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

      You should read the book “created to be his Help Meet” by Debi Pearl. It is amazing and enlightening! Every woman needs to read it.

  16. Messy Wife March 30, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    Thank you for the reminder. This is my area of constant struggles. When I was younger, I struggle with not having the singing gifts that some others have. Now, I struggle with the want of being the best in leading Bible study. I needed to be reminded that , I should be serving God not my own pride and I should do it to please Him and not other people. When I do feel like I didn’t do a very good job, I needed to be reminded that He didn’t asked me to be perfect but be faithful and do my best. Otherwise, like you said, these “wants” only brought me envy and doubts.

    On a side note, I want to thank you for your blog. Your blog is one of the reason that I started my own and feel motivated and hopeful again to deal with my messiness. I have been checking out many of your achieved posts and it seems that I never fail to find useful information. Thank you!

  17. Brandi March 30, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    Wow! Thank you for your honesty- I must admit I struggle with comparison, and either way if I come out on bottom or top it is sinful and not God’s best for my life

  18. Amber March 30, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Absolutely wonderful! So well said, so full of truth. This is something that most women (myself included) struggle with, and it brings about so much destruction. I love what you said about keeping our gaze vertical (upon the Lord) and not horizontal (upon others). Such a great reminder, thank you!

  19. Heather March 30, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Amen to that! This is something that everyone struggles w/ on one level or another. It’s nice to be reminded of what really matters. :) Thanks!

  20. Sheri March 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    I have and still am struggling with this, although by God’s grace I’ve come a ways from where I used to be. In one situation in particular, I felt like another was always more loved and more accepted than myself; that her personality was more compatible with people I desired to be close to. But God exposed this in me as a desire not just to be as loved or as accepted but to be first. And then I felt God asking me, “Will you take the lowest place for my sake?” He wasn’t even addressing whether or not what I believed about the situation was actually true-whether she was loved and accepted more than me. Rather, He just went straight to the heart and addressed my pride. When I was able to say “Yes” to that question, so much of my envy began to disappear. Even if I am the littlest toe, I can be content there when I do it for His sake. Thank you so much for this post. It came at the perfect time for me!

  21. Angela Palmer March 30, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Thanks Lindsay for another amazing post. It must have been really hard to write that, but so many of us will be blessed by it.

    It is damaging to compare – it doesn’t matter whether you see yourself as superior or inferior to the person you’re comparing yourself against. It causes the wrong emotions either way.

  22. Malisa March 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    What a beautiful way to put something I have struggled with as well! I reblogged your post to my site.

  23. Natarsha March 30, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    I must tell you lindsay you have so blessed my life. This post was so rich and spoke to me and pierced my heart. I’m guilty of comparing and I had to spend some time in prayer confessing after reading your post. Thanks for allowing God to use in such powerful way. I’m so blessed to have found your website. Keep doing what you are doing because the eternal impact is amazing.

  24. Jessica March 30, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Awesome! What impeccable timing God has! Thank you for being willing to share your heart with us! Just what I needed!

  25. Mrs. Graham Gardens March 30, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    Beautiful truths here, Lindsay.

    Comparisons to others are wrong at every turn. It’s so simple, yet it can be such a struggle, in all aspects of daily living.

    Thank you for speaking the truth!

  26. Audra March 30, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    Thank you for this post. It was so timely, I was just talking about comparison with my husband and a close friend last night, and I know that I am guilty of it entirely too often. Thank you for the reminder that Jesus has a specific plan for each of our lives.

  27. Anna March 30, 2011 at 7:16 am #

    Wonderful post. Thanks for your willingness to be so open with your struggles. It’s so needed among Christian women. That book by Ed Welch has been on my bookshelf for quite a while, once I’m done with the ones I’m reading I’ll move on to it. I think I’ve kind of avoided it – knowing it would be a tough one. :) Blessings to you and yours.

  28. Barb March 30, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    What a beautiful post! In today’s world, where there is so much competition and comparison, we all need to hear the message that we are loved . . . no matter what! Thank you for blessing us today!

  29. Sara March 30, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    Thanks for this posting. I really needed it today!

  30. Teri March 30, 2011 at 5:10 am #

    Thank you for sharing this; your perspective is refreshing on this matter. You’ve given me new energy to fight this temptation.

  31. jean March 30, 2011 at 4:00 am #

    How often we all do this very thing! This post is a great and gentle reminder of keeping our eyes on the Lord God and not on ourselves.

  32. Melissa March 30, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    Very good post…something I’ve struggled with even as an adult,,,comparing myself to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law! Sounds silly but it’s been my silent struggle. Thankfully, God has helped me overcome that for the most part. It’s helped that they live 13 hours away now. lol So true about journaling thankfulness…i have done this since Christmas and through it, God’s dealt with me strongly in this area. It’s blessed my life, for sure. :)

  33. Sarah March 30, 2011 at 3:15 am #

    Reading Siblings without Rivalry really brought to life why we compare so much! it’s a must read for any parent old or young.

  34. Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} March 30, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    This is an excellent post. It is so easy to get caught in the comparison trap. Thank you for the reminder to keep God’s love for us at the forefront of our thoughts and to remember to always praise Him for the gifts He has given us. I know that I can use those gifts so much more to glorify Him if I focus on them instead of looking at what He has given to others. I really appreciate reading this today.

  35. Kara March 30, 2011 at 2:54 am #

    Great post! This was definitely something I needed to read and be reminded of. God blesses us each with our own gifts and we all face our own struggles and persecutions. But remembering that it’s all for His purpose and glory can keep us focused on the cross like you said, and not looking at the other around us. God bless you, and thank you for always boldly speaking His truths! God is definitely using you in tremendous ways to bring the gospel to others!