The Problem with Comparison

“But muuuuuum! He’s already had more of that!”

I was greeted by this familiar complaint about a month ago as I sat eating with a family. Immediately I was transported back to my childhood when sometimes life just wasn’t fair. Growing up with a younger sister and two younger brothers means that sometimes they get things that you don’t. Sometimes someone gets more. When you are little the pain and heartache of seeing that extra slice of delicious dessert ending up in the tummy of a younger sibling is hard to understand.

“But muuuuuum! That’s not fair!”

But here’s the interesting thing – it didn’t end around the table when I was ten years old.

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Fast forward to the year 2013 and it’s still the same story. Twenty-three years old but still comparing myself to the people and situations that are around me.

Sometimes it’s as superficial as my (poor) fashion sense or the fact I’m only working nine paid hours each week (which is not always easy on the bank balance). Sometimes it’s the fact that other people are seeing lots of people being healed or encounter Jesus when they pray, but I’m not. Sometimes it’s because the groups I lead aren’t growing how the groups others lead are growing. Sometimes it’s jealousy that other people across the city have had the opportunity to teach somewhere or step out and do something big and cool and I haven’t (when I think I deserved those opportunities more). Sometimes it’s the reality of having a massive heart to see students in this city encounter God’s love and then getting frustrated when I see other churches or other leaders bearing a lot of fruit and seeing a lot of breakthrough in this area, when I haven’t seen any students get to know Jesus for the first time.

I’m just being honest. I compare myself to other people a lot.

The Process

And here’s the problem with comparison – it suffocates you! It blinds you from seeing the potential around you. It prevents you from seeing the fruit and growth in front of you. And it stops you from seeing the heart of a loving Father that cares for you more than you could ever know. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re looking at the world through our perspective and not the perspective of our Dad in heaven.

You see, what I have noticed is that there seems to be a process. God doesn’t just plonk us at our final destination right away and leave us to it. Instead, there’s a journey that we need to go on to get there. Comparing ourselves to other people ignores this process. But this is a process that you cannot rush.

Here’s the truth:

  • There’s always going to be people that are further ahead of you.
  • There’s often going to be times when you are worn out, down in the ditch and there are people around you where everything they touch turns to gold.
  • There will always be people who are seeing more people encounter God’s love through what they’re doing.
  • There’s going to be people who can walk up to any stranger on the street and have a spiritual conversation at the click of the finger.
  • There will be people that are discipling and leading more people than you.
  • There will be people who can sing better, dance better, play instruments better.
  • There’s going to be people who are stood on stages whilst you’re sat in the dirt.
  • And there will always be people who have more of that chocolate cake on their plate than you.

And guess what? It’s ok. Take your eyes off what other people are doing and fix them on Jesus – as you do this you open your eyes to what he is doing in you right now. In this very moment. If you follow him… if you are a disciple of Jesus… I can guarantee that even if you aren’t doing exactly what vision or dream he has put in your heart, he is doing something in you. Something that’s taking you forward. Even if it is hard. It’s a process. We’re learning.

Stop focussing on what other people are doing! Yes, we can and should learn from them! But don’t operate from a place of jealousy or a place of self-deprecation because you’re not doing what they’re doing. Engage with the process – do what he’s calling you do in this moment. Because in those moments we are taking those little, little, baby steps towards his heart. And we are growing. Don’t worry that you can’t always take the giant leaps. The little steps are just as important. You’re still moving forward.

I was listening to Paul Manwaring speaking the other day and he said the following: “God wastes nothing and he gets you ready.”

He wastes nothing.

And he gets you ready.

Learn to embrace this truth. Rest in his love. Life might be tough. It might not seem fair, but God is good – he wastes nothing and he is getting you ready.

The Older Brother

You probably know about the older brother in the story Jesus told about two sons and a father – the one who got really annoyed when his younger brother who had essentially stuck two fingers up at their dad and wished him dead then was welcomed home, given some new gear (a robe and a ring) and a party with a massive and presumably tasty fattened calf.

I can relate to his complaint: “Daaaaaaaaad, I’ve been here all this time, working hard, breaking my back, slaving away and you have never given me a new coat, let alone a party with a calf…” – it’s the typical tantrum. I had that tantrum when I was ten years old and to be honest, I still have the same tantrum every so often behind the closed doors of my bedroom. “COME ON JESUS! WHHHHYYYY? Why won’t you give me this? I’ve done this, I’ve done that, but you’ve not grown my group – what are you playing at? You’re growing other groups – why not mine?!!”

And what’s his reply? It’s there in Luke 15 and it’s the thing we always, always, always miss when we compare ourselves to other people: “my son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours”.

You are family.

You are always with me.

Everything I have is yours.

And this is the beautiful truth that has reverberated off the walls of eternity and echoed through time. It is demonstrated by the moment that God himself went to the cross and became all the rubbish you would do, just so he could have relationship with you. This is the message of a loving Father who is overwhelmingly for you…

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Simple as that. He loves you for you. Not for who you could become. Not for the people who are around you. He loves you as you, right now. Yes, he wants the best for you. But you are enough. You’re his son or daughter. He is always with you. Everything he has is yours. So you don’t need to worry. Because you are enough.

You are enough. You are enough. You are enough.

  1. Where do you compare yourselves to others?
  2. Can you recognise the process that God has you on to become more like him? How does this suffer when you compare yourself to other people’s successes, breakthroughs and achievements?
  3. What little steps can you take in this moment to engage with the journey Jesus is taking you on?
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