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Comparing Ourselves with Others

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” 1 Corinthians 12:18.

One of the most prevalent questions, asked in many forms but with the same basic meaning, is ‘Why did God make me or put me in a situation like this?’ We may verbalize this to others, it just keeps it in our thoughts.  Either way, the desire is the same. There are two ways to look at this question, either “My life is awful, and I wish God would make my life like so-and-so’s” or “My life is so good, I do not understand why God would bless me so and not others.” Both are reasonable ways to look at the question, but probably 99% of the time it is meant as the former, and hardly ever as the latter. I will be discussing both of these views throughout this post, showing how the first view is destructive while the second is life and peace.

First, let’s look at the “My life is awful…” view. The reason many ask the question with this perspective is because they are not satisfied with how God made them, or how God is allowing certain things to occur in their life. When we compare ourselves with others, most of the time we do not measure up. And the reason is we normally focus on their positives and how we do not have that advantage.  For instance, a man makes a great living with a salary that is triple yours. However, he is struggling with poor eyesight.  People will wish that they had the job this person had, with no mention of any vision problems. In reality, we are simply wishing God would give us all perceived positives and eliminate what we see as negatives. However, we hardly ever have the full story when we envy another’s blessings. Going back to the previous example, what we may not see is that his boss is a tyrant who constantly ridicules him, forces him to work long hours and requires him to do all the dirty work he himself refuses to do. In fact, he may wish he had your job with its standard hours and a good boss. But what we may not know is that his poor eyesight has allowed him to minister to several friends who are suffering from gradual loss of sight themselves.

This view can also cause us to accuse God of being unfair. Have you ever heard someone say, “Why can’t God ever make my life easy?  It’s not fair that others do not have to go through this, it seems so easy for them.” Let me address this with a couple of scriptures. These are not trite Christian responses, there is power here if you can grasp and apply them to your situation. ”Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6. The writer of Proverbs is saying we must trust in God and not our own perception of our circumstances. Only God, who has a complete picture of everything, knows what is truly best.  We always have a short sighted view of what is good, where God has an eternal view. We must trust Him to know what is absolutely good, and not what appears to us to be good. We must conclude that our Father knows best.  (Those who are old like me will appreciate this TV reference more than others). Also. ”Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Philippians 4:11-12. Paul is saying to us that we need to be content with our situation at all times. If we continue to compare our life with others, we will find ourselves wanting something God has chosen in His sovereignty not to give us, thus not being content.  The secret to being content is knowing that we have been given everything we need from our loving Father, so we can face any adversity because we know God is with us and will bring us through. To be discontent with what God has given us is a terrible place to be. It shows a lack of trust as well as a sense of arrogance because we act as if we know better.

There is one other thing I would like to mention regarding this view. By questioning God in this negative sense, we are questioning God’s sovereignty to place us where He wants. God has chosen to place us where we are for a purpose. Paul wrote to the church of Rome the following, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28. Whatever we go through, a good will come out of it. And It may not necessarily be for our good, it may be for someone else’s good, but a good will come out. And since we are to look to the betterment of others above ourselves, we should rejoice when someone else is blessed by a trial we are going through. This goes along with the idea that God knows what is best and if He allows us to go through trials, then He has a good reason, and we should yield. I am not saying we should not pray that God will remove the trial, but just be careful that we do not move to distrust and bitterness if He delays or says no. God has the right to use us and place us as he pleases.  He has created us in such a way that we are perfect for the plan He has. For instance, let’s say God created me as a hammer, and He created you as a hand saw. He will use me to hammer in nails and to pull nails out by way of the claw He has built into me. God will use you to cut wood into different shapes and trim waste from old pieces for re-use. God will not use me to cut wood, and he will not use you to hammer nails.  However, let’s say I get dissatisfied with being a hammer and I want to cut a 2X4 in half. I would work extremely hard, and what I would end up with is a mess. I may make it all the way through, but the pieces would be of no real use, except as firewood. Or let’s say you decide you want to pound a nail into a board. You can bang all you want, but that nail will not go very far. I was not made to cut wood, and you were not made to pound in nails. But in God’s hands, He will use both of us as He made us to create something beautiful. If everyone was a saw, we would never be able to put all the pieces together. If everyone was a hammer, we would never be able to shape the pieces into something that has purpose.  Paul uses the body as an example, but the idea is the same. Since we were made for the purpose God has for us, if we yield to Him to be used for His glory, we will be fulfilled and complete.

Now, let’s look at the second way, “My life is so good…” view. This is a humble view that sees our life as God given and fulfilling. There may be, and probably will be difficult times, but we see our life as blessed and would like others to experience it. However, we all have a different road to take. Some are blessed so much financially that they can give incredible amounts of time and money to bless others.  Some, like Joni Eareckson Tada, are physically challenged, but are able to minister to others who are challenged in the same way.  ”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7  Some, like Francis Schaeffer, were called to full time ministry to those who have legitimate questions, and are looking for answers because the world has them so confused and deceived. We all need to see our lives from the second perspective, one where we are so blessed that we wish all could experience the same life. Not necessarily because we have much in material wealth, but because we have God, and we desire everyone to experience Him in the fullness we have.

Comparisons between ourselves and others can be very dangerous because they can take our eyes off God and our fellow man and put it upon ourselves. We can become self-centered, discontent with what God has given us, and wanting to have, be, or do something else. We should be grateful for who we are and yield to God to use us as He sees fit. We may think we will not like what He is telling us to do, but there is more joy and contentment in being who we are through God then who we decide we want to be.  Be careful, you may get what you wish for. And outside of God’s will, it probably will not be all that good.

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