February / March 2019 - Vol. 102
.
Christ in the House of Martha and
                                  Mary, painting by Vanmeer

A Thief Named Comparison
.
by Jacqueline Giles

This article first appeared in The Lovely Commission, an online journal of Kairos North America for single Christian women. The Scriptural truths and practical wisdom presented are timeless and helpful for all who desire to be conformed to the image of Christ their Lord.

Part 1: The Truth Will Set You Free

I recently read an article by Elisabeth Elliot in which she said, "It is for us women to receive the given as Mary did, not to insist on the not-given, as Eve did." Mary received God's call on her life. Eve looked at what she wasn't given, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and wanted it. When I compare myself to another, in a way I am wondering: Why wasn't I given that in the way that she was? A good starting point in reflecting on this is to accept what Elisabeth Elliot encourages us in: This is lovely. A woman was created to receive - and our loving Father, who knows what we need, has given us good things! When a woman is distracted by comparing herself to others, she is unable to focus on receiving what God has given her.

My next encouragement then is to consider the unique woman God created you to be and what He has given, and is giving you, to receive. Take a moment to reflect on these questions:
  • How has God created you?
  • What gifts has He given you?
  • What call has He given you?
  • How can you receive what God gives you?
I believe that comparison can be a weapon of the evil one. Satan uses comparison to distract us from what God has given us and what He has called us to do. Satan uses comparison to cause division in our relationships with the women in our life. However, I believe that God has defeated Satan and given us power and truth.

If we take hold of His Word, and the power He has given to us, we can be transformed.

The first truth we need to allow our flesh to be penetrated by is this: MY IDENTITY IS IN THE LORD. I do not need to find my worth in the ways I can compare myself to another. God has created me and I want to be the woman He has created me to be.

The second truth is this: GOD HAS GIVEN ME WOMEN TO BE MY SISTERS IN CHRIST- TO CALL ME ON AND TO ENCOURAGE ME. I should not allow comparison to divide me from these women, but unite me to them and Him.

The third truth: I AM A MEMBER OF HIS BODY AND I AM ONE PART OF WHAT HE IS DOING. I need to do what He asks of me and not worry about what He has called someone else to do.
 
No matter where you are in your struggle with comparison, my guess is that you can relate to one of the stages of comparison I have experienced in my life.
1.     Physical appearance

2.     Holiness

3.     Measuring up
As young women we are sometimes especially aware of our appearance. This should be a good healthy awareness, so that we can learn to take care of ourselves and care for our appearance. In this time of life though we often also compare our appearance to others. We are paying attention to how beautiful or not the other women around us are. And we are wondering, constantly measuring: Am I prettier than her? Am I smarter than her? Funnier? More popular? Why are we measuring? BECAUSE WE WANT TO BE VALUED. We are insecure and want our worth to be affirmed, so we try to affirm it ourselves by comparing ourselves with another.  Remember that first truth: MY IDENTITY IS IN THE LORD. I need to understand that my worth comes from the Lord. I need to live as a new creation and learn to know myself as He sees me: His lovely daughter.

When I was in college my focus changed from outward appearance to inward beauty: Is my heart prettier than her heart? Am I holier than her? She is way holier than me! I experienced my college years as a grace-filled time to grow in my relationship with the Lord. Holiness and being set apart for the Lord was a huge focus for me, and slowly comparison crept right into that area of my life as well. Satan tried to discourage me with comparison. I had to remember that second truth: GOD GAVE ME MY SISTERS TO CALL ME ON AND ENCOURAGE ME. During college, I was called on especially by the women around me who knew and loved the Lord. By their example I was encouraged to begin praying daily and forming a deeper relationship with God. The witness of the way they lived their life as daughters of the Lord also encouraged me to make changes in my life and live fully for God.

Now, as a married, stay at home mom, I still find myself in the comparison boat as I examine whether I am measuring up to other mothers and wives.  Am I doing as much as she is? The third truth: I NEED TO DO WHAT HE ASKS OF ME. God has given me a specific call. I need to listen to what He asks me to do and do it faithfully. I need to receive the call He gives me!

God loves you so much! He has given you good things. Know and receive what He has given you. We need to live with confidence in our identity as daughters of God. If we truly know our worth from the Lord we will not look elsewhere for it. The Lord wants us to be blessed by the women in our life and encouraged. He has a specific plan for each one of us and we need to discover what that is. We need to know what God is asking of us and focus on serving Him. Receive what God has given you!

Come Lord Jesus! May I know your truth and may it set me free. Thank you that my identity is in You! Help me to know this more and more and to live it out. Thank you for the women you have given me in my life to be my sisters. Help me to see them in this way. May I be an encouragement to them and be called on by these women. Thank you Lord for your call upon my life. Help me to know what you want me to do and to do it by your grace! Free the hearts and minds of all women from the lies of the evil one. Come with your power and truth. Allow my mind to be transformed by You.

Part 2: Transformation

In Part 1, we focused on knowing and receiving what our heavenly Father has for us as well as different areas (appearance, personal holiness) where we are often tempted to compare ourselves to others.

I now want to offer a few suggestions on how we can take the ugly side of comparison and transform it into something more helpful and lovely. Here are some reminders Ive found helpful:
  • The attribute of someone else that has caught my eye should not drive me to envy or self-pity. I should not allow myself to measure my worth through comparison. Rather, I should acknowledge what God has given to someone else and glorify Him. I can acknowledge the beauty of God's creation. I should thank God and tell the person what I admire about her or simply compliment her.
  • I can allow this acknowledgement of what God has given to someone else to draw me to an inward reflection that considers: What has God given to me and how can I receive what He gives to me in a daily way? I need to recognize the beautiful way in which God has created me and the gifts He has given to me. And most importantly I need to find my worth in being His daughter.
Sometimes our comparison to another can be the catalyst for the growth we need in that area of our life. The Lord intended women to have others in their life to call them on! Our sisters are there to encourage us, maybe even just by example of their prayer, hospitality, service or maybe their sense of style or their love for others. Instead of getting beat in the comparison game by saying "she has a much better prayer life than me" and pitying myself, I can tell her, "Wow, you have a strong relationship with the Lord!" And ask her, "How did you get to the place you are? I want to grow in my prayer life, can you give me some tips?" Or maybe she has great hair, tell her! Then ask her for help with yours! Maybe she has a great sense of style and you want to improve yours, tell her and ask her for help!
Comparison can drive a stake between relationships with our sisters, don't let it, instead let your attention be directed in positive way that brings you closer to your sisters.
Allow the beauty you see in your sister to strengthen your relationship, not tear you apart. Build her up and allow yourself to rely on her help. Allow her example to call you higher up, not in a competitive way, but in a way that builds you up and encourages you to try harder and to persevere.

Sometimes I look at a sister and I see all that she accomplishes and I wonder, why am I not doing that? Satan can really use this thought to distract us from what God has called us to do. Really, if we are so focused on what others are doing, how can we be focused on what God has called us to do? I need to evaluate and discern. Here are some questions that help me do that:
  • Have I taken time to discern what God has called me to do?
  • Is He asking more of me?
  • Is He asking something of me that is different?
  • Is He asking me to do less so I can focus on him?
Once I have evaluated and discerned, I can simply say to myself confidently, "THIS is what God has called me to, and I will rejoice in it". We need to recognize what God has called others to, be glad that God has given them the gifts to do it and then do what God has called us to do, faithfully and joyfully.

Want to change your habits of comparison? Here are some points to review and help you grow!
  1. Acknowledge the beauty of God's created human beings. Thank God and tell the person, give her a compliment.
  2. Acknowledge what God has given you and receive it. Know yourself! What gifts has He given you? Discover the unique woman He created you to be.
  3. Ask The Lord to help you grow and let yourself be called on by another's example.
  4. Resolve to keep working at prayer, hospitality etc. Ask her for help, since she appears to be good at it!
Take time to discern! What is the Lord asking of you? Is the Lord calling you to do more? Is He calling you to do less? Are you using your gifts to upbuild the body? Are you using those gifts to build God's kingdom? Rejoice in what God has called you to do and be faithful to it. Do not allow comparison to distract you.

Lord, my identity is in you. I am your daughter, your creation. Help me to be the woman you have created me to be. Protect me Lord, do not let me be distracted from what you have called me to do. Help me to receive what you have given me. Protect me from the divisive nature of comparison. Help me to acknowledge your glory in others and rejoice in it! May I be encouraged by the beauty I see in my sisters. I want to live my whole life for the rest of my life, beginning with today, this hour, this minute, for your glory.


JacquelineJacqueline is joyfully married to her husband, Peter, and so grateful to be staying home with their four children. She attended Ohio State University, where she studied Human Development, Family Science and Spanish. She became an active member of Saint Paul's Outreach (SPO), a Catholic group on campus. Being a part of SPO has shaped her understanding of and the way she lives out her Christian faith, especially with regard to daily prayer, scripture, relationships, continual conversation, community and relational evangelism. After graduating, she worked for YouthWorks-Detroit and later worked for Kairos. Jacqueline enjoys homeschooling her children and encountering new ways to love them and the Lord daily. She loves to be outdoors, exercise, play guitar, paint and read. She is passionate about building God's kingdom. Jacqueline resides in the beautiful state of Michigan and is a member of the Work of Christ Community, a community in the Sword of the Spirit.

This article first appeared in The Lovely Commission, a publishing venture and brand of Kairos North America. Used with permission.

The Lovely Commission is
run by Molly Kilpatrick and Mary Rose Jordan and a team of contributors from various Christian communities in North America and beyond. Together they are working to build a culture of radical love, femininity, modesty of heart, mind, and body amongst young women.

Their aim is to inspire and equip young women to embrace and promote a culture of Godly femininity in which we live out our rich identity as daughters of God and disciples of Jesus Christ.


Top illustration: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (cropped image), by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, 1655
.
Return to Table of Contents or Archives  (c) copyright 2019 The Sword of the Spirit
.