The Comparison Trap
‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’
I don’t know about you, but I’m very often guilty of comparing myself to others. I’ll do this with pretty much every aspect of my life – talents, achievements, looks, sense of humour, social life, family life – and quite often my sense of how successful I am is determined by how I do in that comparison. Either I’m pleased with myself because I think I’ve done as well or better than those around me, or I’m upset because I feel as though I’ll never measure up to others in the way I want to.
It’s worth saying that there’s nothing wrong with admiring other people and being inspired and encouraged by our friends and family to become more like the people God has called us to be. The beautiful thing about being adopted into God’s family is that we have brothers and sisters around us to learn from and to spur us on in godliness, and that is something that I’m extremely thankful for!
However, I also think it’s all too easy to let covetous thoughts creep in and to start feeling discontent with what God has given us.
My constant comparing myself with others means that much of my thought life is concerned with how I can become better in other people’s eyes, how I can be attractive to other people, and how I can hide my flaws from other people as well. The problem with this is that instead of serving Jesus and living in light of what he has done for me, I’m actually living for myself and in light of what others think. The reality of the here and now has become much more real to me than the reality of the hope of Heaven to come.
In short, I’m looking sideways rather than where I should be looking – upwards.
‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’
This verse has been such a huge help to me with this issue! It reminds me that this life that I’m living now is not all that there is – there’s an eternal life to come with Christ, because I have been raised with him. Christ’s work on the cross means that I and everyone else who believes and trusts in Him can look forward to the certain hope of eternal life with Him.
When I look around at what others have and become dissatisfied that I don’t have the same it’s because I’ve lost sight of what’s to come, and I’m living as though this life now is the only chance for fulfilment and happiness. Verse 3 completely blows me away: I have died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God! That means that everything that seems so appealing and concrete in this life is actually temporary.
My real life hasn’t even started yet, so how I live in the present should be in preparation for that.
The area that these verses have helped me in most is singleness. In Cambridge, where I live and work, I’m so blessed to have a number of single friends to spend my evenings and weekends with, and the fact that I’m single barely registers with me as an issue. I have the flexibility to use my time however I want, and I can make decisions with more freedom than I would have if I had a husband and children to consider.
But, as soon as I spend some time with my friends from home (the majority of whom are loved-up and on the cusp of getting engaged), those pesky comparisons start to creep in! When they talk about their boyfriends I wonder why God hasn’t brought someone into my life, and when they talk about weddings I begin to feel sorry for myself that I might not ever have one to plan, never get the chance to have my big day.
On my worst days I begin to panic that everyone around me is going to pair off, leaving me doomed to always be on my own – no one to attend weddings with, no one to grow old with, and no children to look after me when I’m old.
‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’
You can see how I desperately need this verse! As my gaze is pointed upwards to Jesus instead of sideways to others I’m reminded that he is the only one I need, he is the one I should be serving – not others, or myself.
‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Colossians 1:17)
He has mapped out my life and called me to live for him, and he has given me everything I need to be able to do that. This means that, for now anyway, that being a single woman is how he would have me serve him. He’s given me the gifts and personality that I need to serve him, so why should I ask for more?
I wish I could say that once I discovered this verse I never again compared myself to someone else and have been living with my eyes glued on Jesus ever since, but I can’t! This is a daily struggle, and it may be something that I struggle with for the rest of my life.
We all know that seeking to live a godly life can be hard, frustrating and tiring. We’re constantly battling our desire to live how we want, doing the things we want with the people we want. Giving in to temptation again and again makes us despair, and we can wonder if it’s all even worth it anyway.
But what an amazing promise is found in verse 4:
‘When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’
Of course it’s worth it! When this life is passed we have an eternity to spend with Jesus Christ, when we’ll no longer struggle with sin, feel like we’re missing out or wish we had more than we have. We’ll be sharing in Christ’s glory - perfect, whole and experiencing more joy than we could ever possibly imagine.
Jody is originally from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland but now works as a ministry trainee at a church in Cambridge. She is passionate about seeing people growing in their relationship with Jesus through God’s word, and loves that she gets to do that as part of her job. When she’s not working she loves spending time with her friends, cooking and watching musicals.