“To compare is to despair.” So much truth in such a short sentence, yet comparison continues to be one of the things I struggle with the most.
I try not to set out to compare myself to others because I know where that leads, but the comparison trap sneaks up on me so often. Every time I see someone carrying a large bag, wearing jeans, bending over, or doing any number of things that I can’t physically do, the comparison is suddenly staring me in the face, unprompted. It makes my heart sting even more for a pain-free life without such limitations. Then when I see other people with their husbands, children, fathers, careers they love, etc., I can suddenly find myself pretty far down the rabbit hole without realizing what happened.
Comparisons are magnified for me because of the limitations of this illness and the subsequent significantly different course of my life, but I suspect that everyone can be subject to the comparison trap. Hello, social media.
It’s so easy to look at someone else’s life or photo and feel like you are lacking- that you are missing out on something, that things could be better than they are, that you are not where you are supposed to be. Social media is particularly like that for me this week- seeing photos of everyone else’s children starting school, all the while wondering if I’ll ever even have children.
I even find myself comparing where I am to what I envisioned God’s plan for my life would have been. In my mind, He had all of these wonderful things planned for me, but man’s free will and mistakes that were made in my case stopped all of that from happening. I then have to chuckle at myself a bit because Jesus and Mary surely didn’t have smooth or easy lives, but God’s plan surely unfolded through them!
It’s so easy for me to think if only… If only I had my health, if only I had a husband and children, if only things had transpired differently, then I could fully be the person I was meant to be. As if these external factors, though many of them are good, are the only way for me to be the person I’m supposed to be!
I’m working to see things in a different light though, especially after some spiritual reading I’ve been doing. I’m realizing that God’s will for me is to grow in relationship with Him and get to heaven to spend eternity with Him. His will isn’t just a series of significant events- He has a will for each moment of my day, even in the ordinary, mundane parts of life, and the goal of all of it is unity with Him. I now see that I don’t have to wait for the right circumstances to be able to do His will or trust that His will being accomplished- His will can unfold in my heart right now. If I surrender, seek to align my heart with His will, and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, then His will for my life that day is being accomplished, whether or not it looks like it by way of specific tasks or accomplishments from my vantage point.
What if instead of comparing my life to how I want it to be or to other peoples’ lives, I use God’s plan for who He created me to be as the benchmark and focus on doing His will in each moment? In my situation I can’t control the external factors such as my health and surrounding circumstances, but I can control the person I am in response to these external factors. I can choose to grow closer to God, to seek His will in each moment, to offer my day to Him, to do ordinary tasks with love, to do research that I don’t particularly like but that He is asking me to do, to love others, etc. And in doing those things, I can be who He created me to be, regardless of my circumstances, limitations, and unmet desires. Maybe it’s more about letting go of the specific ideas of “how it should be,” and instead focusing on being the person He created me to be and letting Him handle the rest.
What if we compared Jesus to our worldly idea of success today? He was a carpenter, then had a public ministry that “only” lasted for 3 years, then he was brutally murdered. His life isn’t something that would be glorified by our world, yet He accomplished more than anyone else who walked the face of the earth!
Growing in this way is taking a daily effort on my part. Last night, grief overwhelmed me as I approach turning another year older and am still not better yet, and I didn’t do well avoiding the comparison trap. But today, I’m trying again. I’m reminding myself that I don’t need specific external factors to do God’s will for my life right now, and I’m reminding myself that God knows exactly where I am, and that His will for me is being accomplished today even though I’m not so clear on how. Because my heart broke last night, I grew closer to Him today, and that’s the whole point anyway!