The Comparison Trap
Today I had a moment of, “What am I doing this all for?” I was contrasting my life as a child of God to those who ignore God and I began to mourn the fairness of it all. They seem so at ease with life. They enjoy all of life’s pleasures and an abundance of health, wealth, and freedom.
And that’s when it happened, in a moment of exhaustion, the enemy gained a foothold in my mind and soul and had me thinking of giving in and surrendering to this world. But as God often does, he used his word to remind me I am not alone.
It just so happened that my 365-day devotional plan book pointed me to Psalm 73 that day. In this Psalm we hear Asaph get his priorities twisted, he writes:2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Asaph is entrenched in grief. And not the good kind of grief. It’s good to mourn what God hates like our struggle with sin, the broken condition of the world, corruption, injustice, and poverty among some things. But grief is dangerous when you begin to question God’s goodness and love. “I’ve obeyed, and this is what I get?” Just like Asaph, I became entrenched in my grief. A victim of my circumstances.
But as I read it in Asaph’s words, I recognized how toxic this thinking is.
First off, the judgment! It is not my job or Asaph’s to judge other people’s decisions. That is God’s role and God’s alone. We are all flawed human beings and each person’s journey is different. As Kasey Musgraves would say,
Nobody's perfect, we've all lost and we've all lied
Most of us have cheated the rest of us have tried
The holiest of the holy even slip from time to time
We've all got dirty laundry hanging on the line
Essentially, she goes on to say mind your own biscuits (business). Now, I’m not preaching relativism. It’s good to hold our brothers and sisters in Christ accountable. But there is a difference between criticism and constructive criticism. And if we’re not careful we may develop a critical spirit.
A critical spirit is someone who has an attitude toward criticism (the act of judging others, finding fault, blaming, or condemning). This is in direct opposition to constructive criticism which is done in love to build up. People with a critical spirit tend to dwell on the negative, seek flaws vs. strengths, and usually have something to complain about.
There are typically 5 causes of a critical spirit:
- Negativity: bad attitude/negative view that has been caused by bitterness or unforgiveness or out of unconfessed sin.
- Insecurity: By putting down others they are inwardly trying to feel more important.
- Immaturity: when an immature believer is overly dependent on other believers and when others fail it threatens their sense of victory.
- Unrenewed mind: putdowns or sarcasm. As a Christian, we shouldn’t have those attitudes, but instead, be renewed by God’s word and bear with one another in love.
- The Devil: He utilizes critical spirits to cause discord among believers (See: Eph. 6: 12, 4:27 Rev. 12:10)
The first step in healing a critical spirit is acknowledging there is a problem. Second, identifying the root cause. Finally, repent and ask for healing.
Lord, free me of a critical spirit. Holy Spirit, intervene when thoughts of criticism surface and replace them with empathy and encouragement. Help me to combine grace + truth to provide constructive criticism that builds up those around me when sin is present. Renew my mind. Help me to keep my mind stayed on you. Because only when I stop looking at others and start looking to you will I find perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
The second realization I had was that I would be completely naïve to think I could go back to the way things once were. I’m envying others’ ability to live carefree, but in reality, when I was living that way something was always missing.
No. I am a child of God now. Nothing can separate me from him. The Holy Spirit was implanted in my soul and guides my ways. A life of living for myself would only lead to torment and emptiness. In moments of displaced mourning. I must lean into God’s goodness rather than question if it exists. I’ve begun to realize it’s easy to become impatient while waiting for God to act, but we must never give up on Him. What seems slow to us is perfect timing in God’s eyes. Remember he gets to see the bigger picture. His plan and purpose are good. We must trust in the Lord and remember He is always with us; He holds us by our right hand. Guides us with his counsel and will take us into glory.
So, when you find yourself getting caught up in the comparison game or asking yourself, “what is all this for?” Review the great acts of God throughout history and review what he has done for you. Let this remind you that God is at work not only in history but in your life as well. Bring your concerns to Jesus and remember that he is a close friend and confidant. He can empathize with us, because he was once human too, tempted in every way, just as we are and yet he did not sin. We can approach God’s throne with confidence and freely receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Reset your thoughts and heart and carry on. Don’t give up. Every season has its purpose. And God has great plans for you. He will bring you into Glory.