Comparison. I do it. You do it. I compare everything. Clothes. Houses. Cars. Success. Popularity. Age. Looks. Weight. Intelligence. And then there are the “little” comparisons that weird me out: things like the neighbor’s lawn vs. mine and the student’s thick head of hair vs. my thinning scalp. Want more? I have them and there is no end to my list.
So what’s the problem with comparison? It’s the three places it usually leads me:
- Pride. Pride is probably a more frequent result than I realize. But because it makes me feel good, it doesn’t particularly bother me or stress me out. I’m feeling pretty good about myself compared to you.
- Covetousness. Jealousy. This is my most common destination and the one that stresses me out. It brings out my sense of shame, not-good-enoughness, failure, laziness…and a whole bunch of other condemning accusations. This reaction is as deeply planted in us as pride…but we feel it more. I feel my failure and/or don’t like the “fairness” God has handed out. Why did I get the short straw? We see it running deep in the apostle Paul’s life when he confessed that when the law told him not to covet he found he couldn’t stop (Romans 7:5,6).
- Contentment. Really? Is this really a stressful destination? You bet. And why? Because a contentment rooted in comparison is a contentment based on circumstances. This type of contentment has pretty shallow roots. Maybe none at all. When my contentment is rooted in the circumstances of my life – that is a scary place to be. I know ultimately I can’t control the circumstances of my life no matter how hard I try. That leaves a constant backdrop of uncertainty that never leaves. I can’t quite relax. Always on guard. Alert.
And so if contentment based on acceptable circumstances is not the answer to de-stressing my life, what is? Dependence. Dependence on something firm. Unchangeable. Steady. Protective. And I will never find that in a thing, only in a person – God. “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge…be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come” (Psalm 71:1,2). John Owens, probably with Hebrews 6:19 in his mind, wrote:
We have an anchor that keeps the soul,
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.
Where do I go to de-stress? To my rock, to my refuge, to my anchor. And the more time I spend there with Him, the more I know I can trust Him. And in that trust of a God who I increasingly know, I find a new kind of contentment. Not a contentment based on the shifting circumstances of life, but a contentment that is anchored on an unchangeable rock. Anchored in God himself.
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