Comparison

Comparisonis thethiefof joy

It’s so easy to compare yourself to someone else, especially in a culture where people often post the best, happiest, most glamorous representation of themselves. Wishing you were a better parent, wishing you could look like them, wishing your job was as fulfilling as theirs, wishing that others were more like you…

It is so true that comparison is the thief of joy – it only leads to feelings of inadequacy or superiority, and nothing in between.

When it comes to suffering, it can be easy for you to compare your experience to someone else’s. Again, you will likely think one of two opposing thoughts: “I’m glad my suffering wasn’t as bad as theirs” or “They didn’t suffer as much as I’m suffering.

But comparing your specific suffering to another’s will only steal your joy. Everyone’s journey in life is going to look different. Even if the type of suffering is the same, we are each unique and respond to suffering in unique ways. Therefore, you will never have the same journey as another.

Can it be beneficial to relate to others about your suffering? Absolutely! It can be helpful to know others who have shared in similar types of suffering because they can offer encouragement and wisdom. But relating to others is very different from comparing your journey to another’s.

The surest way to maintain joy as you experience suffering is to abide in Christ.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. -Colossians 3:1-4

Choosing Joy Amidst Suffering

I cannot count the number of times that I have retreated to the corner of my closet to curl up in a fetal position and sob, snot and all. Whether I was battling thoughts of despair regarding our struggles with infertility, or just needed to stop everything for a moment and face some serious emotions that I had been trying to bury, to my closet I would go. I don’t know why I picked my closet. I suppose it just felt safe and non-judgmental. But most of all, it was quiet and free of distractions. It was a place I could completely bare my inner thoughts, fears, and anguish before the Lord.

Like you, I too know what it’s like to experience suffering. Not only have we experienced suffering in our marriage as two people who sometimes act selfishly try to form a life together, but we have struggled for five years with unexplained infertility. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s a struggle that isn’t often spoken about, but affects 1 in 8 couples. I spent years questioning why God was making us wait to become parents when it appeared to come so easily to most of our friends. After God worked in our hearts and we became open to the idea of adopting, we rejoiced in receiving the call from our caseworker that a birth family had chosen us to adopt their baby. But even with that joyous news, our suffering did not end. My mother-in-law, Lisa, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in the fall of 2014, and she died eight days after our daughter was born. A few months later, my nearly 95-year-old Meemaw died of peritoneal cancer. A month later, the long-time friend and man who first shared the gospel with my husband died of brain cancer.

Suffering is inevitable.

Because we live in a broken world – a world with sin – all people will experience suffering in some form or another. You’re not the only one suffering. Believer or non-believer, all people experience suffering because we live in a world ruled by Satan at the moment. Jesus Himself suffered, arguably the most of all.

Though you may be tempted to think otherwise, God does not cause your suffering. Instead, He allows you to experience suffering in the hope that you will trust Him completely.

A wonderful book I’ve read recently (The Grace Walk by Steve McVey) distinguishes between suffering and brokenness. He says that a person may experience suffering, but not necessarily reach a place of brokenness. He says that brokenness is when a person reaches the end of themselves, of their own self-efforts or attempts at controlling their lives, and instead decides to surrender to God and trust Him completely.

Reaching a place of brokenness seems really scary before it happens. But as someone who has experienced suffering that led to brokenness, I can promise you that there is so much peace and joy to be found in that moment.

Because after reaching a place of brokenness, you will never view your suffering in the same way again.

You will begin to see that there is so much good to be found in your suffering. Before you write me off as crazy, hear me out. Reaching a place of brokenness – where you decide to completely trust God no matter what happens – will help you to choose a joyful attitude. Unlike the feeling of happiness, joy is a state of mind. Joy is something you can choose even if you feel sad. You will be able to look at your suffering and focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have. You will be able to see how much God has taught you or how much He has moved throughout your suffering. And ultimately, you will bring glory to God because other people watching you respond to your suffering by choosing joy will be perplexed. Christ will do such a wondrous work through you as you learn to trust Him more and more.