We all know that one person: That one person whose kids are better than ours. That one person who has a bigger house. That one person whose marriage seems more solid than ours. That one person who’s prettier, smarter, craftier, more theological, who can be it all for everyone. And secretly we hate them. And by hate, I mean envy. We’re jealous. We don’t want to admit it because commandment #10 (Exodus 20:17) runs through our mind, “do not covet;” but we are envious. We wish we had what they had. We wish we had more money. We wish we had more time to make our own laundry soap. We wish we had more energy to have sex. There is ALWAYS something better.
But God’s desire is not for us to compare. His word tells us to be happy where we’re at, to be content with what God has given us and what He has taken away. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Philippians 4:11-12) His desire is for us to be joyful and content in every aspect of life. But why is it so hard? If you’re anything like me, those little devils of comparison chirp their discontent ALL DAY LONG. “Your house could be cleaner. You could be in better shape. You could be a happier mom. You could read more books. Your hair could be prettier. You could be more charismatic, you’re socially awkward.”
Logically I understand not to listen to these voices. I know I need to listen to God’s voice, but it’s so tiring to fight this fight every minute of every day. God’s voice says “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) And, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into enter the kingdom of God.” (Mathew 19:24) And “you cannot serve God and money.” (Mathew 6:24)
So how do we survive? By the grace of God, I have learned some techniques to help fend off those evil voices of discontent.
#1 Combat them with scripture. If you don’t have any verses memorized that speak directly to discontentment and comparison, here’s a few to get you started. Use them as a line of defense. Meditate on them and they will change your heart and your attitude.
2 Timothy 1:7
And many more!
#2 Remember the good things.
It’s cliche but count your blessings. Every time you find yourself envying, stop right then and say 3 things you’re thankful for. Science shows that when we live a life of gratitude, we are happier. Which in turn can make us feel better about ourselves. Which in turn can help those around us, like our children or co-workers. Which in turn can be a light to the dark world. And we can ALWAYS find things to be grateful for.
#3 Remember we all struggle with something. No one is perfect. Every single person you come in contact with is struggling with his or her own personal demons. So, show some compassion for them and give yourself some grace. God is working on all of us at our own pace.
#4 Do something about it and pray.
At the risk of making you mad, do something about it. If you want to be more versed in theology, read a book. If you want to be a better friend, put birthdays and reminders in your calendar. If you want to be in better shape, suck it up and go for a run. This might sound harsh. But we can make excuses until the cows come home. At some point you have to put off excuses and JUST DO IT.
I recently used this tactic with exercising, and it has made the biggest difference in my life. Besides Jesus of course. Speaking of, make sure you’re praying! Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Pray, pray, pray. Seek, ask, beg, humble yourself before God; and remember it’s His Holy Spirit that does the work in your heart, so pray for that! (See Romans 8:26 and 2 Corinthians 3:17.)
He can and will and promises to make us people of joy and gratitude (Galatians 5:22). (Notice I didn’t say “make all your circumstances perfect.”) Have faith that your God keeps his promises (Philippians 4:19; Philippians 4:6-9). It might take some time for that heart change to happen, so be patient. But it will happen.
And after that, when you fail, forgive yourself, and try again the next day.
Each morning His mercies are new (Lamentations 3:22-23).
He won’t ever give up on you, so don’t give up on yourself. This kind of stuff takes a lifetime to cultivate, so take courage and keep trying!