by Robyn Ferradas
For those of you who follow me on social media, you know my family is in the middle of a very unique season. It’s a place I never thought I’d ever be in, and I’ll be honest with all of you…it’s HARD. I know it’s God’s leading and I know that God is directing our path, but this does not make it any less difficult to walk through on a daily basis. I am a firm believer that life moves in seasons, and that circumstances come and go – nothing stays the same and God has something amazing to teach us in each season of life. I know this. I know He is faithful. Yet is still hard.
The beginning of this new path for us had me filled with anxiety. Have you been in that place before? Not the normal everyday worries of life. The BIG worrying. I was having so much anxiety, my stomach was in knots, I was having headaches and using the bathroom constantly, and I could not even eat. I felt like the stress was taking over, filling my mind and heart and body ALL DAY LONG. I was praying and reading the Word and meditating on my favorite passages, but deep down, I still felt defeated each and every single day. I just could not shake it, for week and weeks on end.
But then came Philippians 4, a passage I’ve read a zillion times over, but that God spoke into my heart in a fresh way: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgivinglet your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV, emphasis added).”
Just the two words I need to hear: WITH THANKSGIVING. How had I not put much emphasis on that portion of the passage before? When I’m struggling with all the hard things in life, how can I find a reason to rejoice? God tells me: BE THANKFUL! In the midst of the offering my requests up to Him, I should also have a heart of gratitude for my many blessings, rather than a heart only focused on the challenges and difficulties. Yes, He wants me to ask Him for what I need and come to Him with everything I’m going through. However, balancing that with thankfulness for what He is already doing, is the key to finding joy and peace in my life.
So I changed my time with the Lord. Rather than sitting in front of my journal each morning, paralyzed with anxiety about all of the uncontrollable and negative and unknown, unable to tune it all out, I started by writing down a list of that day’s blessings. When the worries would begin to bubble up inside my heart during the day, I’d stop and count my blessings and recall His faithfulness. And friends, the stress I was carrying in my soul and mind and body began to release. I’m not saying it’s totally gone – I’m only human. But God is gracious and kind to equip me with a strategy to battle that anxiety! Gratitude has been my secret weapon.
All of this is the reason for November’s monthly signs. You might have heard Rend Collective’s new song, “Counting Every Blessing,” and these two seasonal designs incorporate BOTH the lessons God is teaching me, and Rend Collective’s encouraging words about God’s goodness in every season of life. My prayer is that you will also find ways to see God’s blessings in your life, no matter what season you happen to be walking through. Starting each day with a grateful heart WILL give you a reason to rejoice.
by Robyn Ferradas
How do you view progress in life? If you’re anything like me, you expect results to happen pretty quickly – especially if you’re putting in the hard work. We’re taught that hard work pays off, and that if we just do our best, good things will happen. And while I do believe there is some truth related to strong work ethic bringing good results, I don’t believe it is always true. Ask a small business owner who has invested her blood, sweat, and tears into her shop, only to have it close down a few years later. Ask a mom who has faithfully raised her child in the Lord and parented well, only to see that child walk down a path of destruction as a teenager. Ask anyone who has worked for a company for years, and has then been passed over for a well-deserved promotion. Yes, in life, even if we work hard, are focused and dedicated, and walk closely with the Lord, progress may not happen as we quite imagined it would.
But are the “results” we expect, truly the point of the hard work? And are our expectations even realistic? Isaiah 55:8 states, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways,’ declares the Lord.” Perhaps part of the process within our progress, is learning to plod forward without dwelling on the “should haves” of the past, and trusting in what the Lord would have for us. Maybe it’s more about learning to understand that God has the best plan, and that maybe life is actually about how these circumstances in life grow us and make us more like Him. Often we’re looking for a particular end result and planning the easiest route to get there, when really, God is planning what will be BEST for us. This does not mean we should not work hard; rather, we should do our work “unto the Lord” and trust Him with the outcome.
And who knows, maybe a small business closing down allows for that woman to enter into a new season of ministry. Could it be that the struggle a mother faces with a wayward child could be used later to support and comfort a friend experiencing something similar? Or perhaps the trial of being passed over for a promotion, and yet remaining faithful to work hard in the company anyway, demonstrates a true example of humility to co-workers who may be watching. Maybe “progress” just doesn’t always look the way we initially imagined.
To me, this is the message behind September’s sign of the month, a quote by President Abraham Lincoln, a faithful man of God: “I’m a slow walker, but I never walk back.” We can never fully know God’s plan, but we can completely trust that He is directing our paths, and enabling us to walk forward in faith without dwelling on the past. The walking might feel slow at times, and we may wonder what’s around the corner. But we don’t need to doubt, or question, or walk backwards. We just have to trust Him with the process.
by Robyn Ferradas
With all of the changes and transitions going on in our family right now (see my Instagram post from July 15th), I’ve been working really hard to prioritize time in the Word and in prayer every single morning. I truly believe we can do hard things, and are often called to do hard things, but that half the battle is how we position our hearts for the task. Facing a difficult journey definitely requires complete reliance on the Lord, but it also requires us to choose how we will respond on a daily basis in the challenging moments. My time with the Lord each day is critical in making this happen. Currently, I’m spending time journaling through Shanna Noel’s “100 Days of Bible Promises,” and finishing reading “Present Over Perfect,” by Shauna Niequist. But I also wanted to pray more specifically for my husband during this time, so I’m re-reading Stormie Omartian’s “The Power of a Praying Wife.” There is a phrase I saw in her book recently, and it impacted me so much, that I used it to create August’s SIGN OF THE MONTH: “Shut up and pray.”
In Stormie Omartian’s book, she discusses the importance of a wife using wisdom and discernment in what she says to her husband, so that thoughts and feelings do not become a point of contention or strife in the marriage. Her advice is to pray before speaking, and to “shut up and let God work.” The loving EXAMPLE of a godly wife encourages change and understanding, far more than nagging, whining, complaining, or pushing – and it allows for God to work. But I took her words to heart in a more general sense as well. When I see struggles my kids are having, am I bringing it to God first, to ask Him how I can best support them? Am I listening to God about changes to make in my own life before I just act on what I think I should do? When I have a problem, do I talk to God about it BEFORE I share it with friends or my family or even social media? This simple phrase is just what God knew I needed to hear. Of course, there is a time to speak truth, share news, ask for advice, or even confront someone else. However, discussing what’s on my heart with God first, and then listening for Him to answer, is a much more wise way of living. Like Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” I’m praying that I will be a woman of wisdom, and learn to “shut up and pray” before I act. How about you?
by Robyn Ferradas
This will probably not be my most popular blog post, and I’m okay with that. I’ve thought a lot about this particular topic, and I’m ready to share my thoughts, even if it departs from “the mainstream.” To be quite honest, I am not overly concerned with popular thinking – I am concerned most of all with God’s Truth. But I ALWAYS want to be a person who can share my understanding of Truth in a respectful way, without offending others, and allow each individual to come to his or her own conclusions. I pray this is the case here.
In my line of work, I am always in contact with words: phrases, quotes, song lyrics, written text, etc. And of course, there are some sayings I don’t like or that don’t really impact me, like “Good Vibes Only,” or “Follow Your Heart.” Words impact all of us differently. But there is particular phrase I’ve seen often in the past few years, and it continues to rub me the wrong way as a Christ-follower: YOU ARE ENOUGH. I see it on signs. I see it on shirts. I hear it spoken and proclaimed by strong Christian women on Instagram and blogs and podcasts. Believe me, I’ve thought through the phrase and I’m not trying to be judgmental to anyone in particular. I’ve pondered the meaning of the phrase, talked to friends about it, discussed it with my husband, and searched God’s Word. And in the end, it’s not just that the phrase does not resonate with me. It’s that this particular phrase spreads a false message, rampant in our society, that YOU are enough. Is this really what God says? Am I enough?
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-11
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
I can understand how many interpret the saying and why they embrace it. In a technology-based society, comparison is rampant. People are struggling with self-acceptance and self-esteem. Especially as women, we’re constantly battling inferior thoughts about our appearance, our weight, our jobs as moms and wives, our home-making abilities, our performance in our careers – and often because we’re comparing ourselves to others (you can see my January blog for more on that topic). The message to do our best within the confines of who God made US to be, is an important one, and I stand behind that whole-heartedly. We should learn to love who God created us to be. But to take the message of being “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and turn it into a message that each of us are already “enough,” is untrue. God’s Word is clear: we are not enough. We are imperfect. We are sinners. HE ALONE IS ENOUGH, and HE is the only One who can make us enough. When a message is spread that we are enough, I believe we water down the actual Gospel message.
I believe we actually SHOULD recognize our own insufficiencies, as it is what brings us to our need for God. I am weak in my ability to be a good wife and mother. I don’t always know how to have the right attitude. Sometimes I lack self-discipline and overeat or procrastinate in my work or speak rudely to my family. I look at myself, and see so many weaknesses and mistakes – I do NOT feel that I am ENOUGH. EVER. I am acutely aware that I am a sinner. But this is also what makes me aware that I need a Savior. If I could do it all and be enough on my own, why would I need God? If I truly think I am enough as I am, why do I need God’s grace…or ultimately His gift of salvation? And this is why I have a problem with the phrase. It does not remind us of our need for Jesus.
The word “Gospel,” means “Good News.” As Christians who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, we no longer live as slaves to sin. We no longer wallow in our weakness, imperfection, or insufficiencies. We know they are there, of course. But we are MADE ENOUGH, because Christ is enough. We have everything we need, because we have Christ, and we can live victoriously, not through ourselves, but through Him. He is ENOUGH and He can use our weakness to show His power. Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But because of His great loves for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”
Maybe you’re reading this and feeling like I’m focusing too much on semantics or a minor detail or am just plain over-analyzing. You are most definitely entitled to your opinion. I know many of you love this particular saying. However, my personal feeling is that those of us who call ourselves Bible-believing Christians, should consider carefully whether or not phrases we claim and preach, really do align with God’s Word, especially when it comes to core tenets of our faith. And if not, we should abandon them. Words are powerful. Small messages can have great impact. This little phrase may seem minor to you, but it’s really not – it’s supremely important. We want to make others AWARE of their need for Christ, not encourage them to believe that they alone are enough. We are not perfect as we are. We are NEVER ENOUGH. And this should always point us to our need for our Savior and His grace in our lives. Ruth Chou Simons articulates my thoughts exactly, when she states, “You may not feel like you’re enough, but Christ certainly is.” And this is the message and heart behind this month’s sign.
by Robyn Ferradas
The story behind this month’s sign is simple: I heard this quote by Jill Churchill about motherhood, and thought it needed to be made into a sign so more folks could be impacted by its message. And I thought it would be fun to make one version for moms and one version for dads.
I’ll be honest – parenting is one of the most challenging roles of my life. I love it and it is wonderful and rewarding and amazing all at once. But it can also be so hard. Often though, it’s not life’s unpredictable circumstances and human relationships that make it tough, I make it difficult because of the critical eye in which I view myself and the job I’m doing. I focus more on what I’m doing wrong, than on what I’m doing well. I worry that I’m messing up my kids or not raising them "the right way." I struggle to give myself grace when I’m not perfect in my dealings with them. Of course, all of this comes from a good place of desiring to do my best because I love my kids with all of my heart and want God’s best for them. However, I’m slowly learning that I will never do motherhood perfectly, and that God’s grace is big enough to fill in the gaps where I don’t meet the mark.
I’m human. I’m imperfect. I’m weak. No matter how hard I try to do my best, there will be times I’ll fail. Yet in those moments, rather than giving up in futility or become apathetic to the job at hand, I can rely on the Lord to keep growing me as a mom and showing me how to love better. Which is why this quote was so impactful to me. There is NO WAY to be a perfect parent. That title is reserved for God alone. But yes, indeed, there are a million ways to be a dang good one – and we should all keep at it! I pray this message encourages your hearts, mommas and daddies. You are EXACTLY the parent God knew your child needed. You’ll never do it perfectly, but you sure can do it well, especially with God’s help.
by Robyn Ferradas
I’ve had many folks ask where I get ideas for signs. And to be honest, most of my ideas for new signs come from experiences in my everyday life: something going on in my family, a book I’m reading, a sermon I’ve heard, a conversation with a friend, a topic in a podcast, etc. I don’t worry what other sign makers are creating. I avoid the influence of Pinterest. I don’t get too caught up with what the “popular” sayings happen to be. I want my sign ideas to be born from what’s happening around me, and then creatively sprout to life within my own heart and mind. Generally, I feel like my mind is so filled with ideas, I could never possibly get them all out – although I try!
I can’t quite remember where I first heard this saying. But it was one of those that I immediately texted to myself to remember, as I knew it needed to be made into a sign. I’d been pondering the idea of a new “kindness-related” sign, and I loved the image of kindness being “put on,” like clothing or make-up or a new pair of shoes. Oftentimes we’re doing so much to “look good” on the outside, when truly, it is the
inner character of our person that shines the brightest. Kindness is actually a win-win for everyone involved. Not only does kindness benefit the recipient, but ultimately it makes the giver of the act look good, too. I believe Colossians 3 says it best, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…and above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (vv. 12, 14).”
So why not wear kindness more often? Put on a little love. Try out some patience or compassion. These things look good on all of us.
by Robyn Ferradas
The idea for this month’s sign came to me easily: I heard the words spoken by the worship pastor at my church. REJOICE IS A CHOICE. Can I share a bit of his story, and his precious wife, Tina, with you?
My friend Tina went to be with the Lord a little over four years ago. Tina was an incredible woman – a Christ-follower, an amazing cook, an incredible crafter, a cancer survivor, a fierce lover of her family, a devoted wife, and one of the most honest and authentic hearts I have ever known. I attended Bible study with Tina for many years, and was always encouraged by her honest words about motherhood, marriage, and just life in general. I remember her talking about how she had not accomplished anything “great” in life by the world’s standards, but that her greatest joy and legacy in life was that her adult children were amazing people. I remember her coming to Bible study each week with a huge tumbler of Diet Coke, and not caring one lick that it was 9:00 in the morning. And I’ll never forget Tina’s love for the beach, and honesty in saying, “This might sound bad, but if there’s no beach in heaven, I don’t want to go there!” And one of her favorite sayings was, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” Oh, Tina’s REALNESS was so refreshing. And I still make her hazelnut scone recipe, to this day!
But Tina got sick. Her body would not move properly. Her limbs stopped working. Her speech slurred to the point she could barely communicate. Test after test after test did not indicate what was wrong, and doctors were unable to diagnose her. And eventually Tina left this world for heaven, leaving behind her beloved husband, her amazing children and their spouses, her precious grandbabies, and hundreds of friends she impacted so deeply. Her memorial service stands out to me as one of the most powerful I’ve ever attended – because God was given all the glory, her family loved on each other in their grief, and her life was honored with joy and gratitude for who she was.
Fast-forward to a few Sundays ago at church, when her husband, our worship pastor, remembered Tina on her birthday. He shared his grief in losing his wife, but how God has taught him, through it all: REJOICE IS A CHOICE. Each day, he can wake up and choose to trust God, choose to live, and choose to rejoice. Like Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord, always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” And friends, this profoundly touched my heart. To commit your heart to rejoicing in the Lord, despite life’s most despairing of circumstances, seems almost impossible. But it can be done through the work on the Holy Spirit! And our worship pastor is a living example of this truth. How blessed I felt, to hear his truthful reminder. Sometimes in life, I look at other people walking through something difficult, and wonder, “How are they able to withstand this?” Yet, I know God gives each of us the grace and strength we need to make it, and can even bless us with JOY, in the midst of pain. Rejoice is a choice, and God is big enough to empower us to choose it.
by Robyn Ferradas
I just finished up a study on 2 Corinthians, and was most impacted by Paul’s discussion in Chapter 12 about the “thorn in his flesh.” Have you ever been pricked by a thorn? Have you ever had a splinter (I know splinters VERY WELL in my line of work!)? Thorns and splinters can be the cause of constant irritation, ache, discomfort, and pain. This is the exact metaphor Paul used to describe a constant struggle he personally faced in his life. Although there may be a hint that his “thorn” was vision impairment, nowhere in the New Testament are we told what Paul’s thorn actually was. What we do know, is that Paul’s constant source of affliction was given or “bestowed upon” him by God, in order to keep him humble and allow God to be glorified through the weakness. Paul asked three times for God to take the thorn away; for God to remove the difficulty, trial, pain, or suffering in his life. But God did not remove it.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, we see some of Paul’s most well-known words, “But He (God) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Did he actually say he was CONTENT with weaknesses, insults, hardship, persecutions, and calamites? Content? Yes. Paul prayed for his “thorn” to be removed, but once he saw the greater purpose God had in the midst of the affliction, and that it would not be removed, he accepted what God allowed and embraced God’s power being demonstrated through his weak places. He was content. Paul knew that his weakness would allow ALL GLORY in anything he might accomplish to go straight to God. In those moments of utter weakness and Paul’s complete surrender, God’s power could rest upon him. And this is what impacted my heart in such a profound way.
So here’s my story: A few years back, I woke up one morning, and could barely hear out of my right ear. Not the typical ear infection or sick from a cold hearing loss, but a strong pressure and the feeling that I was losing my hearing. Almost the same feeling you might get on an airplane. However, it would not go away. After multiple visits to our family doctor (ear infection, virus, too much wax, etc.), I ended up seeing an ENT specialist, who informed me that very day, that I had a low tone hearing loss in my right ear. I was shocked. I entered that office thinking I’d get an easy fix, and left that office feeling completely defeated. What was causing this? Why was God allowing me to lose my hearing? Would I become completely deaf? How would I be able to continue as a musician without my hearing? But friends, my story does not end there. The cause for my loss was a mystery. Over the next two years, no stone was left unturned on the path toward a diagnosis of possible causes: a tumor, lupus, Crohn’s Disease, Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease (AIED); you name it. I had all the blood tests. My hearing was checked monthly. I tried all sorts of medications. I continued to suffer with bouts of tinnitus and fluctuating hearing. And oh, how difficult it was to not know what was causing my hearing loss and to just live in the “unknown.” Yet though years of this strange medical process of elimination, doctors finally arrived at the culprit: Cochlear Meniere’s Disease.
I have no idea what Paul’s “thorn” was, but I can definitely say this illness has truly been a “thorn” in my life. I recognize I do not have as bad of a medical issue as many others – some folks have it much worse. My hearing is only a loss of the low tones, and although it can be frustrating at times, I can still hear generally well. Even the fact that I have the “cochlear” version of Meniere’s, means I do not have to suffer through vertigo. I also deal with intense tinnitus, but I have found some treatments that help to make life manageable. I can see all of the blessings amongst the struggle, and I fully recognize all I have to be thankful for. At the same time, friends, I am human. I deal with my condition on a daily basis, and some days are hard. I’d love for God to remove my thorn! But for this time, and for reasons only God knows completely, He has chosen not to. And like Paul, I have had to learn to accept it: my hearing is a weakness. I do not hear like I used to. I lose sleep due to loud ringing that keeps waking me up from rest. Sometimes the pressure is so strong and the ringing is so loud, I cannot continue my day without white noise in my headphones. Too much noise in loud, public places can also be very irritating and mentally confusing. Yet through it all, I have seen God work. In my moments of despair, God has proven Himself to be faithful. It is really not my own inner strength that keeps me moving forward without constant complaints – it is Him. He teaches me how to be content. He has comforted my soul.
But on top of all of these lessons, I have also seen how God has used my medical condition to teach me how to care for others: To be a friend to someone facing an unknown medical issue, to reach out with compassion to those who are hurting or struggling with their health, and to pray for those who need support through their trial, whatever it may be. Even though my “thorn” has hurt at times and has made me completely aware of my limitations, it is still building in me the lessons I need to be a comfort to others. I mentioned 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 in my previous blog post, but it resonated with me this month, in relation to trials, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. ” We CAN comfort others with the comfort with which we have received from God. Is this not a display of His power being made perfect in weakness?
This month’s sign, is truly a reflection of the lessons I continue to learn about pain and weakness and comfort. Pain is a part of life. We will all have the thorns. Yet if we choose, we can also receive God’s comfort. And after we have walked through it all, we can readily share His comfort with others, in a way that says, “I once stood in your shoes; now I stand beside you.”
by Robyn Ferradas
Do you take the time to really see people and know people and seek hearts? I’ve asked myself this question a lot lately, especially in relation to my husband and my kids, and to be honest, the answer is often, “No.” Do I want to? YES! Of course! I want to see what my family members need, and really know them intimately and impact their hearts. This is one of the deepest desires of my heart. Yet this desire does not always translate into action. Why?
A few things come to mind from my own experiences:
Maybe some of the above scenarios resonate with you, or maybe there are other circumstances impacting your ability to see others AND allow them into your heart to see you. Regardless of your personal struggle, God has created the family, He has made us for community, and He does call us to love and serve others. And as Christ-followers, we desperately want this. So what is the key to actually making it happen (or at least heading in that direction)?
I was encouraged the other day with Philippians 1:8, where Paul writes to the church in Philippi, “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (ESV).” I believe, the secret ingredient to loving and serving and seeing and giving and opening your heart to others, is to do it WITH THE AFFECTION OF CHRIST JESUS. It comes from Him! Often I’m trying to balance my schedule, I’m striving to refocus my time, I’m working through struggles and challenges in my family, I’m pushing to heal from pain in my past. Me, myself, and I. But in what ways am I allowing God to work IN and THROUGH me? In what ways do I love others with the affection of Christ?
The heart of the Gospel tells us that we will never be able to modify our behavior enough or muster the action needed to be “good.” Romans 3:10 tells us, “No one is righteous, no, not one.” This does not mean we can sit around praying and then God will make a miracle happen and we will just automatically love others as He does. God calls us to action and has given us the gift of freewill. However, truly seeing and loving others in spite of challenges, can happen even in the hard moments, when we love WITH THE AFFECTION OF CHRIST JESUS. When the Holy Spirit empowers us to love as Jesus loves. It is not enough to want to it. It is not enough to muster the energy or courage or strength to do it. It must be done with God’s power.
I went to see the movie “Wonder” with my family in December, and was deeply touched by its message. (My daughter and I have since started reading the book as well.) But the last line of the movie pretty much sums up what I'm trying to get at here: “If you really want to see what people are, all you have to do is look.” You have to be willing to look, but with the eyes of Jesus.
by Robyn Ferradas
Post originally featured as a guest piece on Savannah Barr's Joyful Pine blog.
As I considered and prayed about what to contribute to Savannah’s blog, I felt God leading me to write about a topic close to my heart as a woman, a wife and mother, a teacher, and an artist: COMPARISON. It’s an area I have personally struggled with and worked through with the Lord, and an issue I see many women wrestling with alone. But we’re not alone. Paul writes, in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In no way, have I mastered the struggle of comparison, or “arrived.” However, I’d like to say I have grown some, and I pray these words will be a sweet comfort to your soul, if you are struggling with comparison.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to compare, is “to examine the character or qualities of especially in order to discover resemblances or differences.” And there is nothing wrong with this. She has blonde hair and I have brown hair. His car is big and her car is small. My dad is taller than my mom. This is a SKILL we actually teach children in school – remember learning to use a Venn diagram? We need to know how to do this to navigate in our world. The problem occurs, however, when we begin using comparison to give VALUE. Blonde hair is BETTER THAN brown hair. His big car is NICER than her small car. My mom is WAY TOO short. Each of these comparisons gives value to something based on a measuring stick of personal opinion or worldly standards, and this assigning of value will always be flawed. Our comparison valuing is not based on absolute or concrete Truth.
But an even deeper problem occurs when we aren’t just comparing and assigning value to “things out there,” but to ourselves in relation to others. We’re reading a fashion magazine or scrolling a celebrity website and wishing we were skinnier. We’re looking on Pinterest and thinking about how terrible our house looks in comparison to images we’ve pinned. We’re watching that “perfect mom” with her kids and thinking we should be doing more. I could come up with a bundle of scenarios along these same lines, whether in “real life” or in our relationship to technology and social media. We are comparing ourselves to others and then assigning an arbitrary value, often with very little grace or kindness toward our own hearts. Have you ever played this comparison valuing game?
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I believe he was 100% correct! When we compare ourselves to others, we lose sight of our own gifts, purpose, and calling. We stop seeing who God has made us to be. We forget about our own growth or progress or hard work, because we’ve stopped comparing self to self, and started comparing self to others. Don’t hear me wrong. I am not saying we should not want to improve. We definitely want to get better and grow! God calls us to, “Be holy, as I am holy (1 Peter 1:16),” because excellence brings glory to the Father and leads others to His heart. But at the core of the issue of comparison, is MOTIVE. Why are we comparing? Is it to grow as Christ-followers and bring glory to the Lord, or for some other reason? There are GOOD MODELS out there, and we can work to emulate them. Maybe your health is declining and a fit friend encourages you with an exercise program. Good model, and the Lord does want us to take care of our bodies. Maybe you’ve been struggling to be a patient mom, and you read a parenting book by an expert who gives you tips to improve. Good model, and the Lord does want us to parent well. Maybe you see a co-worker finding success with a particular business strategy, and you begin to implement something similar. Good model, and the Lord does want us to do our work well. It just goes back to heart motive and value placing. We can observe good models in relation to ourselves and seek to improve, without putting ourselves down in the process or developing negative thinking. This allows us to walk our own journey in the season God has us, as He has called, and with joy and genuine growth.
I read 2 Corinthians 10 yesterday, and these words leapt off the page: “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding…For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends (vv. 12,18).” THE LORD COMMENDS. So why are comparing in the first place? Might I be so bold as to say we are all ultimately looking to fill a deep need for love and approval, but are often using the wrong measure? The measuring stick for all things in life IS based on something absolute and concrete: God. Not personal opinion. Not worldly values. Not another person or thing. As Christ-followers, our measuring stick is God’s Word, and we will always measure up because we have been redeemed and covered by Christ’s work on the cross. Therefore, we should “make it our aim to please Him (2 Cor. 5:9).” We don’t need to worry about comparing ourselves to others, if we keep our eyes on the Lord, first and foremost.
Dear sisters, I know this is not easy. There are days I have felt alone and defeated in a particular area. The comparison bug bites, and I let the poison settle in my heart. I forget to pray, I don’t put on my armor, I spend little time connecting with the Lord, and I focus on how I don’t measure up…all pitfalls on the road to true victory! Yet there have also been more days lately, in which I have felt deep joy in relishing who God has made me to be, and in using my gifts to serve Him (regardless of what anyone else is doing). And I look to Him to for ultimate commendation. An amazing mentor and friend once told me, “Keep your eyes up to God, and then back on your own work bench.” So much truth in her words, right? If we can fix our eyes on Jesus and His measure of grace, and less on comparing our value to others, oh, the joy and purpose to be had! May these Truths settle in your heart today.