By Meredith R Sheppard
The woman I listened to on the phone tearfully related how inferior she felt to the other students in her Bible class, largely made up of fellow church members - young and old, professionals and plain old Joes, Ph.D’s and “GED’s.”
When the instructor asked questions or called for comments, if a “professional” responded, this precious sister clammed up, retreating to the inner recesses of her thickening shell. Week after week this was her practice. An unwilling captive of comparison, imprisoned by tormenting thoughts of inadequacy and failure, she wavered between finishing the course and quitting.
A teen girl, straight-A student, recipient of numerous awards and scholarships, who has the looks and poise of a model, struggles with feeling bad about herself and is often unaware of her abilities. While digging to find the root of her discontent she surprised me with a ready response, “I know why I feel this way... I’m comparing myself to others.”
Sadly, I’ve had similar conversations with many women, including ministry wives. One bright, articulate ministry wife felt “less than” because she is not college educated.
Being in the company of ministry wives who have college and/or seminary degrees caused her to regret having made a different educational and career choice many years ago. When consumed with comparing herself to others, she lost sight of her giftedness and God-given ability to minister effectively. However, when this ministry wife confronted comparison as sin and repented of how she let it control her life, a newfound freedom and self-acceptance was discovered.
When we struggle with comparison, we are usually comparing our weaknesses to the strengths of another. Consequently we mistakenly assume others think or feel about us the way we think or feel about ourselves.
God told Moses to send men to explore the land of Canaan, which He promised to give to the Israelites. Moses chose 12 leaders to explore Canaan and come back with a thorough report of the land, its produce, the people and their villages. Although the men came back boasting of the land’s bounty, they were fearful of its inhabitants. “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size…We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Num.13:32, 33b).
By comparing themselves to the inhabitants of Canaan, the Israelites lost sight of who they were, whose they were, and God’s promise to give them the land. Their fear led to faithlessness and disbelief, which caused God to become angry with them. “How long will this people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them”? (Num. 14:11)
By comparing ourselves to other women we, too, can lose sight of who we are, whose we are, and the promises and plans God gives us. Fear of not measuring up can lead to faithlessness and disbelief, born of discouragement. It also grieves the Holy Spirit.
Before you can ever find and enjoy fulfillment as a Christian woman, you must know who you are. There will always be the inner and outer voices telling you who you should be and what you should be doing. Resisting the temptation to listen to and heed those voices will keep you from the frustration of spinning off into a thousand different destructive directions.
Whenever someone shares with me their struggle with comparison, I share with them the following Scriptures: “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. But, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Cor. 10:12, 17-18). “[Sisters] think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord’” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).
Remember the 12 explorers Moses chose to spy out Canaan? Two of the 12, Joshua and Caleb, brought back a different report. Believing God’s promise to give them the land, Caleb said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it... The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Num.13:30; 14:7-9).
I challenge you to become like Joshua and Caleb who, despite their circumstances, believed God. If you believe God’s Word and you act upon it, you too can conquer comparison.