The Thief of Joy

My girls are 4 and 8 years old. Something I’ve noticed as they’ve grown is how often even the smallest of situations can become a competition. They say, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and apparently, it begins early. Of course, it is probably a normal and even important part of their development as they become more aware of others/self-aware. But tonight I was reflecting on how adults rarely grow out of the very human tendency to compare and compete.

A sign of spiritual maturity is the ability to follow Paul’s admonition in Romans 12. (It’s there for a reason—it’s not natural for us to think or behave this way.)

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. . . Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. . . take delight in honoring each other. . . Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! . . . Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

Cain & Able. Joseph & his brothers. Saul & David. Rachel & Leah. Sarah and Hagar. The Pharisees and Jesus. So many examples of envy and competition in the Scripture. What is the source? Insecurity. Fear. Not truly believing that Emmanuel will provide all we need. I think we also really struggle when we feel out of control of our lives or our circumstances. “Why am I going through x when they aren’t? Why don’t I have the same access to financial blessings as they do? Why am I suffering loss when they seem to be living the dream?” We compare, we envy, we try to compete. This very human struggle never brings peace or security. And while social media and media definitely add fuel to the fire we can’t blame either one for this epidemic of misery when we have ancient texts telling us this has been a problem since Eve listened to the serpent’s advice. The problem is ours—not the person posting their vacation or their tidy house or that they have hit 50 million followers on TikTok. Our reaction to those things simply expose what’s already in our hearts—discontent.

What’s the cure? Surrender and acceptance. Knowing we are God’s brings security, peace, contentment, and assurance that we have all we need and always will—even if it doesn’t seem like enough. This is faith. Walking in it is faithfulness. And it is hard because it’s unnatural—but God’s “divine power has given us all we need for life and godliness.”

If you also struggle with comparison or feel like you need to compete with others don’t beat yourself up. Guess what? You’re human. Ask the Lord to help you live out Romans 12. He doesn’t condemn us for our weakness, he died and rose again to rescue us from our misery. He extends his grace to help us in “our time of need.” He longs for us to know our true place in him—that we do, indeed, have an important place and purpose—and to be satisfied with who he created us to be, with what he created us to do, and where he has chosen for us to live.

Yes, it is very appropriate these thoughts came to me tonight. Song release days are incredibly hard for me. Some feel pride, I often feel humiliated. There, I said it. But I keep going because he’s given me something to share—and if one person is touched by one of these songs, it was worth it.

Keep doing your thing, too. Whatever it is, whatever your calling, in whatever capacity. Don’t compare or compete. Just be faithful.

Peace to you!

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Joseph’s Song
A Cheerful Word