Friday, December 3, 2010

Debunking the Comparison-Trick

Recently I had a challenging day and was scrambling for God’s grace and patience. No, it wasn’t a family tragedy, or a lost job, or a diagnosis of a terminal illness. It was simply facing recurring pesky irritations in our house. It was nothing new that hadn’t happened before, I just felt more vulnerable and others’ comments felt like barbs entering my spirit. I was having difficulty not lashing out with unkind words or my defensive sarcasm. My impulse was to find a place to be alone and cry, but then I thought, “This is nothing compared to what others are facing. Buck up, Jane.” I swallowed my tears and kept trying.

But the neat comparison-trick didn’t really work. The comparison only succeeded in making me feel more inadequate and stupid and pushed me to be even more irritable! The comparison-trick only delayed my ability to deal with how I was feeling. It was only when the lights were out and Randy was gently snoring next to me, that I was able to breath and get fresh perspective.

God came so close, and surprised me with his response. He didn’t compare my pain to someone else’s pain. He saw and understood my hurt, my trials, and my struggles. And he embraced me with his tender compassion. I awoke in the morning with a solid sense of his support and faced the same challenges with more grace and self-control.

Today I’ve spent more time rolling these thoughts around and questioning the validity of the comparison-trick I had learned sometime in my past (probably during a time when I needed a kick to spin me out of self-pity). I recalled that God hand picks the temptations that are allowed in my life (1 Cor 10:13). Because of that, there’s no need for me or God to compare my struggles to another person’s trials. This testing is mine and God is personally committed to walking me through them! No haranguing, no criticism, and no indifference. Only compassion, encouragement, and instruction.

Jesus is my ultimate model. I can’t imagine Jesus needing the comparison-trick to keep him moving and victorious. He constantly focused on others’ needs, even during the most intense testing times in the Garden and on the cross. Because Jesus walked in flesh with imperfect parents, reactionary disciples, ungrateful recipients, arrogant leaders, and constantly demanding crowds there’s probably not one of my trials with which I could shock him (Heb 4:14-16).

I think I’m going to ditch the comparison-trick and focus on these take -away points from my brief valley experience.
  • As I receive God’s understanding and love I am more equipped to love others and keep moving. No comparison-tricks or any face-straining efforts needed. Just more of Him.
  • The way God responds to me should guide me in how to respond to others’ trials. I want to respect the pain that results from their personal “allowed temptations.” No pain is insignificant. Advocating the comparison-trick is out. Respecting their situation and understanding their pain is in. God, make me a compassionate cheerleader to help others through their individual trials.
  • Just like Jesus, the more difficulties and trials I face, the more equipped I should become to be able to understand and empathize with others’ struggles. God, I invite you to fill my heart with more of your understanding and compassion.

So, even my flash-trial has proven valuable, debunked another personal myth, and taken me a few steps further on my journey to be like Jesus.

picture from Photobucket

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