“Comparison of wit to wit, courage to courage, beauty to beauty, birth to birth is always odious.” Miguel Cervantes
Comparison. That poisonous cycle. It is so easy to fall into the trap of comparison, and it can be so hard to escape. In a world which measures everything from movie ticket sales to singing talent to determine success and failure, it is easy to feel like we never measure up.
I’ve seen some positive pushback in recent years, though. The “Every Body is Beautiful” movement helps women appreciate their unique physical attributes. Lots of articles and blogs have taken on the “mom wars” and offer support instead of criticism to different parenting styles. Even something like the tiny house trend speaks of a growing desire in our society to stop comparing our material wealth to feel successful.
The temptation to compare can be more subtle though. As people of faith, we want to serve and glorify God. But what if my service isn’t as “good” as someone else’s? What if my gift is not as important? What if someone else’s task seems like more fun?
Nostalgia can be another kind of comparison. Remember when our women’s Bible study was full every week? Remember when we all prayed for a miracle and that little girl was healed? More personally- remember when I used to sing all the songs in church, happy and loud, my feet dancing and my hands clapping? What happened? Why can’t God work like that now?
2500 years ago, Jewish exiles, led by a man named Zerubbabel, returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. The place had been devastated and was barely recognizable. God sent the prophet Haggai to the little band of returnees with this message:
“’Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land, take courage,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the LORD of hosts.”
Haggai 2:3-4 NASB
Comparing one work of God to another is as pointless as comparing physiques, parenting personalities, talent. He does the unique, right thing for the time and people He is working with now. We are asked to “take courage… take courage…. take courage… and work.” God is with us. Let’s focus on what He is doing now in our lives, and join in.