Comparison: The Thief of Joy

by Laura Hartley

I have always been the kind of person that compares myself with others. Sometimes it's something as simple as not wanting to stand out, a tendency to blend in to my surroundings and not attract too much attention. Even within my family, this was my tactic as a child, if I didn’t attract attention I could fly under the radar and not get into trouble. Or when I am driving down the road and it’s raining, I look at how fast the windshield wipers are going on the cars around me, I don’t want to be the car that’s over zealous with my windshield wiper usage. Even as I started writing this blog, I had to look back at what others had already written.

In worship, this means my hands are clasped in front of me or in my pockets but never in the air. Even though I look at the carefree ones in front of me, the ones who have let go of those comparisons and surrendered completely to God, in awe. I still have the thoughts: What would people think of me?

Are you getting a clear picture of the kind of person I am? Good.

This is something that I struggle with daily, but I know that there are probably several others that are like me in this way. Maybe you don’t go as far as comparing your windshield wiper speed, but maybe you can relate on some level and if you do, then you’re probably already measuring your level of "comparisoness" (not a word) with mine.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

"There are always going to be people who are better at some things."

"It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, its how you play the game."

"It doesn’t matter what others are doing it matters what you are doing."

We know these sayings and old adages. We tell them to our kids when they start a new sport, or they want the latest gadget, but do we practice this in ministry?

Here are a few examples of ways we do this, maybe not out loud, but certainly in our minds:

“They will give more money because they have more to give.”

“They’re better with kids so I’ll just sit back and let them do the teaching.”

“I’m not so great with words he prays so much better than I do.”

“I don’t have enough bible knowledge.”

“I have young kids, so I have less time.”

“I already have a full time job.”

We can think of a million reasons why not. But God has made you as you are and yet still calls you to go out and make disciples, to serve others.

… even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

He has given you spiritual gifts, not just areas that you are comfortable in but areas where you are supremely gifted by the Holy Spirit that empower you for service.

Based on each gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Beyond spiritual gifts God has also given you personal experiences that are uniquely your own, that mold who you are. Take a look at Joshua, for example. Joshua was Moses’ assistant, trained in leading God’s people. He watched as the Israelites, time and time again, chose to go their own way and suffered miserably. But he also saw God give them signs and wonders when they turned toward the Lord. So when Moses died and God called Joshua to lead His people, he trusted and obeyed God and led His people into the promised land.

Take a look back at your life as if it were a timeline in a history book. What are some markers you would place for events in your life that have shaped who you are today?

Maybe it was when you met your spouse, the birth of a child, or the start of a new job, a loss of a loved one, or the ending of an old job or an illness. How is God using those experiences for serving others right now? What did you learn from those experiences that you can use to serve God and His people?

He has entrusted you with a gift, a life, an experience with the purpose of sharing it and not comparing it. Even as I look back on my failures, like dropping out of community college because I was unable to write a paper on my own, I can see how that experience shows God’s glory through my story now as a published author.

Or when I told God that I was not good with kids, and He called me to work in the Children’s Ministry at church and at Bible Study Fellowship. It doesn’t take a special person to work with kids, it takes a special God!!!

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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Whether you believe you are good at something or not, He is calling you. Not my way. Not even your way, but His way. He is using every experience you’ve had to unfold His story in your life for His glory.

I vividly remember a time when I was sitting in church and contemplating whether or not I should serve with Bible Study Fellowship. I was almost sick to my stomach worrying about it. Our Pastor, Matt Powell, was teaching in the book of John, I can’t remember exactly in which order he said these two things, but they changed the way I respond in every way.

He said and I am paraphrasing from memory, “God does not invite you to join Him in His work simply to give you the opportunity to say no.”

Gut check.

And he read this passage, that coincidentally we had also been studying in BSF:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

After that, I could no longer deny that God was indeed calling me to serve. And over that summer He continued to train me and prepare me for the job He had for me to do and the people He was calling me to serve. He challenged me with this verse:

By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:14)

He has entrusted it to you. Will you be strong and courageous like Joshua? Or will you keep telling Him no and stay in the wilderness?

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12)


Laura Hartley and her husband Jared have been married almost 15 years. They have 3 children, Nolan (7), Lily (4) and Hazel (3). They have been members at Crossings for a year. You can follow Laura's writing on her website and you can find her published work HERE.

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