"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
Outwardly I smiled, but on the inside, a familiar ache began to rise within as I compared her abundance of success with my lack thereof. She was so good at everything she attempted. Doors seemed to open for her before she even approached them. It was apparent she had favor with God.
All the while, my world seemed to be crumbling around me. All of my hopes and dreams were slipping away from me, and I was helpless to stop the process. Comparing my life to hers was becoming a habit.
As I compared her successes with my failures, her opportunities with my lack thereof, I began to understand what the phrase "green with envy" meant. With each comparison, I felt an ache in my gut that told me I was not enough, a hurt deep inside that said I would never measure up. I began to wonder if God had forgotten about me. Or maybe He had just given up on me.
The comparison trap seems to be a common problem, even among the most confident of us. Our social media-driven society breeds comparison, doesn't it? We're bombarded with carefully cultivated highlight reels showing everyone's best pictures, brightest stories, and most significant achievements every day. Snapshots of their best moments cause us to compare our everyday lives to the highlights they choose to share.
When we see their seemingly perfect relationships, with their spouse, their kids, their family, their friends, we feel our relationships are missing some magical element that would provide more joy in our life. When we look at their achievements and successes, in their careers and hobbies, we begin to feel we need to work harder, to try harder, if we're ever going to measure up. Photos of their most recent adventures leave us yearning for more excitement in our own lives. Even the number of "likes" and comments they receive can leave us feeling discouraged and overlooked.
The list of ways we compare ourselves to others is endless and, oh, so exhausting.
At its best, comparison can cause us to improve areas of our lives that we may have neglected. But, most of the time, comparison brings out that green monster of envy, its sinewy fingers wrapping around our hearts, leaving us feeling hurt, unworthy, and rejected, leaving a residue of bitterness and an aching feeling that whispers you are not enough.
Sweet friend, those are lies. They are schemes designed to kill our hopes and dreams, to steal our joy and peace, and to destroy our relationship with our Heavenly Father, our Creator. The enemy is cunning. His evil would use others' successes, the beautiful way the Father created our friends, to prevent us from walking in our Kingdom assignment.
Our key verse is a little love letter from our Creator that seems meant for moments just like these, moments when the bitterness of comparison threatens to take hold of our hearts.
From the very beginning of Ephesians 2:10, we learn the Creator Himself designed us. We are His workmanship, not some random chance. Our physical, mental, and emotional makeup were carefully selected for us by our Creator.
The verse goes on to tell us the Creator's work doesn't end once He forms us in our mother's womb. Instead, we learn that through our salvation in Christ, He continues to bring forth new things within us. Both spiritual gifts that we receive after our salvation and the life-long sanctification process that happens because of our salvation speak to the Creator's great love and commitment to ensuring that His masterpiece is just right. He uses every experience in our lives, the good and the bad, to refine us, removing the impurities left by a sinful nature.
Why would He invest so much time and energy into each one of us? He does that because He has a specific Kingdom assignment for each of our lives. The verse goes on to tell us that He created us for good works, works that He prepared before He even began to design us, so that we could walk in them. Like any good artist, He had a vision for our unique Kingdom role before He started fashioning us. That means He is sure to give us the talents, personality, spiritual gifts, and experiences we need to fulfill our Kingdom responsibility.
Friend, here's what we need to understand, when we give in to the temptation to compare ourselves to others, we are comparing how the Creator designed us to how He designed them. When we compare ourselves to others, we question the Creator's ability to do His job in providing everything we will need to fulfill our Kingdom purpose. When we compare the opportunities of others to those we think we should have, we question the assignment He specifically prepared for us.
Comparison questions the Creator.
It must break His heart to know we don't appreciate His work and that we aren't embracing the Kingdom role He uniquely prepared and equipped us to fulfill.
And the enemy must squeal with delight. Not only has he stolen our focus from our unique mission in the Kingdom, but he's also taken our eyes and our trust away from our Creator, ensuring failure to complete our assignment. As an added bonus, our Heavenly Father's heart breaks. The enemy must be so pleased.
When we begin to fall into the comparison trap, we need to pause and evaluate what's really going on. Perhaps, it's not that someone has more favor with the Father or that we're not enough. Could it be instead that their Kingdom assignment is different from ours? Maybe we're distracted by the things we desire instead of what the Father desires.
When I started to see myself as a beloved creation of God, acknowledging that He designed me for a specific role in His Kingdom, my view shifted. I began to reassess the talents, personality, spiritual gifts, and experiences the Father used to prepare me. In doing so, I realized I have a different function in the Kingdom than my friend. I also realized I would continue to feel hurt and that I wasn't enough if I continued to pursue someone else's assignment instead of my own.
Now, instead of comparing her "haves" with my "have nots," I see a woman, beautifully created and beloved by the Father. A woman who is passionately fulfilling her Kingdom role! And now, I can wholeheartedly cheer her on. Because we're both working towards the same purpose of glorifying the Father, we just have different, equally important, Kingdom assignments.
Today, I encourage you to take a minute to pray, asking the Creator to reveal the talents, personality, spiritual gifts, and experiences He used to equip you for your unique role. Once you've discovered some of your special attributes, praise Him for them. Then, ask Him how you can begin to use those gifts to serve in His Kingdom by embracing the opportunities He gives to you while championing your brothers and sisters in Christ as they receive their assignments.
We were all lovingly created with purpose, for purpose. Don't waste time comparing your life to others and questioning the Creator. Don't give the enemy that foothold. Instead, embrace who He created you to be and walk confidently, knowing you are His workmanship!
Loving Creator, I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Marvelous are your works! Thank you for the unique way you created me. Reveal to me the special Kingdom assignment you have for me and how you have prepared me to complete it. Give me the courage and the strength to walk alongside You to fulfill my role. Help me to encourage others to fulfill their special assignments, too. I love you! In Jesus' name, Amen.
Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV): "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."