“You must be struggling.” That’s what my friend said to me after she noticed I’d been kind of quiet on Facebook lately. Good grief. Even when I think I’m hiding it, God always uses someone or something to break through my walls anyway.
The Sin of Comparison
Struggling is such a relative term to me. But it really shouldn’t be. This is how my thought process goes. Yes, I have an illness, but I know other people who have far worse illnesses that they’ve fought far longer than I have. I’m not struggling. I know several people who have been in the hospital for a long period of time. I’m not struggling. This person over here is dealing with an abusive marriage. I’m not struggling. This person over here has already lost one child and just found out the child she’s carrying may not survive. I’m not struggling. This person over here lost his job with a large family to support. I’m not struggling. Reading my own thought process in black and white makes me kind of ill. Why do we think that other pain is more important just because it’s different than our own? Oh, my dear ones, why can’t we just admit that we’re struggling?
I don’t think I have the right to be struggling. There, I said it. I incessantly compare myself to others even though I’ve read so many godly writings warning me against this. I have a suspicion that some of you can relate to this realm of thinking. I still can’t seem to convince my brain that comparison is a thief. It’s a thief of joy, contentment, rest, even friendship. I don’t think I should be ‘allowed’ to feel down. I don’t think I should be ‘allowed’ to share my problems when there are others who have worse problems. I also don’t think I should be ‘allowed’ to burden others who already carry burdens.
This way of thinking is an utter nightmare. Constantly comparing my burden to the burden of others in order to judge whether or not I have the ‘right’ to feel the way that I feel is nonsense, and I know it. The Bible gives us specific permission, no, INSTRUCTION, to share our problems with that pesky “carry each other’s burdens” verse (Galatians 6:2). It doesn’t say “carry everyone’s burden IN ADDITION to your own” or, “carry everyone’s burden INSTEAD of your own.” But isn’t that what so many of us do?
"But, 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.' For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." - 2 Corinthians 10:17-18
You may be thinking like me. Boasting? What I’m doing is far from boasting. I mean, verse after verse in the Bible tells us to care for others more than ourselves. But while I think I may be doing just the opposite of boasting, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Get this – I’m actually boasting about being humble. I’m not doing it out loud so it doesn’t look like boasting, but I’m still weighing myself against everyone else and I’m winning the ‘least problems award’ every time. But look what the verse above says. These things are not for me to judge. Only God can judge the heart and I’m willing to bet that he sees all pain equally. That’s just how much he loves us.
The Sin of Over-Analysis
“Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Maybe I should have said this. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything at all. Is she upset with me? What did his response mean? I’ve said the wrong thing again. She must be disappointed in me. He’ll never tell me anything again. I’ll never tell her anything again. My heart will be safer if I just stay quiet.” I, I, I, Me, I, Me, Me, I, My.
I absolutely hate admitting that my brain functions like this. I’m so obsessed with what other people think of me. I want to scream into a mirror – GET OVER YOURSELF! What about what God thinks of me? Have I forgotten to whom my life belongs?
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." - Psalm 139:13 "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" - 1 Samuel 16:7 "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." - Ephesians 4:22-24
The Sin of Can’t
Yep, I just went there. Even when I do have my mind on other people’s needs I’m thinking, “I can’t help them because I don’t have the money. I can’t help them because I’m sick.” And I’ve even been afraid to speak my heart. Afraid of writing, afraid of speaking, afraid of encouraging others because I’m afraid that I won’t speak God’s words or I’m afraid of what others will think about me. I think to myself, “if I say this, everyone is going to be watching me to see what happens next so I better not say it at all.” But goodness, I AM NOT THAT IMPORTANT.
This is all fear. Fear that I don’t have it all together. Fear that I am not enough. Fear that I don’t have the resources. Fear that other people may see my weaknesses. Well, guess what. I don’t have it all together. I am not enough. I don’t have the resources. I do have weaknesses. But there’s really good news. God has it all together. God is enough. He has the resources. And He is strong in our weaknesses.
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" - 2 Corinthians 12:9
One Common Thread
What do all of these sins have in common? Self. The real IDOL… yes, I said IDOL… is me. How on earth did this happen? You’re telling me that the person who is constantly thinking about others is really worshiping herself? Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Think about it. Comparing yourself to others, believing you have nothing to give to others, over-analyzing how others interact with you- It’s really all about you!
Perhaps God revealed all of this to me so that I could, once again, show my cards to all of you. Maybe I’m supposed to overcome the fear of speaking my heart. Maybe there are others who haven’t recognized the hidden sin in their lives. It’s absolutely stunning to think that Satan can take humility and turn it into a sin. Deception at its evilest. When I tried to figure out why I’m struggling and why I feel so depressed, God put a thought into my mind that if I were Satan what would I do? I would start confusing and putting fearful thoughts into the mind of somebody who thinks one of the only things she is offering the world is her words. I would make her feel the need to compare herself with others. I would make her think that her words are hurting people, or her words don’t matter, or her words will just be misunderstood. I would make her think that she can’t. I WOULD SILENCE HER WORDS.
If I were the enemy, I would steal, kill and destroy. I would steal the meaning that you thought your life had. I would kill your joy. I would confuse and destroy your relationships. I would steal your heart with constant fear and doubt.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:10
Jesus came to give us a full life. Letting Satan steal, kill, and destroy is anything but a full life. It’s a full mind but it’s not a full life. Jesus did not die so that we could constantly compare ourselves to others. He died for all of us equally. Jesus did not die so that we could over-analyze our interactions. He died because he loves us. There’s no ulterior motive, no angle, just LOVE. Jesus did not die so that we could discourage ourselves with “I can’t”. What if Jesus had said, “I can’t?” The truth is, we can, because Jesus lived, loved, and died for us. He is our strength when we are weak. He gives us permission to feel the way that we feel and he feels it with us!
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." - Hebrews 4:16
Look at that. Approach with confidence, not fear. Receive mercy that none of us deserve. Find grace to cover the sin of self, and grace to help us in our need. If we don’t admit that we are needy, we don’t allow Jesus to meet our need. If we don’t admit that we are struggling, we don’t allow Jesus to carry us through.
So when you put it that way…. I’M STRUGGLING!!! JESUS, CARRY ME. And the really, REALLY good news – His arms are strong enough to carry us all.