Being Caught in the Meaningless Whirlwind

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 


And I saw that all labor and all achievement
spring from man’s envy of his neighbor.
This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
~Ecclesiastes 4:4

The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Five… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

“Chasing after the wind.”  This Scripture verse concludes with a mind picture we can all imagine. Outside of the context of the verse, it’s one that makes me smile… how about you?

I have a big backyard, and the winds blow here almost 365 days a year. I’ve seen dust devils, snownados and whirlwinds of leaves dancing all over the yard, so I can just imagine myself in the midst of it.

I see myself fruitlessly chasing a copper-colored leaf across the yard and into the meadow. I see myself getting caught in the vortex of one of the dust devils or columns of snow, and and I then see myself being overwhelmed by the messiness I feel when I’m able to escape the whirlwind as it dies down.

Chasing a leaf on occasion might be fun, but being caught in a storm of dust or blizzard-like snow does not. For any of my scenarios to happen regularly… well… it would get old and seem meaningless. I wouldn’t find myself smiling, then.

Sandra Stanley starts the Day Five devotional with a question that leads me to imagine these things, and she concludes it with, “What a waste of time. That’s the way it is with envy, too. Envy accomplishes nothing.”
Isn’t that the truth!

Comparing my circumstances to others only causes strife in me.
Comparing my successes to others only puffs me up in pride.
Comparing my shortcomings to others only rattles my self-esteem.
Comparing myself to others is not what God has intended for me.

When I want more because my neighbor, girlfriend or co-worker has it, an ugliness enters into the situation and into my desires. I tend to think less of them and less of myself. That’s meaningless, and I’ll tend to find myself working, thinking, and planning around the “thing” I’m chasing in the moment. That’s meaningless, too.

In the devotional, Sandra urges us to ask God for clarity (I’ve found myself yearning for this in my present life, yet I am not chasing it) in recognizing when we spend time in comparison, and to also give us eyes to see the worthwhile things on which our attention and efforts should be focused. That is meaning-full!

 


 

 

 

 

The Struggle with Choosing What Matters Most

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 


Better one hand with tranquility
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.
~ Ecclesiastes 4:6

The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Four… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the devotional include:

I’m totally guilty of having two handfuls with toil and feeling as though I am chasing after the wind. Totally guilty. I have a lot of tranquility in many areas of my life, but I’ve been guilty of compartmentalizing certain segments of my life, too.

In today’s devotional, Sandra Stanley asks a few questions based on the childhood game, “Would You Rather?” The first question really made me think. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it before… this time, though, I think I was supposed to think about it in the context of today’s Scripture verse. That is something I’ve consciously avoided doing before today.

Sandra writes, “Would you rather get the promotion that everyone in the office is vying for or have consistent nights of dinner around the table with your family?”

I don’t think a promotion like that exists at my job, and if it did, it probably wouldn’t take me away from dinner with my family, but the concept of increasing my work time and realizing how that could impact my family did hit me square in the head when Sandra asked that question.

I was an at-home momma for 18 years. I’ve homeschooled all three of my kids, volunteered as a team mom in every sport or activity in which they’ve participated, have enjoyed serving at my church, have helped my husband with a home-based business, and I’ve found fulfillment in cooking great meals for my family and caring for my home. A few years ago, circumstances with my husband’s career changed, and I knew the time was coming when I’d need to consider re-entering the outside-the-home work force. Sixteen months ago a door opened to that possibility, and fifteen months ago I walked through that door.

I enjoy it, but almost too much. Other than now having only one child left to homeschool through high school, none of my family responsibilities have been lessened over the last year or so, even though I do now work outside of the home, too. If I’m really honest with myself, my home-based responsibilities have actually increased in this timeframe.

But I like my work. I work in an aspect of ministry, and being able to do so does my mind and soul some real good! I really cherish the opportunity to help people build personal relationships with God and with others. It’s hard for me to look at what’s written on the photo above, because my job in ministry does contribute to that which lasts… those relationships and bridges I’m helping to build really could last well into eternity.

In this season of my life, there’s another ministry to which I’ve been called:  I’ve been called to care for and minister to my family as the primary caretaker, teacher, and source of income. The ministry of lovingly caring for my husband and my children is important, and I need to make sure I’m focused and available to meet those needs. The relationships and bridges I help to build here are also an investment which will last well into eternity. It’s just not time for me to be spending more mental and physical time at my job than I do in my home-based job.

Based on the Scripture verse for today, the photo with the artistically-crafted reminder, and the insight-filled Challenge of today’s devotional, I really do need to focus upon and dwell upon more of what matters most, because one has a shorter season left than the other. Even though my work time and my home time are both spent “ministering” to how I’ve been called, my primary ministry is to my family. It won’t be long before my youngest child graduates from high school. It won’t be long before my husband will, once again, be able to help to support our family.

My “someday” for whatever is to come will be here soon enough, and when it does come, I can trust that God will open the right doors through which I can walk. In the meantime, it’s important for me to stop toiling in my mind, worrying about the money I need to support my family, and chasing the wind that challenges my contentment in the ministry of being fully present for them.

It’s a season, and soon enough, the wind will change. For now, I need to focus on the tranquility of that one open hand, find a way to help to open up the clenched fist in the other one, and breathe in the peace and satisfaction of knowing that finding balance for all of us is what matters most. The “more of what matters most” is them, and today’s devotional has been a reminder for me.

 


 

 

 

The Search for Contentment Continues

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 


I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4:12-13 

The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Three… Some of my reminders and my takeaways for today include:

Paul inspires me. I want to learn to be more like Paul, who was always striving to know more of Jesus and to live by the path the Lord had prepared before him.

His contentedness awes me. Like many of you, I’ve read and studied his story. With all he had done in his past life (before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus), and with the beatings, shipwrecks, sufferings, hardships, time in prison, and challenges he faced, he was still able to know that finding his own strength and purpose through the strength of his Lord was his pathway to contentedness.

I haven’t met Jesus on a dusty road, nor have I been physically blinded by His presence, but I’ve traveled on roads of uncertainty seeking His answers, and I’ve been blindsided by quite a few harsh realities in life. I’ve lived seasons of being well-fed and with plenty in my life, and I’ve gone through seasons of hunger and emptiness, begging to be relieved of my heartaches and hurts.

Comparing these seasons to one another can be a trap, and when I’ve failed to reach out to Him, failed to dig for His hope, and when I’ve chosen to close His Word in frustration and wondering, then I’ve fallen into a trap. The snare has only seemed to tighten when my focus has been on comparison and discontent.

Just like you, I’ve, too, looked around me and asked, “Why me?”

In Day Three, Sandra writes, “The habit of praying and reading Scripture before my day gets going loads me up with the strength and perspective I need to resist the comparison trap.”

I’m still working on finding my perfect peace in contentedness, but I do know that the more I allow His presence to fill me, to surround me, and to overwhelm me, the more contentment and patience I find in my circumstances. The more time I spend dwelling in Scriptures and reading through His Word, the more I continue to learn that it truly is Him who gives me more of His strength to be more of the woman He is calling me to be.

When I dwell in His Word, I dwell in His presence. It is there I find His peace.

 


 

 

 

Whatever Should We Think About?

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 


Whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things.
~ Philippians 4:8

The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Two… My reminders and my takeaways for today include:

Oh, yes! I agree with you, Sandra Stanley! Sandra starts off Day Two by saying she’d like to anchor this verse deeply in her heart. Wouldn’t that change so many things if this were an anchor in our hearts?

Maybe.
Maybe, yes.
Maybe, no.
We’re human, you know.
The object on the opposite end of an anchor can break loose and be lost on the water, or it can be held firm and in place by an unmovable and unshakeable strength.

I don’t want to be lost on the water, and I do want to be anchored in the Word.

Sandra goes on to say that “what we allow to linger in our minds will influence our words and actions. This is true for the good stuff and for the bad stuff.”  

Yes, I agree with her. I need to be conscientious of where I’m lingering.

My choices,
words,
actions,
deeds and
thoughts…

They influence me and will determine what I choose to do with the free will I’ve been given. I’ve written about this before.

When I compare my circumstances and my life to others, I do find discontentment. I find it in myself, and I find it in the others around me. And, yes, the discontentment that is tossed on the waters of life will leak out to others, and it will also leak into the ship of Self. I’m responsible for that ship.

I can choose what I think about, and I can choose to think about the excellent and praiseworthy things in my life. They are there. All the time. No matter how rough the waters get, things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable exist all around me and within me. And those same things exist all around you and within you, too.

So whatever should we think about? We should think on these things.


 

 

 

 

Love Does Not Envy

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 


 

Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:4

The Comparison Trap: Week One, Day One…

…”does not,” “does not,” “is not”…

I read it again, this time emphasizing the “is” and “is” before following it up with an emphasis on the educationally-effective, negative commands.

In the devotional book, Sandra Stanley writes:

“When I compare myself to someone who seems to have more, I lean into envy. When I compare myself to someone who has less, I open myself to the temptation of boastfulness and pride.”

My reminders and my takeaways for today include:

…I can be patient
…I can be kind
…I do not need to envy others
…nor, do I need to boast to them
…I do not have to allow pride to puff me up
…stop comparing my perceptions of having more or having less
…I need to focus more on genuinely loving others as He desires me to do so
…real love = real growth in me through Him.

In the Challenge for today, Sandra reminds me that it’s easy to allow thoughts to drift in the direction of envy and pride. She also says that “it’s so much more difficult to intentionally speak words of kindness and patience.”

Intentionally speak…

Not only do I want to intentionally speak words in this way, I want to be able to naturally think this way. Wow, I have a lot of work to do on the inside, so that what flows outward is true and genuine.

The Challenge helped me to take the words from the verse, and it made them real and action-oriented in relation to getting me to think about how I will embrace them as I grow my walk with God and with others.

I want to move toward being more of who it is He is calling me to be.