When I’m Not Really Happy for You…

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

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


Where you have envy and selfish ambition,
there you find disorder and every evil practice.
~ James 3:16

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

In today’s devotional, Sandra mentions a book called, I’m Happy for You (Sort of…Not Really), by her friend Kay Wyma. Gosh, the title sums up so much of the comparison trap, doesn’t it?

We want to be happy for Heather’s pregnancy announcement, Laura and Jim’s vacation plans to Hawaii for their wedding anniversary, Morgan’s promotion at work, Rob’s big pay raise, Mark’s surprise trip for Jennifer, the news that Karen’s daughter got the lead in the play, the fantastic new home Scott and Kim are building…the names are different in your life, but you know these people. Celebrating with them without letting ourselves dip a toe into the waters of comparison can be tough.

Sandra reminds us that CHOOSING “to celebrate your friends’ good news (and it’s a choice) is the quickest, most powerful antidote to envy.

I’d really, really love to have my friends choose to deeply celebrate my blessings with me, and I am sure they’d really, really love to have me choose to celebrate with them. The envy and selfishness that creeps between our thoughts and our choice to celebrate out loud with others can put us on a path of disorder. 

Make the other choice…the one where we bless others with words which celebrate their lives with them.


 

Do I Trust in the Plans for My Life?

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

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


All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
~ Psalm 139:16

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

Sandra starts today’s devotional with her favorite verse from the 139th Psalm (above), as she encourages each of us to think, individually, in the context of:

“God isn’t just aware of me.
He created me thoughtfully
and laid out a plan for my life.”

Can you just breathe that in for a moment? A couple of times… because it’s just too important to miss!

I don’t really understand all the “why” behind the things He’s chosen for my life and “why” He’s allowed me to experience certain joys and certain heartaches.

What I am understanding as my relationship with Him grows, is that it all has a plan and a purpose. It’s His plan and purpose (which I don’t understand much of the time), but within the glimpses of His plan (where He allows me to see some of the beginning and end happenings), I’m pretty awed at how He works His supernatural wonders in my life.

I want to believe that His blessings for me are unlimited, but that the agonizing moments do have their limits. I want to believe that His plan for me is unique and one of a kind. I want to believe that when He doesn’t answer my prayers, that the reason He doesn’t is because He actually has something better in mind for me.

I want to believe.
I want to have faith.

God’s plans for me are different from His plans for you. Envy, jealousy, and an inability to celebrate another’s blessings happen because we find it difficult to trust in the individual plans He has for us. Culture doesn’t help matters, either. Culture demands we keep up with the “Jones” family, and that our fast-food, just-google-it, prime-delivery society give us what we want, now.

Sandra encourages that “today’s verse reminds you that if you’re busy glancing to the left and right, jealous of someone else’s plan, you’ll miss the perfect one He’s written just for you.”

Look up, and allow Him to lead you toward your unique plan.

And while you’re at it, breathe in the rest of this beautiful Psalm, truly knowing He does have a plan for each of us:

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
    Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
    And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!
19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
    Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
    your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
    Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
    for your enemies are my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

 

The Worthless Pursuit of More and More

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

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


Then he said to them, “Watch out!
Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;
a man’s life does not consist in the
abundance of his possessions.”
~ Luke 12:15

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

“We live in a world of accumulation,” begins Sandra.

We do. We crave abundance, and it’s almost scary how often we can catch ourselves thinking of more, more, more.

Sandra goes on to share the verses after the Scripture above. It’s a parable told by Jesus in Luke 12:16-21:

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.   17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’  18 Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.   19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?  21 This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’”

There are a few things to note from this parable, outside of the obvious sense of greed and desire to have more:

  • Verse 16 tells us the man was rich and yielded an abundant harvest while he was rich. Apparently, God had blessed the man. Whether or not the man was a “good” man is irrelevant; God had still given him a gift in the form of abundance.
  • Verse 18 tells us what was said by the man. Do we read of him giving thanks?  Of acknowledging God for the abundance given to him?
  • Verse 19 tells us what the man desired from his abundance. Does this show his desire to live for God?  For others?  Or only for himself?
  • Verse 20 gives us some of the answers to these questions. God calls him a fool. Just in case you are wondering…fool basically means fool in the original language. God wasn’t impressed with what the man decided to do with the blessings God had allowed the man to accumulate.

Sandra’s devotional Challenge for Day Four was to mark some boxes designating some of our abundance.

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The boxes I checked in the Day Four Challenge

I’ve visited countries where having just ONE of these line items would be living luxuriously. Some of you have lived in or served in places like that, too. Even so, the trap of comparison keeps us wanting more, doesn’t it?

We’ve been given the blessings in our lives for a reason.

We need to work harder on appreciating those blessings and using them for His purposes, as God often says something different to us than what we are willing to say to ourselves. The richness, wealth and abundance of life does not have to equate to the amount of property, the dollars in our bank account, or the possessions we tend to hold valuable.

“The accumulation of more is a worthless pursuit if what you are accumulating isn’t put to good use for God.”

The material possessions we seek and acquire can’t ever fully satisfy us in comparison to an intimate relationship with God. When we’ve been blessed by Him, it’s imperative that we focus on Him and on how He would call us to use those blessings. Let’s not be a fool.


 

Seeing Broken Bits Multiplied into Blessings

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

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


Andrew spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small
barley loaves and two small fish,
but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”
There was plenty of grass in that place, and they
sat down (about five thousand men were there).
Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed to those who were seated
as much as they wanted.
He did the same with the fish.
When they had all had enough to eat,
he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are
left over. Let nothing be wasted.”
So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets
with the pieces of the five barley loaves
left over by those who had eaten.
~ John 6:8-13

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

For me, this is one of the most powerful devotions in the Comparison Trap study, so far.

I’ve been going through some things in my life… things that are uncomfortable, and circumstances which have pushed me to limits I didn’t know I had. I find hope in the Scripture above, even though the expectant hope and personal application I’ve found in it is somewhat outside the context of the verses.

Here are the three things which stand out the most to me:

  1. “Here is a boy…”  He’s a boy. Not a pastor, teacher, business man, or anyone who might stand out to others. He’s a boy.
  2. “Let nothing be wasted…,” said Jesus. I’ve always known He told the disciples to gather what remained, but I’ve never consciously read those words to the point that they’d stand out, even though my study Bible is an older New International Version (the same as the Scripture above).
  3. God provides, and He turns what we have to offer Him into blessings.

So here are my main takeaways from the three aspects which stand out to me:

  1. I am the boy. You are the boy. Whatever we have to offer Him, he can use. Am I willing to recognize that even a small offering can be a blessing? That He can use it for the good of others? That my faith can grow when I am willing to share the gifts He’s given me?
  2. God wastes nothing.  I’ve said this so many times to myself, and I’ve written about it, too. Yesterday, in a weepy breakdown, I just kept repeating this over and over to myself, and here it is in the Scripture today. He’s going to create a way for the broken bits and pieces of my life to be multiplied, shared, and gathered, because He is the One who commands that nothing be wasted.
  3. He’s ready to multiply my faith and turn it into blessings for me and for others. We don’t know the attitude of the boy who offered up his lunch, but we do know what was done with it. I need to keep reminding myself that this life isn’t just about me and my weepy circumstances; it’s about how He can and will use those circumstances for His good if I’m willing to lay them at His feet.

Sandra Stanley asks, “What did it do to the boy’s faith to watch Jesus turn his small offering into a blessing for so many others? What could it do to your faith to watch God do the same with what you can offer?”

She goes on to encourage us to fight the feelings that our little bits could never go far enough, and to instead, trust God to make our bits astoundingly more—immeasurably more, even.

In my weepy moments and in my joyous ones, it’s important for me to remember that He commands nothing be wasted, and that what I have IS less important than what I do with what I have. The impact is made when I’m willing to offer up what I have for Him to use.


 

Finding the Jackpot of Truth

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

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


For we are God’s masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things
he planned for us long ago.
~Ephesians 2:10

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

Gosh, I just love this verse! I’m His masterpiece! That’s what the apostle Paul has shared with us from God’s own heart.

Even though there are times I don’t feel like anyone’s masterpiece (we all have our moments or days or seasons of feeling this way), just reading this in light of my relationship with Him makes me grin and let out a contented sigh.

Sandra Stanley calls it a “jackpot of truth” in the Comparison Trap devotional book. It’s a jackpot we already own… no rainbows to follow or leprechauns to find. The jackpot is already a part of our relationship with God, because of our faith in Jesus.

If you dig a little deeper into this amazing verse, you’ll come to realize that the new creation we became at the moment we received Jesus put His plan into further motion. The verse tells us that He has good things which He has planned for us, and He planned them long ago (well before we took a step into faith).

Sandra reminds us that the good things—the plans, the blessings, the circumstances—that He’s picked for me aren’t the same as the ones He’s picked for you. When we fall into the comparison trap by asking, “Why not me?”, we can know, in confidence, that God has something else planned… something He probably planned long ago, and something He’s personally chosen us for.

THIS is hope surrendered. It’s asking, “Why me?” or “Why not me?” and surrendering our wondering hopes to His plans and expectantly hoping that what He has planned is even better for us.

Instead of comparing our lives, our gifts, our talents and our blessings, we can have great confidence that the One who calls us His masterpiece is leading us toward and allowing us to experience just what He needs for us to be able to do the good things he planned for us long ago!