Avoiding the Comparison Trap
“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’” Genesis 30:1 (NIV)
It began with a seemingly harmless perusal of a friend's photo on Instagram.
What a cute picture of her and her husband, I thought.
My husband and I need to take some pictures together too.
I tapped the little heart on the screen and scrolled down.
Then there was a birth announcement, followed by another tap and more scrolling.
Next came a new house, a foodie picture, a birthday photo, a family pic and an endless supply of “perfect” images. Initially, I planned to simply post one picture and then jump right off of social media.
Unfortunately, one post turned into one hour of mindless tapping, scrolling and comparison of my life with the picture-perfect lives of others. I had been sucked into the social media black hole again, obsessing over people and their lives instead of focusing on the life God has given me.
I think this happened to Rachel too — a woman we meet in Genesis. She found herself in a challenging polygamous relationship with her husband Jacob and her sister Leah. Polygamous relationships were more common at that time in history than they are now, but nowhere in the Bible are they mentioned positively.
Polygamous marriages were not God’s original design for marriage, and as we see in the story of Rachel and Leah, they had unpleasant consequences. Although Jacob worked seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, when the time came to join in holy matrimony, Laban, her father, gave him Leah instead.
When Jacob discovered he married the wrong woman, he vehemently confronted Laban about his deception. Consequently, Laban agreed to give him Rachel in exchange for seven more years of labor. This created a contentious situation where Rachel was loved and valued, and Leah was not. Out of compassion for Leah, God opened her womb. However, Rachel was unable to have children.
Rachel’s struggle with infertility was exacerbated by having a front-row seat to her sister’s pregnancies, births and eventually the pitter-patter of little feet. By examining Rachel’s comments in Genesis 30:1, we can see the toll this took on her: “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’”
These are intense words, but jealousy, envy and comparison can produce intense emotions in all of us. While Rachel’s feelings were natural, normal and even justified, her comparison struggle ultimately robbed her.
Rachel’s words in our key verse indicate that what she fixated on impacted her attitude. Her jealousy was directly influenced by her vision. Rachel didn’t see that her focus needed to be on God instead of on Leah or Jacob.
Unfortunately, jealousy and comparison caused her to spend years competing with her sister. She lost a lot of time that could have been spent enjoying the life she had been given by God.
However, Leah’s life was far from perfect, despite how it looked from Rachel’s perspective. Leah’s children came from a loveless marriage. Though blessed with children, Leah had to live knowing she was not her husband’s first choice. In that way, she experienced life in Rachel’s shadow.
This is true for us when we fixate on the lives of other people — we are unable to see the pain that is often shielded from public view, hidden deep in someone’s heart. At some point in our lives, we will all walk through relational struggles, traumatic experiences, financial trouble and unbearable loss. Although it is human to look at other people and form assumptions about their lives, we must realize no life is without difficulty.
Jesus is our antidote for comparison and jealousy. Fixing our gaze on Him helps us surrender to the reality that our life does not belong to us. Our lives belong to God, and He uses both joy and sorrow to paint a beautiful picture of who He is to humanity. He is the God of both our picture-perfect moments and our most painful moments. Focusing on Him strengthens us to live the life we have been given rather than getting tangled up in the comparison trap.
Dear God, thank You for the life You have given me. As I experience both joy and pain, help me to fix my gaze on Jesus and not on the lives of others. Help me to trust and believe You are crafting a beautiful life for me that will magnify who You are. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Hebrews 12:2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV)
Do you know about our Spanish devotions? Every Encouragement for Today devotion is translated into Spanish with the help of our Spanish volunteer team! We also offer a selection of our books and Online Bible Studies in Spanish. If you or a friend would benefit from our Spanish resources, please share our Spanish devotions page with them! Thank you for your part in spreading the Truth of God’s Word!
Join Kia Stephens on her YouTube channel as she delves deeper into the topic of avoiding the comparison trap.
For more encouragement and wisdom, check out Kia’s blog post “Courage for the Woman Who Feels Insecure.”
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Is there an area in your life where you tend to compare yourself to others? How can you avoid this trap of comparison by focusing on Jesus Christ instead? Share with us in the comments!
© 2021 by Kia Stephens. All rights reserved.
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