Comparisons always deal a deathblow to our contentment.
"For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13 (HCSB)
Psst ... I have a little secret.
The Joneses are overrated.
Oh, I know we'd never think that from the way the Joneses appear, but they are not all they're cracked up to be.
In my mom's day, you only saw the Joneses a few times a week. Maybe you bumped into them on your way into church or perhaps at the PTA meeting. You know, as you were getting into your dented and faded grey mini van while they were piling happily into their new spit-shined Chevrolet.
What a difference a decade (or two) makes! The Joneses now perpetually parade in front of our eyes nearly 24 hours a day. Where?
On our computer news feeds. And smart phones. On Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. The "look at me!" Joneses and all their profile-picture-perfect lives. It can tempt us to become jealous and discontent.
One day an online friend posted: "Fettuccini Alfredo, fresh beans from the garden, and my famous raspberry cheesecake. It's what's for dinner!" A second friend's status read: "Who-hoo! Paid off the mortgage. We're now debt-free!" And still another, "Our Jimmy got student of the month!"
All of this took place while I was ordering pizza (for the second time that week!), piecing together the mortgage money and answering a call from the middle school vice-principal's office where my son sat, busted for an inappropriate prank.
Yes, the Joneses invade our homes and our thoughts several times a day through social media and the Internet, robbing us of contentment. Why?
Comparisons always deal a deathblow to our contentment. When we see others owning, enjoying, or experiencing what we do not have, but wish we did, it may make us discontent.
In a letter to the believers in Philippi, the Apostle Paul penned Philippians 4:11-13 which begins "For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am."
The Greek word rendered "content" here denotes more than just a throwing up of arms in reluctant acceptance. At its hub it literally means: "to be satisfied to the point where I am no longer disturbed or disquieted."
God has already prepared a place of contentment for us when the car breaks down, the bills are hard to meet, and our "Johnny" acts out ... again. We find that place when we take our eyes off of our situation (and off of the screen) and fix them solely upon God.
When we adopt this attitude, we live out the truth I once heard author Elisabeth Elliot declare: "The difference is Christ in me. Not me in a different set of circumstances."
To truly embrace our circumstances, we must decide to stop pleading, "God, get me out of here!" and learn to humbly ask instead, "Lord, why have You brought me here? What are You trying to reveal to me that I would never discover if You were to suddenly pluck me out of this situation? What godly character qualities are You trying to grow in me? Patience? Trust? Faith? Compassion?"
When we cease making comparisons and instead willingly embrace our current lot in life, welcoming all that God will teach us through it, we will finally unearth the secret Paul knew. True contentment is not merely having what you want, it is wanting nothing more than what you already have.
We can only do this when we stop looking at the Joneses and turn our eyes to Jesus Christ who gives us strength.
Dear Lord, forgive me for looking around and comparing myself or my circumstances to others. May I look only to You for contentment and peace. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
In what areas of your life do comparisons impact your contentment? Marriage? Children? Finances? Work? Relationships? Looks?
Pick one of those areas and write out a prayer to God asking Him to shift your perspective from comparing to being content. Post it next to your computer screen or on your bathroom mirror.
Proverbs 14:30 "A tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones." (HCSB)