The Secret

Allyson Joy

I used to be this person who loved to write. Journaling and blogging, these were my outlets. But over the past 5 months between the exhaustion of the pregnancy, giving birth to a second child, diaper changes, Sesame Street, and 16 hour days, I questioned that. And somewhere along the way I convinced myself that it’s just not worth it. If I even could form a complete sentence, entries are often interrupted with tears or whines or messes (yea for potty training!).

This post took 3 months to write. Literally. I would type a paragraph and close the laptop. I spent countless moments staring at a blank screen. Throughout the day I would mull over words, crafting potential sentences but nothing would culminate into a piece worth reading. After twenty minutes of sitting, a paragraph would materialize only to be deleted. But here we are-finally-experiencing the “done is better than perfect” mentality. Please excuse the typos and any confusion and read the heart of the matter. My brain will fire efficiently again…one day.

For a few minutes, I want to get real about a subconscious, pervasive act that is woven through the foundation of our culture, a practice that permeates most of our lives, including my own. It’s not one of the obvious sins like murder. No, this is subtler, even acceptable. In fact, if you don’t pay attention it could begin to touch every minute of every day.

Ready for the word? Comparison. Seemingly harmless. Destructive beyond belief if left untamed.

Comparison can materialize in two forms: evaluating the life of others and/or looking at what you had or did in previous walks of life (most of the time while wearing rose-tented glasses). A traditional view of comparison is in material possessions but this judgment isn’t limited to the tangibles. Time, talent, opportunities, and stage of life are just a few other topics for comparison. And the underlying drive for all of it? More.

More is our culture, and we rarely think twice about it. More money. More possessions. More vacations, opportunities, promotions, likes, weight loss, sleep, and the list goes on. Not only is this a problem because we compare ourselves to the top 1% in the world (not considering that to 99% of the world, we are the more), but who told us that more is better anyway?

Another problem with comparison is we focus on small portions of other people’s lives. And now, thanks to social media, we have opportunities 24/7 to perfect this detrimental habit. We piece together snapshots, concluding that everyone else has everything we don’t. The simple fact is no one has it all together. Even if a person really does have a great life, we often do not see the sacrifices required for such a life. AND, even more so, why couldn’t we just be happy for them anyway?

As I read and re-read our discussion so far, the ultimate problem with comparison is glaring back in black and white.

Our eyes are on ourselves.

Our eyes are on others.

But nowhere in this conversation are our eyes on Jesus.

The antidote for comparison is actually spelled out in Philippians 4:13. This verse is commonly used to encourage during challenging times. And football season. I would venture to say that Paul did not have in mind winning the BCS National Championship when he shared this secret (although I do love me some football!). Then again, he probably didn’t have in mind my First World struggles either. To fully appreciate the secret, we must look at the backstory.

Paul was a man who made a 180-degree turn mid-way through life. He went from killing Christians to having many near death experiences as a Christ follower himself. He achieved an impressive resume that could stand against just about anyone-Jews and Gentiles alike. There is irony in using comparison to make a case against comparison, but keep reading.

…I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

Paul certainly had plenty of opportunities to practice living a contented life. So when someone who survived these experiences-stronger because of them-reveals the secret to contentment, we had better take a second look.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.(Philippians 4:11-13)

Learn. Can do. And Christ. The ways of contentment. And just like that we have a workable solution. No more explanation need, no more required.

I can be content in all situations through the strength of Christ.

And so can you.

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