While comparison—a simple lining up of two things to observe similarities and differences—isn’t necessarily sinful, it doesn’t take much for it to become so. And it doesn’t take long for sinful judgment, discouragement, complaining, and discontentment to follow sinful comparison. I learned this the hard way.
When three of our children were first diagnosed with a serious genetic condition, my husband and I shared one car, we had a newborn, and I was homeschooling. In a matter of weeks, I had to figure out how to coordinate appointments with four different pediatric specialists for multiple children, as well as manage regular bloodwork and administer daily medications. I spent hours on the phone—navigating the hospital system—to guarantee I scheduled appointments with the right doctors at the correct locations. I couldn’t have imagined squeezing one more thing into our jammed schedule.
It doesn’t take long for sinful judgment and discontentment to follow sinful comparison. I learned this the hard way.
Then I’d see other moms with healthy children and think, Wouldn’t it be nice to drive my 7-year-old to sports practice instead of to the gastroenterologist? Wouldn’t I prefer my kids learn how to play an instrument rather than how to take inhaled medications? It would be lovely to wait outside an art class instead of waiting for a nurse to lead my children into the doctor’s office.
A voice in my head whispered, Those other moms probably have their own parenting challenges too. You just can’t see them. While that may have been true, I sinfully wished it were true, not so much for their sake as for my own.
I’m embarrassed to admit that as someone walking through sorrow, stress, and isolation, as someone who should have been the last to wish the same on anyone else, I wanted those other moms to feel the way I did. I’d compared myself to them, my story to theirs, and my story came up short. Somehow, I wanted to level the field. It wasn’t so much that I wished to switch places as I wanted others to experience some of what I felt, and I wanted pieces of their lives.
What About Her?
In the middle of my struggle with sinful comparison, the Lord arrested my heart with a conversation in John 21 between Jesus and Peter, and it reset my course. This was the third time Jesus’s disciples recognized him following his resurrection, and John recorded how Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to reaffirm his love for his Savior—one for each of the times he had denied knowing the Lord. But it was what they talked about next that really caught my attention.
I’d sinfully compared myself to them, my story to theirs, and my story came up short.
As Peter walked and talked with Jesus, assured of his Lord’s full forgiveness and having restated his love and commitment to Christ, Peter noticed John. He asked Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21). In Peter’s question, I heard my own: “Lord, what about her? What about that other mom at the park? What about my neighbor down the street? What about the woman sitting across the aisle from me at church? What’s her story, and how will it turn out? Will it be easier or harder than mine? Will she suffer more or less than I will?”
Jesus answered Peter, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22). I wonder if Jesus’s answer to us who ask such questions today is similar. This may sound harsh, but please bear with me in applying this idea to some of the tender places of the heart in order to make a point.
If it’s the Lord’s will that another woman’s child is well and yours is sick, what of it?
If it’s the Lord’s will that another woman gets pregnant easily and it takes longer for you, what of it?
If it’s the Lord’s will that her path is smoother than yours, what of it?
I cringe even writing and rereading those questions, but here’s my point: Why does the Lord’s will for another woman’s life matter so much to us? It doesn’t change Jesus’s imperative: “Follow me!”
Following Jesus Is Better
We may never understand why God says yes to one woman and no to us. God’s ways are higher than ours (Isa. 55:8–9), and he isn’t bound to explain his reasons to us. But context matters. So does the speaker. When Jesus essentially told Peter not to trouble himself about John’s story, he did so in the very same conversation that affirmed the love between Jesus and Peter.
Sisters, in light of our heavenly Father’s love for us, demonstrated in sending Jesus to die on the cross and rescue us from our sin, we can trust him when he says he doesn’t withhold anything good from his faithful daughters (Ps. 84:11). If our good Father, who loves to give good gifts to his children (Luke 11:13; James 1:17), says yes to her and no to you or me, he must have a greater good in mind.
If our good Father says yes to her and no to you or me, he must have a greater good in mind.
These are hard truths to swallow, but we can swallow them because we know the goodness of the One who first spoke them. It’s possible to both lament our losses and delight in Christ’s love for us.
By God’s grace, our family’s schedule has relaxed. Our children don’t see as many specialists anymore, and the ones we do visit, we don’t go to as frequently. This breathing space has allowed our children to participate in a variety of activities, some of which I didn’t know back then would be possible today.
But another expression of the Lord’s kindness was his gentle correction, showing me that sinful comparison only ever leads in a bad direction. Whenever you or I meander that wrong road, we can find the way back in Jesus’s injunction, “You follow me!” (John 21:22). And I’m learning it’s better to follow him than walk any other path.