133) Comparisons or Contentment?

From Telling Yourself the Truth, by William Backus and Marie Chapian, 1980, pages 31-33 

     Are you comparing yourself and your life with someone else who seems better in some way, or are you looking at yourself in the light of God’s Word?  D. L. Moody once said that the best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.

     The straight stick in the lives of Christians is the lovely and indestructible love of Christ.  When our eyes lose sight of this dazzling truth, there remains only shadows to stare at; shadows such as envy, jealousy, or comparing ourselves with others.  Unhappiness or a state of discontent often is the result of longing to be different or to be in different circumstances, especially someone else’s.

     Not long ago, a poll was taken of 5,000 middle-class single and married men and women of average and above average intelligence.  The poll revealed that the single people were no more or less happy than the married people and the married people no more or less happy than the single.  Common, however, was the finding that single people envied married people.  Married people, on the other hand, reported envying single people…

     A single woman said, “I envy my friend, Jane.  She’s really happy.  She has a husband, kids and a home.  She has everything.”

     A married woman said, “I envy Connie.  She has it made.  She’s free to come and go when and where she wants.  Her time is her own; her money is her own.  She’s out in the world doing things.  She’s single and she’s the really happy one.”

     What do you recognize in the words these two people are saying?  Envy is usually not realistic.  It does not have all the facts.  The words “I’m miserable and someone else is the happy one” are basically untrue.  Everyone has some unhappiness in his life somewhere and sometime.  Everyone has difficulties to face and problems to solve.  Both Connie and Jane may have good lives, but they also have trials to overcome.

     Picture a little boy jumping with delight as he tightly clutches a nickel in his fist.  His mother gave him the nickel and told him to go outside and play.  The little boy feels light and happy.  But then he meets a playmate who has a quarter.  His nickel suddenly loses its luster.  He’s not feeling so light anymore.  He goes home and asks his mother for a quarter, and his mother gives him one.  Now the little boy jumps happily once again until he meets another playmate, and this time the playmate has fifty cents in his hand.  The little boy is crestfallen.  His quarter looks pitiful next to two quarters.  So back home he goes to get fifty cents from his mother.  When he does, he runs into a playmate with a dollar bill… and on it goes.

     If we do not find worth in what we are and what we have now, we will tell ourselves we are less important than others or we have less than others.  When we tell ourselves these things, we create unrest within ourselves and in striving to be or have what we think others have, we are always seeking after an invisible and unattainable state of happiness which is always out of our grasp.  Somebody, somewhere will always be or have more than we.

     Carol is a soft-spoken grandmother who lives in a modest home which is usually in need of repair.  Her sons are successful businessmen and own homes twice the value of hers.  Their wives are smartly dressed and have every convenience at their disposal.  Carol cannot afford expensive clothes.  She drives a second-hand car and takes her laundry to the laundromat.  She is happy, outgoing and content with her life.  “Grandma is my bestest person!” her small grandchildren exclaim.  Carol is not only adored by her family, but by her friends, neighbors and acquaintances.  There is a peaceful, loving and unselfish quality about her which draws people to her.  Her son marvels at how his mother avoids complaining.  Carol knows the value of the words of the Apostle Paul, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content,” and she lives by them.  Envy has no place in her life.

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Philippians 4:11-12 — 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 of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Psalm 103:2 — Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

I Timothy 6:6-8 — But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Hebrews 13:5-6 — Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?” 

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O Lord, you know what is best for me.  Let this or that be done as you please.  Give what you will, how much you will, and when you will.  Amen.
–Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)