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Joy

I closed my computer and smiled. Joyful.

Skyping with our Mercy House staff in Kenya is part of my weekly routine and some days we deal with very hard issues. But today was full of great news and it was hard not to feel content with all God was doing.

A Mercy House mom and baby, joyful about their future

It was time to pick up my kids from school, so I shifted back into Mom mode. I sat down at the familiar picnic table and waited for the bell to ring. The other moms, mostly acquaintances, were talking about their Spring Break plans just days away. I listened. And the more I heard their elaborate plans of lake houses, ski trips, and Disney vacations, the quieter I became.

Someone asked me what we were planning. Two hours before I felt good about our decision to stay home and do nothing. Relax and just be together. And now, as I said it, I felt a lot less, um, joy.

I mentally reminded myself that my hubby doesn’t have vacation days since we use them to go to Africa in the summer and pretty much any vacation money we save is for the same trip.

The conversation around me skipped to gorgeous craft rooms and dining room makeovers and microdermabrasian.

And I found myself silently wishing the school bell would ring before I started comparing my craft box to their craft rooms. I absentmindedly touched my face and wondered if I was a candidate for a chemical peel.

Who am I anyway?

Just like that, a heavy cloud hung over me and my perspective shifted to all I didn’t have.

How can I go from being joyfully content  one minute to feeling sorry for myself the next?

Comparison is a killjoy: it will steal every ounce of contentment in your heart. It will rob you of perspective and leave you feeling empty.

When I compare my clothes, my house, my life to others, I always end up shorthanded. Comparison leaves you feeling defeated and unworthy. Comparison kills joy.

I found a quiet place at home (okay, I hid in the garage while my kids ate Popsicles in the backyard) and I had a serious talk with myself. I stared at the picture above and my perspective returned. I asked God for forgiveness and I rested in the contentment that comes from being okay with yourself.  I’m chasing God, not this world.

Now, this isn’t about dream vacations or cute craft rooms, or any other item or event in this world. There’s a time and season for all of it (except I’m not so sure about skin peels. Ouch). It’s simply about being content in all things.

We can all find people to compare ourselves too. Prettier, richer, better people.

But nothing snatches away our joy quicker.

Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow humans.  It then appears that we are among the privileged.       -Helen Keller

True contentment is found at His feet. It is joy unspeakable.

Keys to finding true contentment (and keeping it!):

  1. Perspective:: We compare by nature, but often to people whom we perceive have better lives. The grass is always greener mentality will only leave us feeling like bad gardeners.
  2. Gratitude:: I find joy in being thankful for all He has given me. Even if sometimes it’s smaller and not as fancy as others. True joy is a reflection of a thankful heart. And in Him, I have it all–everything that matters.
  3. Recognition:: Every good and perfect gift comes from our Father from God.

Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.   – Marianne Williamson

Don’t let comparison steal your joy. Join me in defeating this enemy today!

by Kristen Welch, We are THAT family

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  1. 1

    Isn’t it surprising (and disappointing) how quickly our joy can be robbed? A friend’s dad was known for saying “don’t compare yourself because you will always come up short.” Good advice! And like you, I have found that reminding myself I have enough, has really changed my perspective a lot! (http://wp.me/p1Ut5W-bf) and gotten my focus so much more on God and what I DO have!

  2. 2

    “Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow humans. It then appears that we are among the privileged.” -Helen Keller

    So true!

    Thankful for what I have :)

  3. 3

    The verse we have been saying a lot around here lately is 1 Timothy 6:8 “So if we have enough food and clothing let us be CONTENT.” I find myself saying to my four year old often to not always be wanting something more or different. To have a thankful heart is to be satisfied with whatever God has given you. Unfortunately it won’t get any easier for him at 30. Keeping our eyes on Jesus always keeps our perspective right.

  4. 4

    There are days I do this – compare. This year was our 15th wedding anniversary year and we didn’t get to go anywhere. My husband and I have never been on a vacation together since our honeymoon. I wanted beaches and sand. I think I had a pity party for a week after our anniversary.
    But then I began to think about it. To see it from a different perspective. I saw where we had been and how far we have come. I have watched God do amazing things in our life, our family, our finances. And I get to wake up to this beautiful family everyday. It is true, contentment is found at His feet.

  5. 5

    I can so relate to this and you shared it so beautifully! THANK YOU!!! I go back and forth struggling with living in this world and becoming a part of it because it seems to opposite of our culture. But I want to “fix my eyes on JEsus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”

  6. 6
    Natasha d says:

    So true, if we give in to this world, we are not joyful but if we fill ourselves with God we are so joy filled. I too experience the same situation you described — so happy and joyful and content and then one small (or big) thing can change that in seconds when I am out in the world. This world can be so difficult, I must continually fill myself up with the Word, so that I can keep Him in my heart at all times!

  7. 7

    The older I get, the more this has become evident to me, and this is what I have tried to teach my children:

    There will always be someone richer, prettier, taller, smarter, (whatever-er) than you are, but there will never be anyone who is more blessed than you are when you have Jesus and God’s saving grace in your life.

    “Things and Wants” are the things of this world, not of the kingdom to come. We are adopted children of the King, and the Lord of Lords is our best friend and brother. This helps keep my eyes focused when I begin planning a pity party for myself.

  8. 8

    Comparing myself to others is my biggest struggle right now. Thank you so much for writing this post. I’ve had very similar experiences…the last 2 summers, my husband and I have been on mission trips and we have not had a family vacation. I also struggle when people sell their house and buy a new one, just because they want newer and bigger. (Mine’s been for sale for three years.) The carpool line (and field trips, and even church) is a hard place for me to be. When I think about how much joy I’ve thrown away while comparing myself to others, it makes me sad. I really, really needed to read this. You’ve encouraged me today. Thank you so much.

  9. 9
    Melissa says:

    Thank you, Kristen, for this post today. I’ve been struggling a LOT with comparison lately, and I find myself escaping and praying to not be comparative. In Him alone, I can be content. He knows what I need and where I will go. That alone brings me joy. I need to remain focused on what lies ahead and not what is here on earth, but it is something that I must remind myself of often. How easy it is to get lost in the materialism of the world.

    I am grateful that God has other plans for me. Thank you for your words of encouragement that remind me that I am not alone in my desire for what lies ahead.

    ~Melissa

  10. 10

    Love this post! Love it!! Not only have I compared myself to others…I will then take every good trait that anyone has ever exhibited (which I may feel I lack at the time) and place it on said individual…it’s like I make them a god…Yikes, possibly I am idolizing someone when I should be idolizing the true God. And what does he stand for? The 7 fruits of the spirit? It’s always good for me to take a step back, and listen to God and keep my heart open to a change of perspective. Then again….sometimes it’s comparisons that make us do more….give more….love more? Just like iron sharpens iron. It’s always about me keeping some healthy boundaries on what I truly want in my life and what I am so darned grateful for, that I have forgotten about.

  11. 11

    Wonderful reflections. And the funny thing is that I thought you were going to compare what we have to what the people in Kenya have (and I was getting ready to feel guilty :) ), so it was a fun surprise that you were comparing what you have, partially as a result of going there on your missions, to what others were talking about.

    We can also be tempted to compare to what we once had or what we thought we would have had at this point in our lives. A few years ago our family went from a 5 bedroom house on an acre and a half in Kentucky to a 3 bedroom apartment in Baltimore County. I’ve found that comparing to the past doesn’t help my joy. Nor does looking at the future & thinking our parents’ generation had paid-for houses in their retirement age and that as we approach those years, we “should”, too.

    When we take the blessings that God gives us each day and allow ourselves to be joyful in them, we often find the hidden blessings. For example, we are closer – spend more time together – in an apartment than we were being spread out in multiple living areas. I also don’t have to worry about the kids and I often cleaning the pool, mowing the grass, and repairing things while my husband worked from dawn to past dark…and am less worried about making ends meet. There are blessings in every circumstance. (Now I hope someone doesn’t read this & wish they could live in an apartment. :) Appreciate whatever you have. :) ).

    Thank you for sharing and reminding us all once again not to compare.

  12. 12

    Thank You for sharing this, something I needed to be reminded of myself. God Bless all of you:)

  13. 13

    Just listened to an amazing sermon online by Andy Stanley this morning. It is a three-part series about comparison. I think it’s something we all deal with, yuk. He keyed in on Ecclesiastes and the many references in that book regarding comparing yourself to others. One of my favorite verses in there that I often have to repeat to myself is 6:9 Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless–like chasing the wind.

  14. 14

    I’m so glad to read this post. It makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only one who suffers by comparison….or suffers with comparison. I can be completely happy and content with my life, and then Satan sends a little jab that someone is better or someone does more. I’m all for defeating comparison and defeating the enemy.

  15. 15

    Remembering that God has specifically equipped me for the circumstances I find myself in and has a plan to redeem my life as He sees fit and use me for His glory is a helpful reminder for me when I find myself comparing myself to others. Comparing is part of our fallennes, a part that needs redeeming to the point where we can look at another’s life and appreciate it for what God made it to be for them AND remember that we are not equipped to handle what God has brought into their life…what seems “easy” to us may involve some rather difficult things we don’t see from the outside. AND, when we compare ourselves to others, we’re comparing their outsides with our insides (with all our insecurities, fear and doubt). Everyone has those “things” to deal with, we just don’t always see (or hear from their lips) what they are!!

  16. 16

    Wonderful post.

    Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

    Comparing yourself to others is always a bad idea. It either brings out your “inner Kanye West,” or leave you feeling miserable. If you MUST compare yourself to another, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.

  17. 17

    Thank you Kristen Welch. Comparison seems 2nd nature some days. However, the more I focus on Christ…those days seem to dwindle, dwindle. They still pop-up, but thru prayers of discernment, Christ prevails.

  18. 18
    Felicity says:

    “I’m chasing God, not this world”

    Excellent, I’m going to have to borrow this quote.

  19. 19

    Thank you so much for always bringing things into petspective, just when I need it! God bless you your family and Mercy House!

  20. 20

    Thank you for seemingly knowing what is on my heart…..right now it is all about perspective! May God bless you, your family and Mercy House!

  21. 21

    so true! i love this.

  22. 22
    Stephanie says:

    Thank you for sharing what pricks some of us so deep — most definitely myself! I am constantly comparing all of the things I think I don’t have, instead of focusing on the true blessings God has given me. I find myself in exact situations as you when I pick up my son from pre-K — I’m probably 1 of 3 parents there that has to work full-time (I’m fortunate enough to have a job that allows me to pick him up after school and drive him over to daycare)… so I’m constantly on the sideline listening to their stories of mornings in the gym or spring breaks at the beach… none of which we have the luxury of. Thank you for putting things into much needed perspective for those of us struggling with the same sinful heart. God bless!

  23. 23

    Thank you…. I needed this.
    Blessings on the journey~

  24. 24

    I love this Kristen! Thanks for the great reminder and encouragement.

  25. 25

    What divine timing, Kristen! For me, comparison doesn’t present itself in vehicles or houses or even clothes. I have been comparing and feeling inferior in what I do with my time lately: my work, my vocation, my calling. Since I began writing for the Kingdom and joined the social media cloud this summer, I find myself regularly comparing myself to other bloggers and writers. Talk about a joy robber! At times I am inspired by their writing, but more often I wonder if I misread God’s calling because I don’t see myself measuring up. I know I need to focus on God and my writing and perhaps even take a break from reading others for awhile. Thanks for the insight.

  26. 26

    Wonderful, timely, truth filled post Kristen. Thanks :)

  27. 27

    So well said. Comparison is truly a joy stealer. In a recent Bible study, we looked at contentment with what the Lord has given us. I often think of this phrase- ” You will never be totally content in this world because it is not your true home. God is your home.”

  28. 28
    Heather says:

    Thank you for your post today. I so needed to hear these words.

  29. 29

    Thank you so much!! This came at just the right time today. In my own strength, I fail at this constantly — but when I listen to God and hear Him speak to my heart, I know He has me right where He wants me to be!

  30. 30

    This is a great post. So so true that we fall victim to the comparison trap far too often and when we do, our joy is instantly zapped. We all have different areas where we easily begin to compare ourselves to other people – cars, homes, jobs, kids, family lifestyles, spiritual gifts, etc. So important to be aware of where we fall in this struggle and take action to safeguard our joy!

  31. 31

    I love your authenticity, its singing sweet notes of comfort.
    Perfectly timed too to be a balm to my spirit . I am grateful to have had your words in my day. They were needed, as this keeps bubbling up in my life lately.

    Thank you for taking this sometimes sensitive subject on in your post.

  32. 32

    I needed to hear your words today. I struggle with comparing to an earlier version of myself! My life took an unexpected turn and I’m not where I thought I was headed. I need to remember that I am right where I am supposed to be and have the tools and experiences God needs me to have to do his work. While I have struggled and adjusted I am content many days. However I want to be joyfully content – arms open wide, smiling and laughing! Not just grit my teeth, hold on tight, take a deep breath – of course I’m content because really it could be so much worse – feeling.

  33. 33
    Christina says:

    “I’m chasing God, not this world.”
    Thanks for the reminder! I’ll try to hold on to this word. :-)

  34. 34

    Such a good reminder! Thank you!

  35. 35

    Oh boy, can I relate this this!! Comparison is indeed a killjoy and you explained it perfectly with your example. Thank you.

  36. 36

    I just have to say thank your for your honesty and sharing your heart on this subject. Each day I ask God for a goal… Today’s goal was… “Be aware of times when you are comparing and turn to Me for the grace to stop.” So when I came upon this post, I felt like God was just giving me a special little treasure to read. Thanks again… for working with his grace!

  37. 37

    Kristen, oh my. I could make this a really long comment, but I won’t….suffice it to say this: you met me RIGHT where I am with this post. Thank you. I have to share this with my Thursday morning Bible study gals because they will laugh when they see that you hid in the garage….why? Because that’s my special hiding place from my kids. HAHAHA!! On the other side of the toolbox, on the Craftsman stool. Right with ya, girl. :) God bless you.

  38. 38
    Michelle says:

    I have been having a really hard time at work recently. I find myself making comparisons with people who do the same job but have much easier work lives. Strangely, I am only envious of people who are very close to me, like my partner. I have been feeling so down recently that I googled ‘Contentment kills’ and this page came up. This post has really encouraged me, especially since I am a Christian as well. I will work towards counting my blessings and being a joyful Christian.

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