I didn’t mean to be jealous but there I was. Staring at the small screen in my hand I swiped through photos of the successful ministry endeavor my friend had just launched. A surplus of volunteers, nicely curated graphic design and a forward-focused vision filled the photos. Still, even with all of that goodness, my heart sank.
I looked around my own office. A stained ceiling tile where a water pipe had burst and leaked onto my desk caught my eye. One of my lightbulbs was out. I had just checked the financial books and they weren’t looking good. It was difficult for me to applaud what God was doing in the ministry of someone else when I felt like I wasn’t seeing Him do it for my own. Compared to their success, my years of running the race still had me finishing last.
In this day and age our brains are consistently confronted with information. Streaming platforms allow us the opportunity to access movies and shows with the click of a button. Social media is at our fingertips and one swipe connects us with the rest of the world. We can communicate faster than ever before. Unfortunately, this also means that we can fall into comparison faster than ever before.
For a long time, I allowed comparison to become a large theme in my life. With so many friends in ministry it was easy to look around and see all the content everyone else was producing and all the vision they were casting. Rather than being encouraged by what was being done for the kingdom of God I was continually comparing my failures and setbacks to their highlights and progress. This cycle of envy kept me in a place that hindered the calling that God placed on my life and the ministry opportunities that He had specifically given to me.
It was on a typical night at home that my perspective changed. Scrolling through posts I found myself once again sinking into the familiar place that jealousy had formed in my heart. I turned my phone off and closed my eyes. It was in that moment of silence that I felt the Lord speak to my heart. Immediately, I knew that I was supposed to pray for the ministries I had only seconds before compared myself to. I turned my phone on and scrolled through the photos again but this time with praise as my filter. Photo after photo, I thanked God for blessing other ministries and meeting their needs. I praised Him for opening doors of opportunity and reaching the unreached. I asked Him to bring encouragement to the ministry leaders and help them feel His presence.
Did my own ministry situation change overnight? No, but my heart began to. When the knock of comparison came to my heart, I began meeting it at the door. Every time I would feel myself leaning into envy, I would purposely praise God for His blessing. I prayed in gratitude for the work that other ministries were doing and I believed for blessing in my own. Slowly, but surely, my outlook began to change. Instead of seeing everything as a competition I learned what it truly meant in 1 Corinthians 13:9 (NIV) when Paul described us as “co-workers in God’s service.”
Together, we can accomplish so much for the kingdom of God. There is a lot that can be learned from the ministry endeavors of our brothers and sisters in Christ. There are words of encouragement that we can give to one another and there are ideas that we can receive. One of the best places for innovation to spring up is within community. One of the best avenues of encouragement is the network of ministry leaders that we surround ourselves with.
A dear friend of mine once reminded me, “When you see God bless your neighbor that means He’s in your neighborhood.” I love that little saying because of the encouragement it brings. We know that according to John 10:10 (NLT), “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” One of the best places for him to do that is in seasons when we feel isolated and discouraged. Comparison easily traps us in isolation and discouragement. However, at the end of that verse, Jesus says, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
When our hearts lean into contentment rather than comparison, we begin to experience that rich and satisfying life Jesus provides. Society provides us with endless opportunities to feel anxious, unworthy and inadequate. Trust me, I’ve experienced it all. Jesus reminds us of His truth—that He provides for us, calls us and anchors our souls. If you feel yourself being discouraged in comparison begin taking steps toward contentment. When jealousy pings your heart turn it around and pray for those you’re comparing yourself to. When you are discouraged by what your current ministry situation looks like, rest in Jesus, believing that He will help you in your difficult season. When you feel isolated reach out to a ministry community and seek fresh ideas and words of encouragement. It’s not always easy but taking steps away from comparison will always lead you to the rich and satisfying life that Jesus has for you.