I wrote a few posts ago about comparisons: comparing myself to people around me in order to make myself feel good, aka pride. But there’s also another type of comparison which also escalated to a new level when I became a mum. I compare myself to people who I think are better than me, or better off than me. This makes me feel insecure, anxious and, self-pitying. I don’t mean my many friends who are more patient, kind or God-dependent than me – they’re my godly role-models. I can thank God for what I see in them, and ask Him to make me more like that. If I’m honest, what bothers me more is the other stuff – the mum whose house is spick-and-span; the mum who’s thin three weeks post-birth; the mum who remains serene whilst packing for a holiday. And it doesn’t even have to be real – oh no, I can invent comparisons. I look around me and think, ‘I bet so-and-so’s living room never looks like this.’ How do I know?! This is laughable in a way, but it’s a symptom of a serious problem.
When my second child, Ezra, was born, it quickly became clear that he had acid reflux. This meant that after each feed he would be in a lot of pain and would squirm and cry until he fell asleep. Then he’d wake up quite happy, have another feed and the crying/squirming routine would start again. It was very upsetting, not to mention noisy.
At the same time, another lady in our church had also had a baby boy, and a mutual friend had been round to meet him. I asked how they were doing, and my friend said apologetically, ‘Yeah they’re fine – he’s a really easy baby.’ Now of course, I didn’t want my friend’s baby to be ill or for her to be having a hard time at all. But in the midst of my struggle with a sad baby, I was very upset to hear that another baby was easy! I kept rebuking myself, but for days I couldn’t think about it without getting a sinking feeling in my stomach. I was jealous! But it was more than that. Nothing like that should cause such a strong emotional response without it ringing alarm bells. What was my problem?
The sad truth is, I do believe this huge upset was caused by idolatry in my own heart. I know that ‘idolatry’ is a nasty word, but it’s true. I’m not sure if it came down to wanting the perfect children, or wanting an easy life, or wanting to be the perfect mother, but it was probably a combination of these things which had taken a higher place in my heart than, well, God.
Here are three (not the only three) reasons that I should have been genuinely pleased for my friend’s blessing:
One – to God be the glory
‘For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To [God] be the glory for ever! Amen.’ (Romans 11:36)
Everything that happens is for God’s glory. He is sovereign and good, and worth all the praise. So if my baby is absolutely marvellous, that’s for God’s glory. If he’s a screamer, that’s for God’s glory. This can be hard to accept. I know some of you have had terrible, hard experiences with motherhood and with the rest of life. Many things are not good. But one answer to the ‘why’s of this life is that God is showing (glorifying) himself and making himself known. And although it can be hard to accept, it’s actually wonderful news that everything is under God’s control, and he is in the business of showing us how perfect he is.
Two – God does not withhold good things from me
‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…’ Romans 8:28-9
This amazing promise tells me that everything that happens in my life is for my spiritual good. God could give me the following: mould-free walls; step-free access to my home; children who enjoy tidying up. He hasn’t given me those things (yet), but I know that this is for my spiritual good. So anything I think I’m lacking (i.e. stuff I’m coveting) is not evidence of God being unfair or unkind to me. How dare I even whisper this! As Spurgeon says:
“As for his failing you,
never dream of it –
hate the thought of it.
The God who has been sufficient until now,
should be trusted to the end.”
If God chooses to give my neighbour a beautiful house, the ability to bake bread, a giant food budget, winsome and orderly children and a post-baby figure like Davina McCall, then I can be happy for her! Because God has given me exactly what I need the most in order to make me more like his Son, Jesus.
Three – I need to be thankful to God, and get on with it
‘… when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.’ Ecclesiastes 5:19-20
In light of points One and Two, I need to stop looking around at everyone else’s lot and accept my own! I can ask God for the ability to accept my lot, then stop my self-absorbed reflecting and rather get on with the work God has for me to do today. While I’m fretting, green-eyed, over my friend’s lot, I’m ignoring my own. And I’ve so much to be thankful for.
If Jesus is number one, then I will a: want him to get the glory; b: want to be more like him and c: be thankful for everything he gives me. If something else is number one in my heart, then I will be discontent, jealous and, frankly, not very nice. Who wants to be friends with the ‘me’ described in those opening paragraphs? Not you, I’m sure.
Perhaps you don’t play the comparison game, in which case you’re probably just wondering what on earth my problem is (I refer you back to the nasty word). But whether you do or you don’t I hope that you can be encouraged today that God does not withhold good things from you, he deserves all the glory, and by putting him first you can be satisfied in him, and happy with your lot!
P.S. I do think that comparisons are a huge issue with parents, and I’d love to say more on this. I’ve only scratched the surface, but I’d like to recommend the following book: Compared to Her by Sophie de Witt. I’ll write a proper review of it too, but just wanted to plug it here because I learnt a lot from reading it – all credit to her!