Do you compare your faith to others?
As humans, it is difficult, if not impossible to avoid making comparisons to one another. Some comparisons are simple and unimportant. For instance, I am taller than my wife. That is a comparative statement, but it is a fact. And it is not a problem unless we allow it to be a problem like using names and labels against another person.
Again, some comparisons are harmless, but all comparisons can be problematic if we abuse the facts. Some people have more resources than others. Some people are healthier than others. Some people have more friends than others. Data can support each of those claims. But how we massage the numbers or the labels we put on people because of the facts is what creates problems.
And when it comes to faith, we play the comparison game as well. We may wonder why some individuals do not respond the same way to certain events as we do. We may wonder why certain individuals choose to forgo attending church, or attending a Sunday School or Small Group class/fellowship/etc. Or maybe it is just me who does this.
But the reality is that we all have challenges. And we all exercise faith in someone or something. And we all exercise that faith differently.
What is particularly challenging for someone may be relatively easy for someone else to apply faith. Usually, a part of this difference is due to the different circumstances that a person has lived through in their past.
The challenge for us as people who are prone to comparisons is not to inject our level of faith on someone else’s reality. What makes this especially difficult is that we are called to help others grow in their faith. Doing so requires us to take inventory of where someone else may be on their faith journey, but it also requires us not to judge them for their current place in that journey.
This is a difficult balance – especially in today’s world. Making disciples means that we must make something (or more of something) that is not yet (fully) there. But again, our tendency is to then compare ourselves to others.
We must remember two thoughts, in particular. First, others are further down the path than we are. I am often humbled by the thought of those who tried to pour their lives into me and saw little fruit for years. I am thankful that God continued to send others. He did not give up. Neither should we because maybe the next time we make contact with someone, the connection will finally click.
Second, we do not know the full story of their lives. Taking time to know a person’s past can help to direct their future. Of course, ultimately, only the Holy Spirit can help a person to change truly, but Jesus asked us to be a part of that process. And being a part of that process means to engage fully with others, which requires a lack of judgment.
As an example of not knowing what others are going through, let me share a story a friend of mine once shared with me.
The pastor of a church asked the congregation to write down something that was a particular burden for each of them at that time. Each person was then invited to come to the front and lay down the piece of paper. However, anyone who chose to lay down a burden had to pick up a different slip of paper which contained someone else’s burden. No one chose to take their piece of paper to the front.
Because we do not know all of the battles that others are fighting. People may say, “I wish I was like _______.” However, the reality is that we only see the tip of the iceberg in most anyone’s life. And what is ironic is that some of the names you might include in that first blank who “have it all” may be saying “I wish I was like ___________” and fill in that blank with your name!
Again, we all face challenges. And we must all exercise some level of faith to work through those challenges. And a significant challenge to you or me may seem inconsequential to others, but we can be thankful that whatever challenge we face is not as bad as what some others may be facing.
And as we grow in our faith, our challenges often grow as well. God’s goal is not for us to live easy, pleasant lives (despite what some preachers may say), it is to conform us to the image of His Son. And Jesus had a perfect faith and suffered horribly.
So, seek to grow in our faith. And help others do the same. But as you do, realize that suffering will likely increase. But instead of comparing your life and faith with others, take time to realize that God is doing something specific to, and for, you.
Are you ready to find out what that something is? If so, begin by stopping the comparisons, and then you will be ready to see where God may take you.