Today’s guest post is by my dear friend (from my church) who is a single sister in Christ and is in her early 30s:
Hey y’all! I’m Krystal, and I’m excited to be sharing on PSG. April has been asking me to write for a while now, but I’ve hesitated because I think the folks who write here are really good and I’m not sure if I will measure up. So I thought it appropriate to start off with an area in which I clearly have a temptation/sin issue. Let’s talk about comparison.
I am convinced that the temptation of comparison has been Satan’s go-to for women across the ages. Look at how he tempted Eve in the Garden: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 5:6, emphasis mine). It started with her, and it continues today. But before we get to us, let’s take a pit stop just a little to the right of Eve’s story, in Genesis 29 – 30, and look at Leah’s story.
Isaac has directed Jacob to go to Laban, his maternal uncle, and take one of his daughters as his wife. The first thing we learn about Leah is that she is the older of Laban’s two daughters. And the second thing we learn is that she has what has been most often translated to “weak eyes” in English. The meaning of the Hebrew here is unclear, but Leah’s weak eyes are directly contrasted with Rachel’s beauty. So whatever having “weak eyes” meant in ancient Hebrew culture, it probably wasn’t a good thing. Essentially, Rachel was beautiful, but Leah was not. Hello, comparison.
So it’s no surprise when Jacob decides that Rachel is the sister he wants. And not only that, he volunteers to work for seven years to get her as his wife. Then the seven years are up and Jacob has his wedding feast. He goes into the tent and consummates the marriage. And then, “in the morning, behold, it was Leah!” Laban had tricked him into marrying Leah. So not only was Leah passed over by Jacob for her beautiful younger sister, her father thought he had to trick someone into marrying her. Where I live, this is where we stop, shake our heads, and say, “bless her little heart.”
Leah lives in a culture where beauty is highly valued, and she apparently doesn’t have it. Comparisons to her beautiful sister abound. Can you imagine what people say behind her back? “Oh poor, Leah. Too bad she’s not beautiful like Rachel.” What about to her face? “Leah, you should try [insert beauty regimen/workout routine here]. Maybe that would help you get a man.” And imagine what she now has to endure, “Did you hear? Laban had to trick someone into marrying her.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE LEAH?
I volunteer with the college group at my church, and we were talking about Leah this week with a group of upperclassmen and graduate students. I was shocked as girls all around the room talked about how they identified with Leah. These beautiful girls who I would have definitely considered “Rachels” had story after story of comparisons they make (or others have made for them) and experiences they have had with guys choosing “my friend who is prettier than me.” They taught me this week that in the battle for our minds and in Satan’s tempting us with comparison, we’re all Leahs. We all live in a culture where beauty reigns, and we all feel like we don’t measure up.
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” –James 1:14-15
COMPETING IN OTHER AREAS
Appearance is a super common area of comparison for women, but it’s certainly not the only one. I have a younger sister who has always been prettier, skinnier, cooler, and more popular than I am. I know I get myself into trouble when I compare myself to her, yet I continue to do it.
For example, I just got a fitbit. Today she challenged me to a competition in which the person who takes the most steps during the day wins. I typically go trail running on Saturday mornings but it’s been raining here for a few days so I decided to skip this week and have a lazy Saturday. She had not skipped the gym, so she had over 12,000 steps by noon (that’s like 6 miles). Well, I just could not let her beat me by so much, so I went out to walk for an hour this afternoon. And then I ended up staying out for an hour and a half so that I could pass her step count. Now, going for a walk in and of itself is not a bad thing; in fact, it’s a pretty good choice to make on the surface. But look at my motives; look at my heart. I was out there walking only so that I could catch up to her steps. And then I decided that it wasn’t good enough to just catch up, I needed to win. In the time I’ve been writing this post, I’ve checked twice four times to make sure I’m still ahead. Yikes.
What is wrong with me? The same thing that’s wrong with all of us. We are sinful people living in a world devastated by sin.
Sisters, we are hard-wired for the temptation of comparison. Satan lures us this way precisely because we have a deep desire to measure up to, or more often to be better than, someone else. We must recognize that we are tempted in this way and take action to stop this temptation from becoming sin. As James tells us in those verses above, ignoring temptation and giving in to it will eventually lead to death.
HERE ARE SOME SCRIPTURE-BASED WAYS TO GET OURSELVES OUT OF TEMPTATION BEFORE IT BECOMES SIN:
- Identify and keep yourself from situations that tempt you.
I have to admit: this is so hard. Living in the world but not by the world’s standards is so, so difficult. For me, social media provides the biggest opportunity for comparison temptation in my life. It seems like all my friends are getting married, having babies, buying houses, losing weight, or getting promotions… and the list goes on and on. I found myself living in the middle of all that jealousy and feeling sorry for myself by comparison fairly constantly. So I made the decision last year to get rid of my Facebook account.
Jesus has strong words about keeping ourselves from temptation in Matthew 18:8-9: “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”
Wow. Deleting my Facebook account seems incredibly mild and much less of a sacrifice in comparison to this. I’m also much more careful about what movies and televisions shows I choose to watch these days, as well as which books I choose to read. It’s hard enough to be tempted to compare myself to real people; I’m totally setting myself up for failure when I start comparisons to made-up characters. For other people, totally different things may lead you to the temptation of comparison.
Action Step: Write down each time this week you feel the temptation of comparison rise to the surface and what the immediate cause was. Let’s learn to recognize our temptations and take steps to avoid putting ourselves in those situations.
- Know the Word.
Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness before his earthly ministry began (you can find accounts of His temptation in Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 4). Jesus overcame this temptation by responding to Satan using God’s Word. In the acute moments of our temptation, it is essential that we have hidden God’s Word in our hearts.
Memorization of Scripture is essential in fighting temptation. I did a lot of memorizing scripture back in my Bible drill days, but I have to admit there’s a good 15 – 20 years since in which I did practically none. I recently restarted this spiritual discipline, and I have focused on memorizing full books rather than verses out of context.
Action Step: Join me in this endeavor. It sounds incredibly overwhelming, but I promise it is not only doable but also a huge blessing and a totally different interaction with Scripture than reading or even studying it. I follow this plan for extended scripture memorization, and I can tell you that it works. Pick a book that you enjoy studying or frequently found yourself drawn to. Ask God where you should start.
Jesus specifically instructs the disciples to “watch and pray” in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His death so that they wouldn’t fall into temptation. They didn’t, and they all fled. Peter famously denied knowing Christ three times before morning.
We must make use of the power of prayer in overcoming our temptation. God hears our cries for help (Psalm 18:6). 1 John 5:14 tells us: “this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.” Fleeing temptation is certainly according to God’s will, so we can be confident that he hears our prayers for help overcoming temptation.
Action Step: Let’s get serious about praying for the Spirit’s wisdom in overcoming those things by which we are tempted. I find it helpful to keep a prayer journal. I write down my prayers, what God tells me, and how I respond to his instruction. This process helps me identify patterns in my life and remind myself of how faithful God is.
Let me wrap up by pulling us back into Leah’s world. Jacob ended up marrying Rachel too, and he loved her more. In fact, Genesis 29:31 tells us that Leah was hated.
- But it was Leah who gave Jacob his firstborn son.
- Leah is the mother of both the priestly (Levi) and the kingly (Judah) lines. Don’t miss this: Christ’s lineage goes back to Leah, not the beautiful sister whom Jacob loved more.
- Leah, not Rachel, was buried in the family tomb with Jacob, Isaac, Rebekah, Abraham, and Sarah (Genesis 49:31).
God’s plan for our lives is in no way based on our worldly standards of comparison. By worldly standards, Leah did not measure up. But that didn’t matter to God, because He sees us not based on our worldly standards of outward appearance but based on our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7) and His plan is not hampered by our weaknesses (Isaiah 14:27). Let’s pray that He will teach us to see ourselves in His way and that He will help us to overcome the temptation of comparison.