Identity, Relationships

On Christian Comparison & Feeling Not Good Enough

Friends, I can say with full honesty that there are times when I feel God must love other people waaaay more than He loves me (if He even loves me at all. That’s definitely come into question over the past six months). Tell me if this sounds like you:

  • You see how much money/fun/popularity/general good fortune all your Christian friends have
  • You feel like you’re barely making it while all your Christian friends seem to be thriving and flying
  • Your social media is full of wealthy/famous/broke but still adventuring/uber holy Christians with lives that seem way better than yours
  • You just generally feel like a sucky person – you feel not holy enough, deprived because you can’t afford what they do or have, like you’re missing out on all the fun.
  • You’re exactly where God told you to be, doing exactly what he’s called you to do, but you feel like it’s all wrong or not enough compared to what your other Christian friends are doing

You feel me? Okay. That’s where I’m at, too.

I found myself crying, alone, in the farthest back pew of the church at Mass today, wondering if God even cares and pleading with him to remember that I’m his child, too. Because not gonna lie, the last two years, it’s definitely felt like God’s the kind of parent who plays favorites.

On the one hand, I recognize a lot of these feelings can be labeled “self-pity” and “envy”, which indeed are not Christian values. However, just dismissing these feelings won’t solve the problem. So we’ve found the root, but what is the truth that can set us free from these feelings?

1. Remember how much the Father loves you – specifically and individually you.

The Father says to us, You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you. (Is 43:4) See upon the palms of my hands I have engraved your name. (Is 49:16) When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. For I, the LORD, am your God (Is. 43:2-3). You did not choose me, but I chose you. (Jn 15:16) Indeed, even the hairs on your head have all been counted. (Mat 10:30) See what love the Father has lavished on us that we may be called the children of God. And that is what we are! (1 Jn 3:1) He who did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  (Rom 8:32)

2. Realize that tough luck/misfortunes are not because you’ve fallen out of favor with God.

As [Jesus] passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” (Jn 9:1-3) This was a common misconception at Jesus’ time, and, sadly, it continues today. We think that bad things happen to us because God hates us or because we’ve done something wrong, this turns into self-flagellation, and we spin out into a cycle of “WHAT DID I DO/ WHY DOES GOD HATE ME/ I’M THE WORST”…STOP. Even if you did something wrong, God is merciful and longs to forgive you. You just have to turn to Him with a sincere, contrite heart. More often than not, when bad things happen or misfortunes arise, God intends to use it for His glory – NOT for your misery.

3. Just because their lives look great and your life feels sucky, doesn’t mean God loves you less.

In fact, I’d argue the opposite is true; God is particularly close to, and has a special kind of love for, those who are down and out. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Mat 5:3-5) He has looked with favor on His lowly servant. (Luke 1:48) He looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, He sees them from afar. (Psalm 138:6) So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Mat 20:16) 

Our God is a God of underdogs. The people He has called to do great things have hardly ever been “great” or “successful” by worldly standards. Many of the apostles were illiterate and held low social standings. Some of them were outcast by the rest of Jewish society, deemed “sinners”. Jesus didn’t call kings and military generals, presidents and billionaires to be His first disciples. He called the lowest in society, the ones everyone else pushed away and ignored. Our God is a God that empowers the little guy, the helpless, the sick, weak, sinful, and lowly. Here’s to the underdogs! God loves us and calls us, despite all our flaws and inabilities.

4. You don’t need to do mighty deeds to be a “good Christian”. You need to do little things with great love.

If you’re like me, you probably hear about/read about/see on social media all the amazing, BIG things people are doing for the world: moving to foreign countries to do mission work. Becoming famous Christian speakers, touring the country and witnessing to thousands. Going on amazing pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Rome, the Camino…you name it. It makes you feel inadequate, like you’re not doing enough.

Image result for st therese of lisieux

See this woman? That’s little Therese of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun who spent half her life inside a convent. She dreamed of being the next Joan of Arc, going on crusades for France. She dreamed of moving to Vietnam with her fellow priests and nuns to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. The reality is that God called her to stay in her little convent in an obscure town in France and never leave. He called her to spend her days washing dishes and taking orders from her superiors. Was that easy to do for one with such big dreams? No. It was a humility pill that she had to swallow. But what happened to this little nun (who, I might add, was deathly ill nearly her whole childhood)? She began to love others in such profound ways – she treated the nuns who were cruel to her with Christlike kindness. She washed her dishes as a form of praise and worship to God. She remained silent when chastised, rather than lashing out or getting defensive. She ended up becoming a saint all by living Christ’s call in tiny ways. And, in my eyes, that’s much harder and much greater than donating your kidney/building a school in Uganda/speaking your testimony to thousands. Because who wants to be holy in boring, daily life? No one. It’s wayyy more challenging than being holy in big, sweeping ways.

Takeaway: if you’re stuck in mundane daily life, seemingly doing insignificant work, please know that that requires immense holiness and is perfecting your little soul. 

5. Bloom where God has planted you.

Like St. Therese being called to spend her life in a convent, you may be called to spend your life in something the world (or other Christians) don’t deem as “great”. Personally, I believe God has called me to be in the military and then, down the road, a lawyer or politician. I’ve been told by some fellow Christians that joining the military is immoral and God would never approve of that or call me to that. But that’s where I firmly believe He’s called me. It doesn’t sound great from a Christian perspective – all the “good Christians” I know of (and, to take it a step further, all the good Christian women I know) tend to be teachers, youth ministers, missionaries, philanthropy/ministry leaders, volunteers, speakers, worship band members, and parents. I am called to none of those things. And for years – since my senior year of high school, in fact – I’ve wrestled with God’s calling for my life. I’ve felt like where He’s called me isn’t “Christian” enough because all the “good Christians” I know are never business people, politicians, doctors, lawyers, or military members, yet that is where God calls Christians. The truth is, GOD CALLS CHRISTIANS TO ALL DIFFERENT PLACES AND CAREERS. He calls us to be Christian students, Christian cashiers, Christian waiters, Christian salesmen, Christian nurses, Christian janitors, Christian baristas and Christian flight attendants. No call is greater than another – ALL ARE NECESSARY FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. If we are to create a Christian society, we need Christians planted in ALL places, not just churches. 

So stop questioning if where you’re at is “good” enough or “holy” enough and turn it into an opportunity to be good and holy! Shine Christ’s light exactly where you are, exactly where He has called you. And if He tells you to move, then move. But until then, stay put and stop questioning it.

6. You alone are not enough; but God is more than enough, and He works through you.

I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me. (Phil 4:13) In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:7-10) 

Whatever your weaknesses are, whatever your misfortunes are, God is going to use it for so much more than you can ever imagine. His strength, His Spirit is present in you and can do mighty things. So be proud of your weaknesses; they are what keep you humble, reminding you that you can do nothing without Christ. They are also so important for reaching others who struggle with the same things.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us (2 Cor 1:3-10)

Struggling with sin, vice, physical or mental illness, financial ruin, grief or loss, confusion, heartbreak, or even the dark night of the soul? God is going to use this to reach people in ways picture-perfect Instagrammer Christians could never reach them. By being down here in the trenches with the suffering masses, you can be that light of Christ. The world doesn’t need another pretty Instagrammer. The world needs your gritty, raw, authentic struggle. Because it helps others know they don’t struggle alone, and brings the hope that God is greater and Christ overcomes.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you today. Pray for me, and I’ll continue to pray for you as we struggle down this road they call life together, united in Christ. The struggle of life is what purifies, never forget that. We are forged into who we’re meant to be when we encounter hardship in this life. Be grateful for your trials; they are making you into the saint you have been called to be before time even began.

All my love,

~ J.R.

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