For the next few months, Bro. John O’Malley will be sharing with us from his book, Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles. We know that everyone can use some encouragement to stay in the Word of God on a daily basis, and we hope these articles will be a blessing to you in your walk with the Lord.
The Obstacle of Comparison
I feel inadequate, overwhelmed, or guilty when I hear others speak of a beautiful time of Devotions and I compare my Devotions to theirs.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed, guilty, or inadequate about your devotional life? You know the feeling.
You look at these picture perfect people with a mystical aura about them. You see their Instagram accounts and wonder why your Devotions do not have their glamour. Their social media accounts have photos with the perfect compositions. They place their coffee cup just right, a pen is near their notebook and set at the perfect angle. Their Bible is open to the right passage and marked with the appropriate highlighter. They have a hashtag that is perfect. They choose the perfect photo filter to make it look spiritual.
You look up from your screen and glance around your home. You see the ever-growing-and-always-insurmountable Mount Laundry on the couch. You see a pile of dishes that are unwashed from yesterday’s lunch. You look at your child and realize he or she did not change their clothes from yesterday; then again, neither did you. You look again at your friend’s social media account and then look at your life. You feel guilty and overwhelmed. You feel like quitting because you can never match up to their picture-perfect devotional life.
Perhaps your life is similar to the one described above. Maybe you know it too well. You see the social media accounts of these picture-perfect people and wonder where do they live? Do they live in a spiritual bubble while you are stuck in a spiritual desert?
When it comes to your devotional life, you wonder…
…am I the only one who struggles with my devotional life?
…am I the only one who feels my entire prayer life is the time spent asking God to bless my bowl of Fruit Loops at breakfast? …am I the only one who reads the inspirational quotes on Instagram and calls it devotions?
Here are some tips to help you overcome the obstacles of guilt, inadequacy, and feeling overwhelmed by the quality of your Devotions.
Tip #1: Release yourself.
You must not trap yourself when viewing devotional posts on social media, nor when hearing people speak of their spiritual lives in a way that makes you feel guilty. The posts you see, including the inspirational quotes, capture a planned moment, not a perfect life. The way you imagine the picture of someone else’s life from what they portray is unfair to you both. Life is messy–even for the believer.
The perfect people you see in a photo are not really perfect. Your fellow humans are as troubled as you are in your life. They have family problems mixed with financial problems. They have relationship issues and real struggles. We hurt ourselves when we compare ourselves to others without taking this into account.
Look at this passage:
“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
There is a danger when we compare ourselves to each other. When you look at someone’s photos and quotes, you are setting the expectation and creating your guilt, inadequacy, and sense of being overwhelmed. These unrealistic expectations get us out of balance, and we end up binding ourselves to unrealistic standards.
Tip #2: Remind yourself.
When next you begin to evaluate and compare yourself to someone, remind yourself of your worth to God (1 Corinthians 6:20). Tell yourself He paid far too high a price for you to create your storm of inadequacy, which leaves you overwhelmed. Your worth to God is unparalleled and priceless. God valued your worth to Him at such a high price that the only equivalent value was the death of His Son, Jesus. He gave His Son so that you could have fellowship with Him (John 3:16).
Remind yourself of your worth to God in the roles you have in life. You have a role as a wife, husband, and/or child of your parents. No matter your role, your value to Him is unsurpassed. Your worth to God as a woman is far above rubies (Genesis 2:18; Proverbs 31:10). Your worth to God as a husband is so great that He entrusted you to guard and guide those within your care (Ephesians 5:23-25). Your worth as a teen (1 Samuel 16:11-12; Esther 2:7-11; 4:14) is not how you see yourself, or even as others see you; it is how He sees you.
Tip #3: Reset yourself.
When feeling the sense of inadequacy about yourself, when feeling guilt about your walk with God, when feeling overwhelmed because everyone but you seems to have a perfect life, stop it! Be realistic and reset your expectations from the Word of God.
We reset our phones, our computers, and our cars. We also need to do this with our lives, and at times with our relationships and responsibilities. We must do this often with our thinking.
The only way I know to reset myself is time spent in the Word of God. I have to get back to the Bible and read it to reset my expectations about my walk with God, my prayer time, and my daily reading.
The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 42:5:
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.”
The Psalmist made it clear: there is no valid reason to have noisiness (disquiet) in our souls. When our minds manufacture the noisiness of guilt, inadequacy, and the feeling of being overwhelmed, we must reset our thoughts with this thought, “I must hope in God and His presence (countenance).” No one has ever accurately said God failed him or her, and you cannot say God has failed you. Noisiness in the soul is a choice of the mind. Hope is a choice you must make when disquiet invades you.
Reset the expectation of your walk with God.
What does your walk with God mean? It is your journey with the Creator of the Universe on the path of your life. Your stride, your view, and your memories will be different than someone else who reads the same passages you do. Like a parent individually teaches each child, the Holy Spirit impresses each reader in the way they need to hear and learn.
Why then would you compare your Bible journey to someone else’s Bible journey? You will have a different stride, a different view, and a different experience than someone else. You must reset your thinking about comparing your devotional life with anyone else. You must begin to ask, “God, am I meeting Your expectations in my walk with You?”
Reset the expectations about the time you pray.
Pressing the Spiritual Reset Button on prayer helps you determine what level of prayer life you should have. Resist comparison between another’s pride or pity. Neither emotion is an accurate metric to assess whether you pray enough or if you pray as long or just like someone else. Do you recall what occurred in the temple in Luke 18:9-14? The Pharisee and the Publican both prayed to God, but their hearts were different. What is your heart filled with when you pray?
When you choose to press the Spiritual Reset Button, your prayer life changes, ending the childish comparison with others. Prayer is talking to God about what is in your heart and listening to Him speak through His Word. Do not complicate prayer. Do not compare your prayer time with another. Doing so cheapens your intimate conversations with God and diminishes you.
Reset the expectations about your Bible reading.
What does life look like after you press the Spiritual Reset Button? Let your Bible reading be more about what you retain and live out versus how much you read and left out of your life. I recommend you start with quality over quantity. If you are using a devotional book, take the passage for the day and read it. Read it slowly and deliberately. Read it aloud, perhaps even listen to it being read with an audio Bible. Now, read the day’s reading of inspiration or instruction. Did the passage from the Bible or the day’s reading resonate with you? Is there an area of your life you need to make it apply?
If you are prone to comparing your Bible reading and devotional reading time with someone, stop it. It is not healthy for your spiritual life. It will leave you overwhelmed, guilty, and feeling less than adequate.
Tip #4: Fill out a 3×5 card and carry it with you.
Fill out this card as instructed below. Put it in your wallet, save it on your phone or tablet, put it in your purse so you can pull it out and review it when you feel the emotions of inadequacy, guilt, and being overwhelmed when you have reverted to comparisons.
1. Write this statement across the top of the card. Write this verse below it.
Statement: I will not compare myself to others in any area of my life. It is not wise.
Verse: “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
2. Turn the card over and write this statement across the top and this verse below it.
Statement: I will choose hope and praise over the noisiness of my emotions. Any other choice will frustrate me.
Verse: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him For the help of his countenance” (Psalm 42:5).
My goal is to give you a tool to overcome the Obstacle of Comparison. You know the feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and being overwhelmed when you compare yourself to the spirituality of others. When you get stuck, review these four tips.
If these thoughts have been an encouragement to you, you can email Bro. O’Malley here to let him know. If you’d like to purchase the entire Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles book in PDF, Kindle, or iBooks format, click here.