Let’s get honest here.
Do you ever look at the life of others and wish you had their life?
Or see their posts on social media, and wish your life could be as picture-perfect and problem-free?
Do you ever sit in your seat at church on Sunday and wish you were as put together as the worship team or the pastor and his wife?
I’ve fallen under the temptation of comparison many times.
Sometimes I have just wanted to be free of my particular struggles.
Yet I firmly believe that over the course of our lifetime, God will use some of our greatest areas of struggle to be our greatest area of ministry for Him.
But sometimes what we see in the life and ministry of others is “the afterlife” … the part of their life that comes after their greatest area of struggle or hardship. The fruit that comes after “they’ve paid their dues,” so to speak.
Sometimes what we see is the “in-between stages”…the part of their life where they can minister because they are in-between trials.
And if I can be so bold, sometimes what we see is the “cleaned up version”…the part that they let the world see although they continue to fight a battle and sludge through a trial that no one else knows about.
The Lord asked me to write a book about depression not just because I have worked for over 25 years in the mental health field, but because I have personally battled through it in the past. When people see me now and comment on the joy they see in me, until they get to know me, they have no idea that depression was once one of my greatest struggles.
I remember a couple of different well-known speakers who have been criticized in the press and in the media for their wealth and their possessions. Yet no one mentioned their early ministry years when they didn’t know when the next paycheck would come in, or how they would feed their families…the years of abuse they endured or the estrangement from family rarely gets mentioned…no one spoke of the time they were stalked and feared for their life. And I daresay, even if they did, no one would volunteer for those experiences in order to appreciate the blessings these speakers now enjoy.
Recently, a follower of my work commented publicly how they wish they could have my life. I’m not exactly sure what part of “my life” they wanted, although I will be the first to admit, I am incredibly blessed. But I have also endured my share of hardship and pain, and I have also worked hard, “paid my dues,” and continue to work hard.
It made me think, however. Because recently, I asked a friend to pray over a situation for me. Yet she seemed surprised. Her response? “But you’d never know. Your posts on social media are always so positive!”
We only ever get a small glimpse of what is going on in the lives of others. Even those we know the most intimately. Unless we walk in their shoes, we never really know all they deal with or have dealt with to get where they are today.
I personally believe that we should do as the Bible encourages us to do in Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” And on social media, especially, I view my role as to offer encouragement and hope not complain or mope about the daily woes.
But perhaps at times it does each other a disservice to not give a glimpse into our daily reality. It’s easy to see the travel photos, the family birthday photos, and the tweeted milestones, and have a very skewed image of someone’s day in and day out reality. After the follower said they wished they could have my life, I thought about my day and jotted down a very honest appraisal of what the day was like:
I drove a friend to the airport,
got to work at 5am,
wrote 2 patient reports,
saw eight patients,
wrote up 2 insurance pre-authorizations,
handled one attorney consultation call,
returned 27 emails,
realized I was famished because breakfast was when most people are still digesting last night’s dinner,
ran home to fix something,
broke a shoe,
had to clean up after a sick dog,
helped my son pack for a trip with his dad,
had to figure out dinner –something that didn’t require going back out in 110 degree heat to grocery store, THEN and only then would I start working on several other patient reports,
write a blog post due the next day,
and if there was any time left over before falling into bed,
perhaps read a chapter of a new book that came in the mail that day.
So not very glamorous is it? But blessed it is.
Throughout the day I battled against worries and fears, insecurities and longings:
How do I deliver this feedback so my patient can best receive it?
When did I put on these 20 pounds? And how will I get it off?
Will they notice the wrinkles in my blouse?
I can’t believe I forgot to stop at the grocery store two days in a row.
What kind of mother am I for considering cereal for dinner?
What if I can’t think of anything to write that touches their heart?
Just taking an honest look at a typical day for me that many don’t ever see helped me realize that those I admire from afar have stress, worries, fears, and unpredictable moments too. They have baskets of laundry to wash and fold, permission slips that go missing, and checkbooks that need balancing.
The temptation of comparison never serves me well. The enemy always offers it up with a bow on top, but like everything else he does, it’s a lie sent to tear me down. I have no need to look right or left, to other people’s lives and accomplishments, only up to my Father in heaven for His direction.
“Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:27).
I don’t want anyone else’s life. What I desire most is to be smack dab in the middle of God’s plan for me. His plans for me are perfectly designed only for me, with my personality, my gifts and my talents, for such a time as this.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Whose life have you been comparing yours to?
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: https://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.
Excellent point, Dr. B! I’ve slowly learned that over my own life, too. But, I must admit, learnimg not to compare myself to others was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn.
Mary Lee, so glad you’ve learned that difficult lesson. It’s a lesson we would all benefit from learning, and one I think I’ve learned and then find I have to go back and remember it repeatedly when that temptation sneaks back in. Comparison never serves us well. We should only ever look to what the Father says for each of us. Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
Love the clothespins…and the encouraging message.
Thanks Lisa! Blessings.
Spot on Michelle!
Thanks for the encouragement. I appreciate it, Pat! #HopePrevails!
Yes the ugly comparison trap is alive and well and social media adds gasoline to the fire, so to speak. We see only the edited photos, not the dozens trashed for not coming out right! Only God can keep me strong against temptation; I’m much too weak on my own to fight the trap. Thank you for this critical reminder.
You’re very right Carrie. I try to give a very real, honest picture of the good, the bad and the real in both my blog posts and social media posts–that’s the only way people see what God has done in my life and what He can do in theirs if they will let Him. Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
so true michelle! i’ve observed that that whole view of perfection of a pastor/his wife usually comes from not knowing them. no one is perfect…it is an illusion. if any of your leaders seem perfect, you need to pray hard for them…they need it more than you know.
that typical day was a great reality check for people who think a great life comes easy. blessings girl:)
Martha, you make an excellent point. The illusion of perfection comes because we don’t really know them. It’s in getting to know others’ hearts and hurts that we know others and their struggles and their victories and the work of God in their lives. Those are the kinds of relationships I want to have! I don’t want people to look at me and see a perfect life – I want people to see a perfect God. Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
I absolutely love this post! I am the pastor’s wife, and believe me, I am soooo far from perfect, it’s laughable. I am quite sure my congregation knows it just fine, but if not I am happy to fill in the details. I never try to put on the illusion that my life is perfect. I like how you described it — blessed, yes, and just as God created it for me, but no, certainly not perfect. I hope people see me as a real person who is serving God the best that I can, but no different from anyone else. Thanks so much for writing this!
Sara, sometimes I don’t think people see what is right in front of them-I think they see what they expect to see. The enemy distorts and lies, all in an effort to make us feel unworthy, unloved, and unaccepted, to keep us in darkness. When our heart is invested in loving others, it cuts through the facade and allows the walls of comparison to fall down and connection to happen. Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
I just wrote a post today on letting go of perfection. This really spoke to me as well. As a mom who has battled depression and mental illness, I have to had to let perfection go right out the window with it. I serve a Lord who knows my weaknesses and loves me just the same. That is all I will ever need.
Sometimes I think depression and the expectation of perfection go hand in hand. It’s hard to experience joy when we are cloaked under such an unrealistic expectation as perfection. There has only ever been one who was perfect, and there will only ever be one. He came so that God would see us through His son’s perfection, taking that responsibility from us, and loving us perfectly, despite our battles with anxiety, depression, and whatever else assaults us. Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
This post really spoke to me, Michelle. Not only can I relate to having mental health breakdown in the past and later on witnessing God using the painful things I’ve been through as a means of ministering to others, I can also see how invidious it is to have low self-esteem and how damaging it can be to compare myself with others. You speak hard healing truth here. Thank you! Blessed to be your neighbour at #coffeeforyourheart 🙂
Joy, your words here bless me and many others! I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through such pain, but they testify to God’s faithfulness to His promises to bring beauty from our ashes. The Word says that our enemy is defeated by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony! Keep sharing what our faithful God has done in your life! Nothing can compare to that! I hope you’ll visit again! Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
Thank you for your post! This spoke to my heart. As a youth minister, it is easy to “compare” my testimony with other youth ministers that I look up to and admire. I love this line: “We only ever get a small glimpse of what is going on in the lives of others.” True words, my friends. We only see others highlight reels and not their behind the scenes. Have a great Thanksgiving!
You speak truth: “We only see others highlight reels and not their behind the scenes.” I like to tell people not to compare our insides to others’ outsides! We are all a work in progress. So glad you visited–I hope you’ll come back and visit again. Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
This resonates with me … unfortunately. It seems we can all so easily slip into that place of comparison. Especially us girls! I find I’m my worst self when I stack myself up to others. Thanks for this!
Pam, you speak a universal truth: we are all our worst self when we stack ourselves up to others because God created us to be individuals. He didn’t create me to be you or vice versa. We can’t be successful trying to be anyone else. But one thing is certain: He knows the plan He has for each of us, and it is GOOD and it is for a FUTURE and a HOPE. Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
Great post, Michelle! I appreciate how you’ve been honest about your everyday life and struggles without extending invitations to a pity party. Not an easy balance, but you’ve done it.
your neighbor at Lisha Epperson’s
Michelle, thanks so much for linking up at Mondays @ Soul Survival. Blessings!