A few months after my husband and I lost our one-month-old daughter to a fatal chromosomal condition, we were invited to join a group of friends for a Friday night cookout. The invitation was kind and we accepted, but I wasn’t prepared for my reentrance into society as a bereaved mother. I felt clumsy and afraid of others’ thoughts, potentially awkward conversations, and the sorrow that might be stirred up. But I knew I couldn’t continue avoiding people.
When we arrived, the mood was festive, but the Alabama air felt uncomfortably warm. The humidity mixed with my nerves caused my cotton dress to cling to my sticky skin. I fidgeted with the fabric and wiped the dew from my arms. My eyes nervously scanned the room. There were balloons and burgers and boisterous laughter. Though I recognized familiar faces, I felt entirely out of place.
And then I saw her.
We had met less than a year prior, both with swollen bellies and glowing round faces. She was the first to give birth. Twin baby boys. A couple of weeks later, I went into labor with my daughter. My friend came home from the hospital with two healthy babies. I was now seeing them for the first time, watching as she juggled car seats and their small wriggling bodies. A sad joy came over me, unlike anything I’d experienced before. I felt a sincere, quiet celebration for her and the double portion of her blessing, but the empty ache of my own arms left my heart throbbing. The comparison distracted me, doubling the portion of my pain.
I endured the night with small talk and a forced smile, doing my best to swallow the complicated grief churning within me. Later that night, in the privacy of my bathroom, I wept and cried out to the Lord. I was stuck in comparison, focused on what my friend had and what I didn’t. I let my thoughts run rampant. Her abundance magnified my lack. She seemed favored; I felt forgotten.
My comparison and lament led me to the story of Jesus reinstating Peter. In John 21, we witness the intimate moment between Jesus and Peter as they walk and talk together. When Jesus speaks of how Peter will die, Peter turns and looks away. His eyes land on someone else — John. Naturally, as Peter’s eyes shift, so do his thoughts. He asks, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:21 ESV).
How many times have I done and asked the same thing? Lord, what about her?
Jesus’s response in the next verse is probably not the one we’d expect or want to hear, but it is the one we all need. Jesus replies, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22 ESV)
I reread those words and let them trail off as I contemplated them, turning them over and over again in my mind. What is that to you? You follow me. In other words, What happens in her life is not of concern to you. You focus on me.
This was not the only moment of distraction for Peter. Most of us are familiar with the story of Peter’s boldness compelling him to walk out onto the water with Jesus in Matthew 14. Focused on Jesus, Peter experiences the miracle with Jesus. Everything is fine (more than fine!) until Peter shifts his gaze from Jesus to the wind and waves around him. When Peter takes his eyes off Jesus and focuses on the seemingly unfavorable circumstances surrounding him, he starts to sink.
We can become so easily distracted by circumstances and hindered by comparison. When our focus slips, we lose sight of Jesus and start to sink. Our hearts and minds wander away. Maybe we sink into depression, defeat, panic, or anxiety. Maybe we wander into doubt and question our worth or God’s love and goodness. Maybe we start to think God is unfairly holding out on us.
Thankfully, the remedy for our hearts reeling from comparison is to remember what God has done and refocus on Him. We can recall His faithfulness to His character and promises and remind ourselves to stay in our own lane, focus on the race before us, and steward whatever He has given us.
We find this encouragement in Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV):
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The circumstances we face can be downright difficult and scary, and comparison can cause us to lose heart. But as we realign our hearts with God’s, we rise up from pain and panic pushing us down and find our peace, rest, and renewal in Him. Recentered and refocused, we too can walk on the water of whatever is in front of us. We can run our race with unhindered endurance and confident freedom in Christ that will compel and carry us to the finish line.
So, today, let’s consider how we can keep our eyes on Jesus and center ourselves on Him.Leave a Comment