The summer after my senior year of high school I worked two jobs, often on the same days. One was at a breakfast restaurant so I’d have to be there sometimes as early as 7 a.m. The other was a retail job so after my restaurant shift ended at 2 p.m., I’d head on down the street to stand on my feet for another seven hours, sometimes even staying as late as 11 p.m. Needless to say, I was tired. Posty, I really felt that face tattoo with the “Always” and “Tired” you have under your eyes.
Because I was so tired, though, I had to draw energy from somewhere (and I’m not a coffee drinker). My mantra for that summer, and honestly ever since then, was Nehemiah 8:10, which declares, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Every morning that’s what would push me out of bed and onto my feet for another long day of work. Keeping a positive attitude helped me to perform better at my jobs and it made my days go by so much faster.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about joy. Another of my mantras that I live by is “Comparison is the thief of all joy.” In a world that’s ridden with mental illness and image obsession, comparison has become a disease. So much so that we can’t be happy for the people succeeding around us. If our joy comes from the Lord, and then we compare our bodies or successes or grades or cars or whatever it is, to someone else’s, we’re giving that joy away. But not in a good way. We should be spreading joy and positivity wherever we go so people can come to know Christ, but when we compare ourselves to others, we’re taking that joy from the Lord and throwing it out the car window where it’s smashed and mangled by the oncoming traffic behind us.
One Sunday at Crosspoint Church, Annie Downs was preaching on comparison, and she described how most people view life as a game of chutes and ladders. When one person goes up a ladder, they’re racing closer to winning which means we’re being left further behind and are, therefore, losing. That’s not how God designed us to live. We’re meant to be in community with each other. Celebrating our friends’ and neighbors’ wins and mourning their losses side by side is how community’s meant to look. Annie Downs shifted my focus, and probably many others, in pointing out that life should be a lot more like solitaire. We all have our own deck and we can ALL win, with our pals cheering us on as we go. I don’t know about you but that seems to be a much more fun way to live.
With the joy of the Lord as my strength and realizing that comparison is the thief of all joy, I’m able to check myself when I’m scrolling through Instagram and see all of the amazing things my friends are doing and achieving, and it keeps that green-eyed monster far, far away from my heart. Comparison isn’t a game I want to play. I think I’d rather play solitaire with the rest of the world and cheer on my friends as they win at life.