This is the second post of a series about what God is currently teaching me about walking with Him in a hard season. You can read the first post using the link below
- God gives the grace I need for each day, not a one-shot lifetime supply.
- This is the race that God has marked out for me.
At the 2016 Olympics, an already strong rivalry between Chad Le Clos and Michael Phelps erupted. Candid video of trash-talking, air punches, and stewing were aired and replayed before they hopped in the pool to compete in the 200 Butterfly. Phelps ultimately won causing this photo to circulate widely. In it, we see Phelps with his gaze fixed on the finish line and prize while Le Clos’ eyes are instead focused on the person swimming in the next lane.
If someone were to take pictures of me at various points in the race of my life, I’m afraid photos like these would be all too common. More often than I’d like to admit my eyes aren’t fixed on Jesus, they’re fixed on other people around me comparing, judging, looking both up and down for the way my performance and race are better and worse, easier and harder. I’ve done it about big things and small things.
One of the biggest temptations I find myself battling in a hard season is not comparing my set of circumstances with those around me. The morning after getting hard news, I found myself in a conversation with women discussing their own set of challenges related to the thing I desperately want. These situations are hard, in no small part because they feel frequent. In my flesh, I’m tempted to throw my own pity party, compare, and dismiss or even resent the pain of others. In these moments, it is easy to ask, “Why me?” “Why us?” When I wallow in the “why” it often breeds envy, tempts me toward isolation, and leads to even more misery.
Perhaps you can relate? Peter certainly could. A quick scan of the Gospels turns up more than one argument about “Who is the greatest.” In John 21, we find Jesus restoring Peter after his denial. Immediately after we hear Jesus describe the difficult way that Peter will glorify God at the end of his race. Like Chad Le Clos and I, Peter’s responds by looking over at the next “lane,”
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them…When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” John 21: 20-21
What about him? What about her? What about them?
Jesus’ response to Peter is the same one he offers to us today, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
Ray Ortlund recently tweeted, “Suffering is not meant to get me thinking, ‘Nobody can understand me.’ It’s meant to get me thinking, ‘Now I can understand others.’” It’s extremely hard and requires God’s grace, but even more than relief of my hard circumstance, this is what I want. I don’t want to waste my suffering. I want it to make me more like Jesus, I want to follow him. I want the hard things in my life to give me a tenderness to the pain of others rather than the bitterness comparison brings. I need God’s help to remember that all of us have hard things, that pain isn’t a competition, and that just because circumstances can be markedly different, both can hurt.
When I find myself struggling with conversations that lend themselves to circumstance comparison, “This is the race God has marked out for me.” has become my mantra. Memorizing and replaying the words of Hebrews 12:1-3 has helped me fight this temptation to judge and compare. It has turned into a prayer that God would keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, that He would move my gaze away from the next lane over and onto the greatest prize of all at the end of my race.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. 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.