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
Thank you for sharing this painful part of your heart. My sympathies to you.
Oh my. My heart breaks reading this but also reassures me that if I keep my eye on Jesus, it will be well within my soul as the hymn goes. I appreciate that you have shared such a deeply personal piece of your life. I hope I can remember that part of being human means an abundance of good as well as loss when we seek out our Creator.
Elaine Lucas says
I have often asked “Why Lord, did You take MY husband and not hers. We were much better friends than them.” OR,
“Why do I have heart issues and not them.”
After 7 years, I have come to know that God has special plans for each one and they are not the same. What is that to me about someone else? God loves ME and is with ME always. HE has a plan and all His plans are Good because He is good.
I had never thought about these verses in John in this way. Comparison…so harmful… Thank you for your insights! Especially in today’s social media world is this relevant!!
I completely needed this thought today! I often take my eyes off of my Savior and look away, which causes my soul to stress over (of all things) the future and the what if’s of life!
We fail to recognize the everyday blessings that always occcur around us!
Thank you for sharing your journey.
Ruth B Mills says
Thank you for this beautiful reminder!
Becky L. says
Sorry for the loss of your baby daughter. I’m glad you found help in scripture. I had a hard time last year after my injury at work. If I didn’t pray or read scripture I’d been worse off mind wise. I appreciate God’s intercession in my life as I need to continue to talk with him thru the day and read scripture. My husband and I are veterans of USAF. God bless.
Becky L. says
This was to be a comment not a reply. Sorry.
Jeanine Joyner says
This is such a wonderful piece of wisdom. I have often been the one with doubled pain because of comparison, as well. May God make us satisfied in Him, alone!
Thank you so much for sharing, Kristin. I really needed to hear these words. How often I compare myself to those who are married or in a relationship. I’m single and long to be married but when I compare my life to others, I’m taking my eyes off of Jesus and that is never a good thing. Our God’s timing is perfect and He truly is always faithful and good. I pray that we keep our eyes on Jesus, and run the race set before us. God bless you, friend ❤️ Sending love and hugs.
Amen…It’s th only. way..but. the Best way!
Kristin, thank you for sharing your true heart pain story.
If only comparison can inspire us to a better self and more focus on God, how wonderful it would be.
Comparison sometimes can strengthen us through God”s help.
Lets encourage one another to be giant and able to overcome circumstances by focusing in Him solely.
Beth Williams says
So sorry for the loss of your little girl. Prayers for peace & comfort as you mourn. Comparison is a tool of the devil. He wants us to look around & be upset at what we don’t have. God wants us happy & content with what we do have. If we took a hard look at most of the world we would realize just how blessed we are here in USA. Stay focused on God, realign your thoughts & desires with His then you will find true peace & comfort.
Carol Brown says
I do not think there is a great pain than losing a child. My little sister died from terrible cancer of the face in 1963 and my parents’ grief was like a wall that you could see. My Mom told me later that she was so sad, she could not think about her 5 living children–only her lost lamb. She was not into spiritual experiences, but 1 day–she had a vision–I believe sent my God. Her father had died the previous year. As she looked, there was a desolate, cold view–that felt like her heart. She saw a light and there was my Grandfather holding my little sister and the peace of God that passes understanding dwelt in her heart. As the 2 of them disappeared, the light in its wake–the scene changed to glorious spring. While she still grieved, she was able to pick up the pieces and resume life. God is good all the time. May God who loves touch your heart and know that you will see your child again. Hugs.
Wow, Kristin. This was amazing. Thank you!