More frequently than I’d like to admit, I get stuck in the comparison game. I wonder: Am I as good as them? Why did this happen to me? Why can’t I have that?
Unchecked, this kind of thinking is destructive.
Yet, comparing ourselves to others is one of the easiest things to do. Opportunities are everywhere, especially when we have little devices in our pockets that provide instant updates on all the interesting things our friends are doing.
But when I was reading through the end of John, a certain conversation struck me.
Jesus was sitting with some of his disciples. After they finish eating, Jesus tells Peter he will die for being a follower, but that his death will glorify God. Upon hearing these words, the first thing Peter does is turn around and ask what will happen to John.
Jesus is quick to gently put him back in his place, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22)
I can’t help but think how many times I, like Peter, look everywhere else for a comparison–when the only One I need to think about is right in front of me.
No two people are the same.
My parents sometimes allow my younger siblings to do different things. One might get a little extra TV time, while the other one doesn’t. One has to go to bed earlier, while the other is allowed to stay up. One is asked to do a chore, while the other isn’t.
When these differences come up, complaints often follow. “It’s not fair!” they exclaim.
My parents are quick with a reminder that no two kids are the same. Different kids need different things.
As God’s children, His plan for each of us is different. We all need and are equipped to do slightly different things. But our purpose is the same: to bring Him glory.
When we assume something is unfair, we forget we can’t see the full picture. Who knows, maybe what we want would actually be bad for us!
Different doesn’t mean less important. The only thing we need to do is be obedient–no matter how small or impossible the task seems in our eyes. We can’t do that when we’re distracted by another person’s life.
Three powerful words
Still, the reasons for our circumstances aren’t always clear. Sometimes, suffering appears needless, and waiting feels senseless. Other times, our task seems impossible, and we cry out, “why me Lord?”
We won’t always have the answers. When our minds start drifting to those questions, we should remind ourselves of the same three words Jesus said to Peter: You follow me.
When you wonder why other people have more friends or followers, remember: What is it to you? You follow me!
When you’re discouraged and think your work isn’t having as big of an impact as others’, remember: What is it to you? You follow me!
When you feel like you’re left out and missing out, remember: What is it to you? You follow me!
When you feel like everybody else’s life is going so much better than your own, remember: What is it to you? You follow me!
The core of Jesus’ teaching was always to follow him. That’s the heart of the call. Follow him—walk in His way wherever it leads. It may be costly or confusing, but it’s always worth it.
Your burdens made light
As the end of the passage clarifies, Jesus never said John wouldn’t die. He was simply telling Peter that it wasn’t his concern, that he just had to focus on his own mission.
Constantly worrying about where others are in life will cause us to crumble under the weight of fears of never measuring up, never being enough, and never being truly accepted. We might even end up feeling resentful of our friends who are doing better.
With Jesus, the weight is lifted. He says:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
That doesn’t mean there will never be struggles. Peter was explicitly told of the pain he would face in the future, and we are similarly told to expect challenges along the way. But it does mean that even in the midst of it all, we have a greater peace.
We don’t have to prove ourselves or be accepted by everybody. We don’t have to accomplish tasks meant for others. We have one person to please: our Savior.
The only road we can worry about is the one set before us. All we can do is remain faithful with whatever we’re given so we can someday hear the words:
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much” (Matthew 25:21).