Learn how to find freedom from comparison by taking lessons from Psalms chapter four. Karen Hopkins shows us how in Day 10 in the What Freedom in Christ Looks Like Online Event by the Blogger Voices Network, hosted right here at KellyRBaker.com.
Karen Hopkins is a mum to three. She grew up in Scotland and now lives in New Zealand. Before starting a family she worked as a Primary Teacher, Children and Families Pastor and completed a Graduate Diploma in Theology. In early 2019 she created Karen Hopkins Online as a place to share Bible Studies and tips on studying the Bible. Click here to download her Bible Study bookmarks.
My Big Problem
“How can you write on freedom? You’re not free!” The voice of self-doubt challenged me as soon as I had signed up to share here about freedom from comparison.
I quickly dismissed this thought, knowing that God’s voice comes to us in truth and love, not mocking accusation.
But then another challenge came: “How can you write on being set free? You’ve never been captive!”
And there is some truth in this. I’ve been blessed with a happy upbringing and not faced any of the ‘serious struggles’ or addictions that hold many captive.
I realised that these two seemingly opposing positions (never been free, never been captive) both came from the same root problem – comparison.
By judging myself for never being free I was comparing myself to others who seemed to have greater freedom than I did.
By judging myself for never being captive I was comparing myself to those who seemed to have less freedom than I did.
Comparison was my big problem.
Comparison has robbed me of my freedom. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
A Slave to Comparison
As I contemplated how comparison had played a negative role in my life I saw two distinct, yet interwoven, ways in which it had manifested itself in my life: shame and bitterness.
While I did have a happy home life growing up, there was one problem. During my school years, I was frequently teased, rejected and felt isolated.
My constant worry about what people would think of me held me back from volunteering or taking the initiative, and even talking to people or making friends. While I have made progress in these areas since then, the habit and worry had taken root.
This was a form of comparison, as I expected others to have a low opinion of me, to reject me or laugh at me behind my back.
But another form of comparison had also taken root.
As I looked at the lives of those who had not ‘held back’ I became bitter at their achievements.
By holding back from sharing myself with others I felt unfulfilled and unnoticed. But instead of recognising my responsibility in this situation (I was not being included or chosen because I was not volunteering or showing my abilities) I turned my hurts into bitterness.
Over the years, God has gently shown me what is holding me back and given me the courage to step up, and to take responsibility for my actions.
But that night, as I went to bed I contemplated if this was enough. Was I really free?
I was comparing myself and holding back again!
I opened my Bible to Psalm 4, my reading for that day, and was struck by how much it mirrored my journey. I immediately knew that it would form a significant part of my reflections on freedom from comparison, so let’s walk through it together.
Freedom from Comparison: Lessons from Psalm 4
Answer me when I call, God, who vindicates me. You freed me from affliction; be gracious to me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1. CSB)
David has gone straight to God with his problem but he also acknowledges that it is God who vindicates him (makes him right or innocent) and has already set him free.
When we feel ‘fenced in’ prayerfully turn to the Bible. John 8:32 says ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ God’s word is the truth, so we need to know it in order to be free.
How long, exalted ones, will my honor be insulted? How long will you love what is worthless and pursue a lie? (verse 2)
David now switches to talking to men rather than God.
Here we find out what is causing David distress: he is being insulted and lied about. In this particular psalm, David is not under physical threat, it is his reputation that is under attack.
This drew my attention, as I was feeling that my ‘reputation’ was under attack from insults, though most of them were in my head! And I was telling lies to myself when comparing myself to others. It was my own efforts to protect my reputation (trying to avoid insult) that were holding me back.
Did you notice David’s repeated cry ‘How long?’? This suggests that David has been afflicted in this way for some time and he is eager for it to end. How often are we eager for our suffering to end, or to be set free from a particular sin or habit? I know I often look at my problems and think ‘how long?’
Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him. 4 Be angry and do not sin; on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still. 5 Offer sacrifices in righteousness and trust in the Lord. (verses 3-5)
So, David gives himself some advice while he waits on the Lord.
He reminds himself that he is set apart by God. We need to remember who we are in Christ. He has set us apart as His own and given us a righteous reputation.
David also tells himself what to do in his distress: as you lie in your bed thinking over these things don’t let your anger turn to bitterness, but reflect and be still.
This was good advice for me as I lay in my bed! God does not free us from our afflictions immediately. Every day (or night) we need to come to God in prayer.
Many are asking, “Who can show us anything good?” Let the light of your face shine on us, Lord. 7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound. 8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Lord, make me live in safety. (verses 6-8)
David returns to talking to God and confesses that while others may doubt God’s goodness, he knows that the blessings he has received from God bring greater joy than any great harvest. It is his knowledge of this, and his trust in God rather than his circumstances, that allows him to sleep in peace and not be afraid. He has no need to compare himself to others or be jealous of them.
This is how to receive freedom from comparison. We must remind ourselves (every day if necessary) not to look at other people and feel like we are not enough – after all, we do not really know what is going on in their lives. Instead, look to God and be grateful for His blessings.
Freedom from Comparison is a Process
So, what does freedom in Christ look like to me?
It is a daily decision. We are not often freed from our afflictions immediately. It usually takes time and sometimes feels like we are going backwards.
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) says ‘let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.’ I love the word ‘entangles’. It tells me that being set free from sin is not like the simple removal of chains. It is more like being set free from a net or thorny bush that I have become tangled up in.Feeling “fenced in”? Get freedom from comparison instead. Discover some ways comparison can manifest in your life and how to be free. @karenhonline #FruitOfFreedom #BloggerVoicesNetwork
As we try to remove ourselves from the tangles we often seem to end up in a bigger mess. But this is not a mark of failure, it is part of the process of recognising our sin and being set free.
The word ‘entangled’ is used in another verse about freedom. And here I find my answer to my accusation: “How can you write about freedom?” Because Christ has set me free.
I think this is a good place to finish.
I pray that you too find freedom from comparison.
My Bible Study Bookmarks are a handy tool to keep in your Bible. The set of three bookmarks includes the steps for my 5L Bible Study Methods, instructions for verse mapping, and tips on what to look for when reading the Bible.