The Silent Siege

you wake up, stretch your toes out as far as you can, and give an over dramatic yawn. checking the clock, you see that it’s eight. “not too shabby,” you think. “it’s still pretty early.”


you reach over the side of your bed, find your phone, and scroll through facebook like it’s your own little local newspaper.


aw, Jenny got engaged! Winston is finally going on the trip he always wanted. Judy has the cutest kids.


wait. what is this?


Ten Reasons Getting up Before Six Will Change Your Life.


click. open. read.


you slowly begin to realize just how wrong you have been looking at this your whole life. you’ve been wasting so much time and you didn’t even know it. you are lazy. unmotivated. and did you know that people who get up earlier live a longer life?


you jump out of bed as quick as you can and rush into your morning routine. after getting out of the shower, making the bed, and folding a load of laundry you head to the kitchen and make yourself a cup of coffee while pouring a bowl of cereal.


as you sit down, your phone lights up with a notification, so you open facebook again, laugh at Tony’s comment, and do another quick scroll through your newsfeed.


Fifteen Things Your Breakfast Says About You.


wow. you never realized your breakfast said so much. you glance down at your fruit loops suddenly repelled and wish to goodness you had an avocado, whole wheat bread, free range chicken eggs, and sea salt. oh and maybe some mangos, spinach, and chia seeds for a smoothie. this kind of eating will lead to depression, obesity, probably death. this kind of eating points to immaturity and lack of willpower. another thing you need to change asap.


you run out to the store and buy some of the more exotic sounding foods that will change your life. these things aren’t cheap, but you certainly feel more mature and empowered. you check-out and a little while later, your husband shoots you a text.


“what on earth did you buy today? I went online to pay a bill and saw you spent over two hundred dollars at the store!”


you explain all the healthy things you plan on making with the rare items you found, but your husband is not impressed. in fact, he jokingly says he’ll be eating at his parents the next few days.


you fume angrily as you unload your expensive groceries. there are less bags than you thought. as you shove items into the back of your fridge, you collapse on the kitchen floor, you lean back against the cabinets, cross your legs, and see if there’s anything new online to take your mind off your ungrateful husband.


Twenty-One Ways You Know You have Found Mr. Right.


you scroll through the ways furiously.


“he respects your ideas.” hmpf! your husband didn’t seem so respectful of your ideas today! “he’s willing to try new things.” ha! you laugh bitterly. he would be fine staying the same forever, that old grump.


you get up off the kitchen floor feeling like you’ve been cheated out of Mr. Right and storm to the bathroom to fix your hair.


you carry on with your day in a mood. it seems like you can’t do anything right, and you’re feeling like it’s somebody’s fault. probably Mr. Not-Right’s.


a few hours later a Pinterest notification pops up. your sister sent you a picture of her dream outfit. you look at it for a moment and then glance at the suggested pictures and posts under it. there is a picture of a larger looking woman with the heading “Forget the Thigh Gap! Eleven Reasons Why I Want My Thighs Thick.”


almost automatically you click it. you read through it slowly and despairingly and learn that if only you had thicker thighs, you would be that much better and have so much more fun. you don’t even realize how absurd your feelings are or how absurd this article is. you simply think about the way that you have self-consciously been a tooth-pick your whole life with barely any figure at all.


by the evening, you feel completely worthless.  between instagram users with perfect pictures and links to their perfect lives, facebook articles telling you how to make your life or image better, pinterest to make you feel like your house and wardrobe should belong in a Goodwill ad, and the other countless internet plugs subtly showing you all that you’re not and all that you don’t have, you feel you will never be enough or have enough.


whether you relate to these particular examples or not, most of us have struggled with something on the internet before. if you just gave birth to your fourth child, you may be unconsciously envious when Sue posts a casual picture of her slim figure. if you’re a guy, you may wish you could buy a motorcycle as nice as the one Tim just bought or see as many amazing places as Jon or be tempted to stare at pictures of girls you wish were yours.


if you’re on a budget (and most people are) you will find yourself wishing you had just a little bit more to spend on furniture or clothes or your dream car or dieting pills or a gym membership or travel or food or a house.


and you’ll find yourself comparing even the internal struggles. so and so looks so happy all the time... I wish I was always so cheerful. so and so’s husband bought them expensive jewelry… again… I wish my husband would buy me something nice every now and then. so and so’s wife always makes homemaking look so easy… I wish my wife would pay more attention to cleaning. so and so has a more fulfilling career… I’m just doing this to pay the bills but I wish it was fulfilling. so and so always gushes about how blessed they are… why doesn’t God send us so many blessings. so and so is so popular and outgoing… I wish I was somebody’s role model.


we are living in an age that hands us all sorts of ideals and opinions on the silver tray of television and magazines and radio and pictures and articles and internet and billboards and movies and advertisements.


we are surrounded and unless we come out with our hands up and stare this oppressor in the face, we will simply continue to sit in our homes unaware of the siege that is quietly starving us of true joy and thankfulness.


so how do we face comparison? we are surrounded by everybody’s lives and thoughts and agendas and propaganda. how are we not to be overcome by it?


some would say that we simply avoid it altogether. unplug the television. delete all the apps. no more movies. don’t pick up that magazine. shut out the world, both the good and the bad.


I don’t know if you’ve ever seen “The Village” but it tells the story of those who tried taking that approach. set in what would appear to be the sixteen or seventeen hundreds, a small group of people live in a very simple village surrounded by woods, living very simple lives. the parents only teach goodness and kindness in their homes but warn their children of the danger beyond. as the story progresses, you begin to realize that the fathers and mothers of this little village are trying to protect their children by telling them of a monster who lives just outside their town, lurking in the woods. soon enough though, even with being protected from the outside world, even with strong morals, sin creeps in and causes havoc in the hearts of the whole village. in one of the last scenes, a younger girl goes for help from what she thinks is a neighboring village, climbs a wall, and stumbles onto a paved road and a ranger dressed in the garb of modern America.


the point of the movie was obvious. shutting out the whole world will not solve the problem of the heart.


and closing your eyes to everyone and everything that you feel is better than you, will not solve the comparison factor.


that’s not to say that taking those things in moderation or taking breaks from them or not having them at all is a bad thing. it’s just not the answer to solving the heart of the matter. sooner or later you will come into contact with humanity. and there will always be someone you feel is better than you. something that is nicer than what you have.


so how do we stop comparing ourselves to others? how do we not read articles and feel disappointed with ourselves? how do we not look at other’s lives and wish ours was more like theirs?


well one way is to be thankful.


Ann Voskamp, in her book “One Thousand Gifts” writes, “our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. we hunger for something more, something other.”


what if we took everything we have, everything we are insecure about and considered it a gift? a gift given to us directly from God.


the messy house you can’t seem to keep up with? who was that mess made by? your kids? are you thankful for them? are they a gift? give thanks.


the clothing that you want but don’t have? do you have any clothing? (I hope so.) didn’t the God who clothes the lilies of the field clothe you with exactly what you need? isn’t that a gift? give thanks.


even the fact that you don’t have the brown hair you always wanted or the chiseled body that you think you need… didn’t God knit you together in your mother’s womb? didn’t He know you before the foundations of the world were laid? aren’t you made in His image? isn’t that a gift? give thanks.


if you are unhappy, it might not be because of the circumstances you hold responsible for your feelings. It might, in truth, be the way you are viewing those circumstances.


let’s face it, it’s not usually our actual circumstances that are the root of the problem. it’s how we feel about those circumstances.


you live in a house. that’s a good circumstance. but you feel like your sister has a bigger, better house and you feel like you need one too.


you have a face. that’s a good circumstance. but you feel like so and so’s is better looking and you feel depressed every time you pass a mirror.


hopefully you have a good spouse or parents or friends. not perfect, but good. that’s a good circumstance. but you feel like they just don’t understand. you feel like they should be better, care more, fit in better with that “Top Ten Ways to Know You have a True Friend” list.


you feel like you should be giving more, doing more, growing more, loving more, working more, relaxing more, saving more, spending more, exercising more, cooking more, communicating more, encouraging more.


and not all of those are bad feelings or things to do.


but they are when you don’t give them to God. and they are when you don’t give thanks.


“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6


another way to face the comparison factor is to stop comparing yourself and your life to others, and instead compare it to Christ.


did Christ wear the latest fashion, live in the cutest house, drive the fastest car… er… chariot?


was Christ the most popular person on the planet? did everything He say make everyone love Him? did He care what others thought about Him? did He compare Himself to everyone else?


did He withhold grace from others? did He only heal those who were in a social or political position that could be advantageous to Him? did He only love those who first loved Him? did He only do God’s will because He expected physical blessings here on earth?


doesn’t Christ give thanks and glory to God? doesn’t everything He does and says point back to God? didn’t He sacrifice His life, His comfort, His glory for that of God?

He didn't even have a top-whatever-number of reasons to tell Him to do so.

what if we did the same? what if we gave thanks for this gift called life? what if instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we focus on what we do? what if even what we do have we give back to God with thanksgiving in our hearts?


God doesn’t ask us to be like everyone else. He asks us to be like His Son.  “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” 1 Peter 2:21-25


 God doesn’t promise us we’ll be like everyone else. He promises that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” Philippians 1:6 and  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” Romans 8:18-21


the temptation to compare and be discouraged is real and in your face twenty-four-seven. and even when we remember to give thanks and set Christ as our example, day to day, minute to minute life has a way of shoving good intentions to the furthest dusty corner of our minds.


so that is why the third way to face the comparison factor is simply to pray. pray that you will be thankful. pray that you will set Christ as your example.


and pray for others. for the one who pops into your mind as you’re reading an article. for the friend you know who is struggling with the same insecurities you are. even for the people behind the seemingly flawless accounts and pictures.


give thanks. look above. pray continually.


these aren’t new struggles. these aren't new ideas.


if facebook was around two thousand years ago, underneath articles like "Ten Life-changing Ways to Make Your Donkey Less Stubborn" and "Five Sandals You Must Have This Season" you might have found an article called “The Top Three Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others.”

 it's an age-old struggle, and it's more accessible than ever. but we serve a God who loves us through His Son right where we are for who we are in Him. messy houses, messy hearts, messy thoughts and all.
now that's something to be thankful for.