Have you ever heard anyone say something like, “I gave up Facebook and I realized I’m a lot happier without it”? Or maybe you've heard, “Pinterest makes me hate my house.” Or they'll say, “I stopped following a friend on Instagram, and now that I don’t see nonstop snapshots of her perfect life, I like her better.” Perhaps you have said some of those things yourself.
The truth is, life looks a lot better on the Internet. The reason? It’s easy to tell partial truths. You see this glowing picture of a friend and their happy family, tagged with #blessed. What you don’t see is the fight they had just an hour later about who spent all the money they were trying to save to fix the air conditioner. You see an exciting evening out with a fancy meal and a trip to the theater, tagged #hespoilsme. You don’t see her Netflix binge the previous weekend that led to an empty carton of rocky road and Cheeto’s crumbs in the bed. You are offered the sparkly milestones, but not the spiraling meltdowns.
The issue is the Instagram effect (it really is a thing). Here you are in the midst of your trial and you start scrolling through Instagram or Facebook snapshots of post-worthy moments edited for a prettier version of life than reality.
Everybody’s marriage is awesome. Their kids are getting straight A’s and hitting home runs. No worries. No struggles. And here you are in a dirty t-shirt, hair’s a mess, dishes piling up in the sink, you can’t even get to the washer and dryer, the whole family won’t talk to each other. And this battle, this fight of comparison plays itself out.
James puts it like this: "Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:9-12)
That's the comparison game. Don't play it. Yes, I’m pointing a finger. Yeah, that may be harsh. But please recognize the three pointing back at me. I’ve played this game a lot over the last few years. There is no ring on my finger. I’ve been through my share of heartbreak and hurt. I remember one of those breakups. It just so happened I had a “friend” on Facebook getting married basically the same week. I remember looking at some photos and thinking, she’s marrying him? REALLY?
I look at his profile and he’s out getting hammered and partying. I know he’s already a deadbeat dad. I’m like, “Here I am God, trying to do everything right. I’m going to church and trying to serve you by building up your kingdom. And, this dude gets a wife? This clown gets happiness?” I 'm like the brother in the story of the prodigal son. “You’re gonna throw him a party?”
I can imagine what that conversation with Jesus would be like. “Chase, I hate to break this to you, but you might be elevating your own greatness here. You think you’re the only one who is eligible for my blessings?”
This is what happens when we lose this fight of comparison. This is what it looks like when we are experiencing trials and we become super-sensitive to the prettiness of other peoples lives. Here’s James saying, “Stop it. It’s all level in the end. He might look like things are all going right. But, don’t believe the instagram hype."
Quit focusing on this “stuff”. A man is a fool to put his trust in things, things that could be gone in a second. James’ illustration is very familiar to the people of Palestine, “the scorching heat withers the grass”. In the desert, if there is a rain shower, thin shoots of grass will sprout, but being out in the hot sun one day will make them disappear like they were never there in the first place.
In those trials shift your focus away from others. Everyone endures trials. Everyone struggles. We'll have seasons in which the sky is clear, and we'll have seasons in which it's cloudy. God is leading you into maturity, showing you, you need him.
Sources: Some of the points from that sermon and this blog were inspired by a sermon from Matt Chandler: Trials/Temptations