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Chronic Illness - Chronic Pain Articles Available to Read and Reprint

The Temptation of Comparing Your Life to
      Others When You Have a Chronic Illness

By Lisa Copen

I've never been comfortable primping in the mirrors of women's restrooms. While most women flock to the mirror and compete for space to brush their hair, put on lipstick and powder their faces, I have always glanced at myself as little as possible, nonchalantly dabbing on some lipstick and escaping. Why? Because these women always seem so confident and pleased with their appearance as they tease their hair or spray perfume on themselves. I find my eyes straying from my own face and looking at their's, comparing. Are they laughing at me, thinking, "Lipstick ain't gonna help you, girl"?

I've never felt like I had low self-esteem, and I've always thought that, although I wasn't beautiful, I was "cute enough." When my body started to turn against me after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, the feelings I had about my appearance became confusing. The high heels went to the back of the closet. The nylons were thrown in the trash and not replaced. The weight gain from the medication made me transfer some of my clothes to another closet. The depression, followed by overeating, removed a few more clothes.

I was left with a pair of Keds(R) to wear and few "cute" outfits to go with them. With these changes, the act of comparison was given a home in my head in which it thrived. For every one of us that suffers, physically or in any other way, there is a strong temptation to compare oneself with others who seem to have an easier life than we do; who seem to look better than we do; who seem to feel better than we do. This attitude innocently finds a place in our thoughts. We aren't putting others down; we are just wishing for what they have...or maybe even what we once had.

In John 21, Peter had a similar experience; he thought John was getting a better deal in life than he was. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Each time, Peter said, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." So Jesus asked Peter to feed His lambs, take care of His sheep and feed His sheep. Jesus told Peter, "...when you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." He told him that he would have a death that would glorify God.

As Jesus and Peter were walking away, Peter saw John following them, and he thought about the fact that Jesus didn't tell John that he had a burdensome life ahead of him. He asked, "Lord, what about him?"

I too have asked Jesus a number of times, "Lord, what about that person? Why do they have it so easy?"

It may be easy to imagine Jesus reassuring Peter, saying, "Don't worry about him. I will always be with you." Instead, Jesus responds by telling Peter, "'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.' Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die" (John 21:22-23). In other words, Jesus was saying, "His life is none of your concern. Mind your own business!"

There are three things we can learn from this:

By Peter demanding that God give him and John "equal opportunities," he was doubting that God already had a good plan for his life. God considers this sin.

Although it may look unfair to us, we don't know what the other person is dealing with. Peter didn't know what John would face in his later years.

Only God has all of the facts and knows the future. He is the only one who can know what trials each person is getting or will be getting. In the book A Step Further, Joni Eareckson Tada writes, "God is doing in each one of our lives something expressly different than He is doing in another's. He will give us the unique grace to bear our unique cross."

Overcoming the "What- about-them?" envy is something we may learn how to do quickly or over a long period of time. The sooner we recognize that God doesn't compare us, but that He loves each of us individually, the sooner we can "grow up" in our faith. We will learn to grasp hold of His hand when we need His strength instead of running beside him whining "...but it's not fair."



Get a free download of 200 ways to reach out to someone who is hurting from Beyond Caseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend when you sign up for hopenotes, a monthly ezine. Author of this article, Lisa Copen is also the founder of Rest Ministries and National Invisible Illness Awareness Week.





Don't forget! This article can be reprinted for free or syndicate Lisa's new articles.