It started when I was young.
As a kid, I grew up overhearing my mom’s phone conversations with her friends, and her updates for them as they asked how the kids were doing:
“Oh David? He’s doing great! He is making straight A’s, is at the top of his class, received this and this award…” and the list would go on and on.
In my little-kid eyes it always seemed that she would proudly gush over the achievements of her firstborn, but when the question turned to my well-being, the response was always a little different:
“Sharon’s fine. She’s…doing okay!” And the conversation would move on.*
I remember sitting in my room crying because I felt stuck in the shadow of my incredibly competent older brother. My face would become a watery mess as I asked God why He hadn’t made me more like David: smart, artistic, self-controlled, a natural leader. As a kid probably as young as 5-7 years old,
I felt broken
because the way I WAS
didn’t seem to be enough.
The feelings didn’t leave with childhood…they continued on in their different forms. I studied and slaved through middle school and high school, feeling that I had to prove myself. David was in the top 10%, so I had to be in the top 10%. He was at the top with no effort at all; I struggled and gave my life to school and barely made the cut.
The same went for my music endeavors. In my adolescent years, I achieved a fairly large amount of success with a short-lived music career, but even this was not enough for me. In my eyes, I genuinely believed I had accomplished nothing because I hadn’t won a Grammy or sold millions of albums or wasn’t as strong of an act as Beyoncé (yes, I set my standards very high).
I needed more.
But at the age of 23 the Lord changed the trajectory of my life. At a Bible conference in 2015, the truth about Jesus and His love for me gripped my heart and left me dumbfounded. Though now I couldn’t tell you what it was about, for some reason the message from the speaker that day spoke to me—hearing about Jesus literally felt like cool water to my parched soul…I sat forward in my chair and drank in every word, I stuffed my face with what I heard like it was the best meal EVER, and I couldn’t get enough.
I was overwhelmed by a love that wanted my heart ONLY, not my works or abilities.
That was the start of a long process of sanctification. Change didn’t happen overnight, but the process of putting to death a ME centered life, began. There was a higher priority, a greater hunger: knowing Jesus.
Walking with God these past few years have been the BEST times of my life, hands down.
I can truly say
I’ve found rest in Jesus.
He has given me peace, contentment, and joy DESPITE my circumstances, like I’ve never had before. But even this security in my Savior doesn’t mean that the tendency to compare myself to others has completely gone away.
I’ll be honest with you, for the past few months I’ve been looking for Nursing positions in the city my husband and I just moved to, to no avail. I’m getting tired of awkwardly answering the question, “Did you find a job yet?” I look around at my friends and family and can’t help but compare my life to their list of accomplishments, their financial security, their multiple children and established families, their jobs at Google, the “MD” at the end of their name. The same old feelings of inadequacy that the 7-year-old me felt in her bedroom in New York, come back in overwhelming waves.
But unlike the old me, who let herself get so deep in despair and self-pity, NOW I fight my feelings with TRUTH and with the Lord’s strength.
I force myself to switch my perspective from myself to my Savior, and guys, it works.
Here’s what I usually do:
1. Be real before a real God. Take whatever sadness and burdens you have to Him. For me that means bawling like a baby and crying out to God. He cares (1 Peter 5:7), so let it out. PRAY it out.
2. Be thankful. When you’re feeling like you’re not enough, stop your thoughts right. there. Instead, CHOOSE to remember all the things God HAS given you. Make a long list. Then, thank Him for them.
3. Remember how much He loves you—and REVEL in that love. Get all up in it. Roll around in it like my dog does when she sees grass.
– Read chapters about His love for you. Google “verses about God’s love for me”—no shame in that. Psalm 139 is my go-to chapter.
4. Remember His faithfulness in the past. Remember all the SPECIFIC times He has come through! That prayer He answered, that job He gave, the victory over a secret sin, the protection from evil. Write it all down.
– “Remembering” was a concept God repeatedly emphasized to the Israelites (Deut. 4:9, 7:18-19) It was important for them as it is for us because when we remember Him, we take the focus off of ourselves. When we turn our eyes to Him –> we worship –> we renew our trust in His power.
5. Get off of social media for a bit. Get rid of the things in your life that are maybe causing you to compare and be discontent with what God has given you. (Spending three hours on Instagram looking at everyone’s manicured lives is probably not the best strategy for developing contentment.)
6. Think on our Savior and on the cross. Remember that our Savior was meek and lowly, and when you are in positions where you feel lowly, you get to identify with the King of the World (Philippians 2:5-8, Psalm 34:17-18). So, take JOY in your weakness, remembering that our weakness is a great way to reveal to the world, GOD’S power in us (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
– Sing yourself a Calvary hymn, read the gospels, do whatever it takes to switch the perspective off of yourself and on THE CROSS.
7. Think on eternity. When I look through the lens of eternity, my self-pity and self-focus, my dreams, my worth and my abilities, all seem pretty inconsequential. Everything in this world is passing away. All the degrees, all the money, all the accomplishments, will add up to NOTHING. One day we will be forever with the Lord…are we building up for THAT heavenly kingdom, or for this temporary one? (Matthew 6:19-21, 7:24-27).
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace
–Helen Howarth Lemmel
*God has done a lot of work on Momma Mathai’s heart in the last decade (the Lord has to work on parents too, you know). I’m thankful for the marvelous work He has done in her life, in practically showing her that life is so much MORE than academics and accomplishments. In fact, it’s not about those things at all—it’s about Jesus—and we’ve been learning that together! Love you Mom.