The question remained unanswered on the page. I discussed it with my husband, and received, instead of an easy answer, some variation of, “No one can answer that but you.” I took a photo of it on my iPhone and texted it to a friend, telling her I was stumped. It wasn’t a complex question, really. It was almost insignificant in its simplicity, and I considered skipping it altogether. Something told me not to blow it off, though, so I brushed aside the impatience that was creeping in, and asked the Holy Spirit to guide me and show me what He wanted me to learn here. Before my friend could respond to my text, I had hastily scrawled on the page:
Comparison –> Jealousy –> Bitterness and Anger –> Feelings of Inadequacy.
My phone buzzed. “Explain what you’re stumped on,” my friend implored. I answered, “The part that asks what areas of your life that are hard to surrender. I went with seemingly little sins- comparison that leads to jealousy that leads to bitterness and anger and feeling inadequate. But it’s such a convenient little foothold for Satan.” She replied, “Comparison isn’t little.”
She wasn’t condemning me. She’s just spiritually mature enough to know that those “convenient little footholds” can be serious. The next morning we visited over coffee while our children entertained one another and consumed inhuman amounts of microwave popcorn. I explained to my friend that I know God has a unique and beautiful path prepared for me, and that I am grateful for what He has willed for me. I shared with her that while I had prayed about my sin, it was still a constant struggle for me. “I know this is a problem with MY heart, but what I don’t get is what exactly God WANTS from me in this. I’ve given this to Him over and over. Why is this still a THING for me? Does He just want me to surrender constantly?” I stopped in my tracks. “That’s it, isn’t it? He wants me to rely on Him every day…every hour…doesn’t He?”
2 Corinthians 12:9 comes to mind yet again (there’s a reason it’s my favorite). If you’ll back up a few verses, you’ll get a little more of the story:
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Paul speculated that his thorn had the purpose of ensuring a humble heart. My friend suggested that this also could be part of my refinement process (as in Isaiah 48:10 “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”) How incredible is it that God loves me enough to refine me, purify me, and personally shape me into the person He created me to be? Instead of seeking deliverance, I should rejoice in the opportunity created to share in Jesus’ suffering, and be grateful for a chance to rely on God’s strength.
We are instructed in Acts 26:18 “…to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” By leaving my problem with comparison unchecked, I have made myself vulnerable to Satan’s manipulation. By recognizing my own sin, confessing to God, earnestly repenting, receiving forgiveness, and accepting God’s help in avoiding future temptation to succumb to this sin, I eliminate one of the footholds Satan uses to invade my life. Comparison may seem like no big deal, but for me, it’s a gateway sin; it leads to much graver sin. It’s not nit-picking; it’s warfare, y’all.
I am learning that I have to make a constant conscious effort to completely surrender and submit to God. I’m realizing that making the initial decision to give my life to Jesus was only the first step; it’s actually a continuous choice, every minute of every day. Do I choose light or darkness? Are my actions, thoughts, and words reflecting my choices? The truth is that they are, whether I want them to or not. And I pray I will reflect the Son.