Yesterday I was on Facebook and saw a post about a friend’s child who was having a procedure in the hospital because of an autoimmune disorder he lives with every single day. And as I read all the comments of support, prayers and cheering the child and his mom on to stay positive and hang in there, the exclamations of how brave this child is, I heard myself secretly say something like this – “Geesh, what’s the big deal? That’s nothing. It’s not like he’s dying”. There he was, a good looking, healthy, well loved boy with so much value smiling at the camera waiting for his procedure. And all my mind could grasp was to downplay the seriousness of the situation and act like his struggles are not a big deal.
I remember seeing a quote or something that basically said this – Be nice to other people. Treat them with respect. Their battle might be much less serious than yours, but to them, it may be the worst thing they have ever encountered. And your worst experience is equal in emotion to their worst experience. It’s just different.
And boy did the Holy Spirit do a much needed work in me yesterday morning. It was like a slap in the face. I was filled with conviction, overcome with grief, washed with sorrow. It wasn’t the emotion of my own situation with Ryan I was facing but instead, the speed at which I so quickly judged another’s journey. It’s easy to do and not just for me. For each of us. We all so easily get tangled in the web of deception that downplays the value of someone else’s situation. We all so easily judge another’s circumstances and challenges with the meter we use to judge the difficulties in our own lives. We all so easily minimize pain, stress, struggles, raw emotions, fears and grief in another’s life if we believe it’s not to the same depth and magnitude of those same emotions in our own hearts.
And what a mistake that is. I found myself thinking of this boy and his family and of so many others I know who are struggling with daily battles. And as I felt the Lord gently speak to my spirit, my heart began to soften and weep. I begged for mercy and forgiveness. I don’t want to compare my own circumstances to those of my friends and loved ones. I don’t want to live a life of insensitivity to the needs of those around me. I don’t want to minimize another’s fears and stress and worry. Instead, I want to stand in the gap for another and pray for strength to overcome whatever the situation may be, for resilience when life gets too hard to bear, for joy when worry overwhelms, for confidence when insecurities say you can’t do this. As someone who professes my faith in Jesus Christ, my responsibility is to show love, not judgment.
At the end of the day, as I sat on the couch curled up in a warm, fuzzy blanket next to my best friend and we shared our hearts, I told Travis of my thoughts. I shared the raw emotions of my judgmental spirit. I had processed the underlying emotions of my insensitivity. And honestly, it came down to this. Jealousy. I wanted to be dealing with what my friend was dealing with because she still has a healthy, active, normal child who runs and plays and interacts and brings life and noise to her home. Jealousy because he isn’t fading away like my Ryan. And in my grief, I transferred my frustrations and sorrow onto another’s situation. I threw all my own insecurities and fears onto that sweet boy whom I have never met. I took my own very overwhelming grief that hides in the darkness of my soul and judged another for having it easier than I do. And so, jealousy spun a web of deception and anger in my heart. By the grace of God and His loving forgiveness for an attitude of selfish jealousy, I was able to pray for this family. I was able to sympathize with a momma’s heart who so desperately wants to take these struggles from her child. I was able to earnestly ask God for healing. I was able to give thanks for this boy and the value he adds to his family. I was able to ask the Lord to bless his story and his future.
It’s a struggle we all face, and maybe some of you are not so bold to speak openly about your raw emotions, but those struggles are present in all of us. We play the comparison game and in it, we diminish the blessings of today. Those gifts God has granted us to be His light in this dark world exactly where He has planted us. Empathy is learned. Being able to come along side someone and show compassion, care and concern is only possible when our hearts are in a place of peace with our own circumstances. We don’t have to like what we are facing, we don’t have to be excited about it all, we can still struggle to deal with the overwhelming emotions. But acceptance of those feelings goes a long way and helps move us to a place of freedom to show care and concern for another. It’s then we can throw off the comparison game and simply love another in whatever place they may be. The Lord doesn’t play the comparison game. He simply gives each of us our own unique story so He can use us for His glory. No journey is better or worse or harder or easier than another’s. It’s just different. And different is OK. We are called to love, and love escapes the boundaries of the whose-life-is-harder meter we all so easily carry in our back pocket. I challenge each of you to throw compassion on another and to see their situation through the lens God is using, not the lens you use to define your own situation. It’s then and only then we can accept the challenges God has given us with joy, to be able to see the goodness of God in His provision, to realize He is using each of us in our own unique situation, to understand we are exactly as God intended us to be.
So while I struggle with sorrow and grief over a life slowly slipping away, while I fight not to focus on everything this awful fading is taking away from me, joy is still found. Compassion for another is present. Energy to reach out and pray for a friend still has value. Focusing on all the blessings and goodness of God is reachable. May each of you be challenged to see another through the lens of compassion, casting aside the lens of comparison.