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Comparing Trials

Comparing Trials

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Editor’s Note: We feel honored to post tonight’s devotion written by Jocelyn Green and included in her devotional entitled Faith Deployed. It deals with the mental or verbal “dueling” over whether our circumstances are tougher than someone else’s—you know, that “comparing of trials”—which is a very unattractive (do we dare say sinful?) thing. Perhaps you have been near a conversation when others have compared how many deployments they have endured, or how many children they have to parent while their spouse is gone. I am grateful that Jocelyn has written on just that matter. . . .

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. — Galatians 6:2

I sat in our Bible study and watched another woman share a prayer request. She was having a hard time dealing with the fact that her parents and sister’s family had moved across the country. After years of living in the same small town of Homer, Alaska, this woman missed them terribly and was growing bitter about it.

As I listened to her share with broken voice and many tears, I’m ashamed to admit I had no compassion for her whatsoever. The first thing that jumped into my mind was, “You call that bad? Try being a military wife! We hardly ever get to live near our extended families. We don’t even live with our own husbands half the time!”

I carried my “I have it worse than you” attitude home with me that day. I snuggled up to it to make myself feel more virtuous or worthy somehow. But the tighter I held on to it, the less Christ was able to use me. I used my own trials as something to be proud of. What a ridiculous thing to boast about!

Proverbs 14:10 says, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.” When I read that verse, it seems to tell me that each person’s burden causes him/her a pain that should not be diminished just because someone else has it worse. It is impossible and worthless to compare trials. A truly humble person would have compassion and bear one another’s burdens no matter how they “rank” next to my own.

In The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg says this: “Humility . . . involves a healthy self-forgetfulness. We will know we have begun to make progress in humility when we find that we get so enabled by the Holy Spirit to live in the moment that we cease to be preoccupied with ourselves, one way or the other.” When we are with others we’re not assigning value to their prayer requests and feeling more spiritual if our own trials seem more acute.

In Galatians 6:2, Paul does not say, “Bear one another’s burdens only if you deem the burden of sufficient magnitude. If it isn’t a big deal to you, go ahead and let your sister in Christ figure it out on her own. She’ll get over it.” We are to “Bear one another’s burdens”—period.

Philippians 2:4-5 tells us, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Now, if anyone had the right to consider other people’s complaints as petty, Jesus did. Jesus knew he would die a horrific death on the cross to pay for the sins of the people who put him there—and yet he took time to comfort and heal thousands of people with lesser trials. May we seek to model Jesus’ humility and compassion in our own lives.

Pray: Lord, It’s so easy to focus on my own troubles. Please grant me the humility to set them aside so I can be genuinely available to minister to my brothers and sisters in Christ without comparing our burdens. Help me get my mind off myself by serving other people this week. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions to Share:

  1. Am I harboring feelings of being more spiritual because of the difficult circumstances the military has given me?
  2. How can I communicate love and understanding for other people this week?

Jocelyn Green is an award-winning freelance writer and author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (www.faithdeployed.com), from which this devotional was reposted with permission from Moody Publishers. She is also the co-author of Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan. She and her husband Rob live with their two children in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

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