“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out.” – 1Timothy 6:6-7
I just searched this site for the number of times I’ve tagged a post with the word “contentment.” I found that despite the fact that contentment is something the Lord is constantly teaching me, I found only four previous posts (if interested, you can find them here). Recently, the Lord has convicted me about how frequently my heart wanders into discontentment, as well as the constant comparisons that I make of myself to others.
The area where I find myself most vulnerable to comparisons and discontentment is no longer the mall or when I’m flipping through a J.Crew catalog, though those are still avenues of temptation for me to lust for things. Rather, I’ve found that several of the greatest areas of temptation for my heart in this current season involve social media sites.
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, among others, provide a unique environment for online community. They, like many other social media sites, have made it possible for friends and family members to stay connected, despite living on different sides of the country or even on different continents. I often catch myself heading to my sister’s Facebook page so that I can view new photos of my ten-month-old niece. They live in Los Angeles, but thanks to Facebook and FaceTime, I’ve been able to be a part of my baby niece’s life! There are so many other positive uses for social media. We aggregate news, we are inspired to pursue causes of justice and mission, and we pursue a myriad of various interests through social media. The possibilities are truly endless. I’ve made numerous Pinterest-inspired recipes and craft projects. However, despite all of the positive opportunities that Facebook and other social media sites provide, I have recently realized that there is another inherent opportunity in the use and consumption of social media – the temptation and opportunity to covet and compare.
This temptation is not new. God commanded the Israelites in Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” We all have a proclivity to want what we do not have and Facebook and Pinterest tend to make us much more aware of what is not ours. They bring the whole world to our fingertips! While looking through my News Feed, I’ve found myself comparing my body, my vacations, my family, my home, my job, my marriage, and my friendships to those of my closest 1,028 friends on Facebook. And it doesn’t stop there! You can literally compare every detail of your life to the details of others’ lives that they post for all to see!
I experienced the incredible danger of these comparisons this past fall as I settled into marriage. I had several friends on Facebook, whom had also recently been married, and I found myself in a constant state of comparing myself and my marriage to these women and their new husbands. I wondered if my marriage wasn’t as good as their marriages if I wasn’t also receiving flowers or love notes with the same frequency as the other new wives. Or if I wasn’t cooking for my husband as much as they were. Facebook opened a door into others’ routine lives and relationships that made me feel as though my life and my relationship were somehow inferior. I found myself coveting. I wanted my husband to be more like theirs. Likewise, while Pinterest is super fun (and addicting), even I have “Fitness” and “Fashion” boards. Is it full of exercises that I think would be helpful and outfit ideas that I love? Yes. But it’s also full of images that fill my heart and mind with what culture says I should look like. And sadly, all too often I fall prey to their perspective. And so do many other women. In fact, even the news media has been reporting on Pinterest’s “anorexia problem.”
I’m sure that I compare myself and what I have been given to other people and their possessions even more often without realizing it, but thankfully, the Lord revealed this sin in my heart last fall, before I allowed it to poison my new marriage. I have to constantly remember and reflect on why I entered into marriage in the first place – because God had led me to this specific man and no other! Likewise, I have had to consistently meditate on 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
I want to encourage you to take a look at your heart today. Look at where you may have allowed discontentment, jealousy, and covetousness to creep in as you have observed your friends’ lives or dreamed of new clothing, a perfect body, and what your future house could look like. Meditate on Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Please let God Himself define perfection for you. And don’t be lured into thinking that God hasn’t given you exactly what you need. Thank God for where He has placed you specifically – and remember that He is sovereign and that He has determined not just when you would live, but also “the boundaries of your dwelling place!” (Acts 17:26).
And lastly, please place a guard on your heart and do not allow yourself to be lulled back into discontentment. As 1 Timothy 6:6-7 says, “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out.”