Social media is a big part of most of our lives these days. We find ourselves absorbed in Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok, and whatever else comes along. Often it can be a way to get a sneak peek into the lives of others, from friends and family members to social media influencers and celebrities.
Many times, we bring our successes to our online audience in record time. Picture perfect relationships, pregnancy announcements, gender reveals, graduations, career advancements, house closings, and exotic vacations flood our timelines. Being privy to these victories can sometimes be a source of happiness for us as we celebrate with them. We may even glean encouragement if we have similar goals.
However, more often than not, we can find ourselves comparing someone else’s highlight reel with the reality of our everyday life. A fight with our significant other, a bad grade in a class, or a frustrating experience at work can seem twice as disheartening with the smiling faces of social media perfection peering at us from our phones.
While social media is a relatively new feature of society, comparison and discontentment are etched deeply in human history. We see it with the first man and woman on earth- discontentment reared its ugly head even in a perfect world. Eve saw what appeared to be an opportunity to have and be more and disobeyed God for that chance.
The Israelites gave in to discontentment countless times in their history. For example, in 1 Samuel 8, they presented themselves to the prophet Samuel asking for a king “like all the nations.”
But what does it mean to be content? One author describes contentment as the state of satisfaction drawn from being at ease in one’s situation, body and mind- a milder and more tentative form of happiness. This doesn’t mean that we do not desire change or growth in any area of life, but that we have chosen to be satisfied with what we have in the present.
The apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering. In 2 Corinthians 11, he outlines some of his trials and even this brief overview is shocking - hungry, thirsty, cold, sleepless, imprisoned, beaten, stoned and even shipwrecked (three times!).
If anyone had a right to complain or to compare, it was Paul. Instead, he writes in his letter to the Philippians, “…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
He ties his contentment to his connection with Christ. In the Savior, he found strength to endure and a peace that had nothing to do with his circumstances. This was a lesson he imparted again and again.
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you not forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV)
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8 (NKJV)
We can have dreams, goals and desires. Indeed, a life without these would be quite dull and empty, not the abundant and thriving life that God intends us to live. But when we compare and complain, sighing wistfully at the sight of someone else’s journey, we reveal a lack of trust in our incredible God who has a unique and fruitful journey for each of us.
So let’s take our eyes off the screens for a while if that is what it takes, and fix our eyes instead on the path before us in the real world. Our Savior is extending His hand to us, to join Him in a one-of-a-kind experience.