The other day, my daughter received an interesting toy at a fast food establishment. It was a set of cards with animal facts on the backs of them written in blue ink. However, the facts were hidden by a red pattern. In order to make it clear and legible, you had to put this red “glass” on top of the card. By doing so, the “red” in the glass would make the red in the card invisible, allowing you to read the text clearly.
Deep into my thoughts this morning, I remembered this toy as I thought about the way I viewed my life, which made me realize something: At times, I live my life by “sight through stained glass”. That is to say, I see the lives of others through this colored and tinted glass, a glass that removes the “bad” in the lives of others, leading me to think every one lives the perfect life I just simply can’t seem to attain.
Think “rose-colored glasses” in reverse.
My heart naturally lifts others to this “super human” level, all the while wondering why I am incapable of achieving the same ascension.
I am writing about this because I know I’m not the only one who scrolls through Instagram wondering how other people live these “perfect” lives. I know I am not the only one tempted to compare my life to the lives of others, tempted to believe the demonic prompting that “God doesn’t love me like He loves _______” because of what I am seeing solely through stained glass.
No, I know I am not the only one. So if that’s you, let me speak to you (and by doing so, I also am speaking to myself): The stained glass isn’t giving you the whole picture. You are seeing a distorted image. It is not real. Perhaps the events in the picture did happen. Yes, that could very well be true. Feelings can be real. Intentions can be real. But the perfect life someone else is living? That is not real.
People fight with one another and they don’t tweet about it. People feel disappointed, slighted, used, cheated, etc, and they don’t “at” (@) the person to let them know this publicly (I mean, sometimes this happens, but usually not in the “Christian” world, so to speak). People don’t go on and on in their Instagram story to tell you about how their marriage is failing or how their kid is rebelling against them. Husbands don’t take pictures of their wives gossiping with the girls. Wives don’t take pictures of their husbands cheating on them.
You get the picture (no pun intended).
Remember when I said that I can raise others to a “superhuman” level? Well, one of those people I tend to forget to see as human is Matt Chandler. God always uses him to speak to me (through online sermons, anyway), so I tend to forget he’s also a human that struggles and gets tempted.
I recently saw this clip from one of his sermon series. You can watch it for yourself here, but he tells the story of when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was about to undergo chemotherapy. He found himself looking at a family Christmas card of a man he knew was an adulterer and coward. And what did he think to himself? What were his thoughts during trial and suffering?
“That clown gets health, but not me?”
Matt Chandler became human the day I heard that story.
To quote him, he goes on to say “When we’re enduring trials, we become hyper aware of the prettiness of others lives and we begin to resent them. And James here, via the power of the Holy Spirit, is going ‘no no no, it’s all level in the end’. Don’t believe the Instagram hype. Everyone endures trials. Everyone struggles.”
Matt Chandler, an incredible man of God, struggles.
Then I really sat down and began to mentally list all of my “heroes” and realized they all have human struggles, struggles that get lost in the day-to-day posts of perfect families, friends, churches, and homes. And wouldn’t you know, some of them even sinned?
C.H. Spurgeon, the man whose quote I write on every Bible I use? It’s widely known that he struggled with depression (so when I am in “my lows”, I can find myself in good company). Matt Chandler? He publicly talks about how his marriage was terrible for the first seven years (not to even mention the whole brain tumor thing). Friends of mine that I look up to? They are tempted by anxiety, lust, jealousy, envy, fear, etc.
And some of our greatest theological heroes? They weren’t perfect either. They messed up in big ways. Here is John Piper talking about some of his heroes and their moral failures:
“But here’s what we have in mind, Martin Luther and his virulent anti-Semitism. John Wesley was not your most attentive husband—neither was [George] Whitefield. Whitefield and Edwards both owned slaves. Edwards, one or two all of his life, probably. Martin Luther King Jr.—unfaithful to his wife repeatedly in his sexual misconduct. And, of course, the list could go on and on.” (Emphasis mine).
Everyone endures trials. Everyone struggles. Everybody messes up. Nobody is perfect.
I was getting really discouraged, thinking that I was missing the mark somehow and was flawed for being unable to attain “perfection” like others seem to do. For me, remembering that Spurgeon found himself in the same pits I recently found myself lit a fire in my soul that I haven’t felt in a while.
I can agree with Job when he says “Though He slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).
We need to constantly examine our worldviews to make sure we have not believed a lie that will not only strip us of our joy in Christ, but will cause us to walk away from Him, believing that we are the only unloved ones. No, in the trials, we need to press further into Him, clinging to Him knowing that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t depend on our ability to hold unto Him anyway. He’s the One holding unto us.
And He will never let go.