I have learned to be careful about not comparing my life to those that are healthier and wealthier than me because I believe doing so can lead to hopelessness and depression.
I suppose it’s unrealistic, at least for me, not to compare our life to the lives of others, but I’ve discovered that I can choose who I compare myself with. Instead of comparing myself to people who are wealthy, healthy; people doing things like taking exotic vacations to places I’ve always wanted to visit etc, I compare my lot in life with the unhealthy, the persecuted and the poor.
Like all aspects of maintaining hope, this kind of selective comparison doesn’t come naturally for most of us not living in Third-world nations. For many years, even before I had ALS, I practiced this selective comparison by reading articles and watching documentaries about the poor and persecuted of the world and by following and supporting ministries and missionaries that worked to relieve their suffering.
Then, about 2 & ½ years ago, I became a missionary myself; an “Online Missionary” with an organization called Global Media Outreach. This is a great non-denominational Internet ministry that is able to reach people with the Gospel in areas that traditional missionaries cannot go; remote regions and nations like China and Iran where mission work is restricted or banned altogether. GMO has roughly 100 different Internet sites that can be accessed via computer and/or a cell phone. One or more of these sites will always be among the first listed when people Google words like Jesus, Christianity, religion or God etc. GMO has thousands of volunteers that communicate with millions of people every year. I’ve heard many heartbreaking stories from people that have emailed or texted me through GMO, many of which have become close friends of mine. The following are some of stories I’ve heard.
- Men and women in Africa dying from AIDS or other diseases.
- New Christians in the Middle-east living in fear of their Muslim family discovering they’ve converted (one 20 year-old man was living in hiding from his father).
- Abandoned or widowed mothers contemplating giving up their children because they cannot afford to feed them.
- People who are bound by long-term drug, alcohol or sexual addictions.
These are just a few examples of stories I hear regularly from people I communicate with through GMO. These are also the people I choose to compare my life to and by doing so I feel extremely blessed.
My oldest daughter and her husband recently took a mission trip to Uganda and they both told me it was a reality check for them. They saw what life was like for the vast majority of people on this earth; not knowing where their next meal would come from and living in fear that a drink of water or a bite from a mosquito might make them violently ill or even end their life. Lauren and James don’t have much, but, like Mary and I, they feel blessed because they’ve chosen to measure their life by the reality of Uganda instead of by the “American dream.”
I believe everyone, especially followers of Christ and Christians going through trials, should do volunteer work to help the less fortunate and to give us a realistic gauge to measure our life and current circumstances by and most of all to be obedient to Christ.
“I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me…Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Mathew 25:35-40)
“Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.”