“When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister [Leah]” (Gen. 30:1 ESV).
Rachel knew she had no children, but it wasn’t until Leah started bearing sons left and right that Rachel saw that she had no children. That’s what comparison does—it heightens our sense of who we are not and what we do not have in light of another person’s being and having. And, that person is likely doing the same thing in light of another person, and so on.
Comparison never goes well. Granted, it may reveal exactly the score of how things really are: another may make more money, may have more children, or may be better looking or smarter. Comparison never settles the score inside, and that’s the problem.
To carry out the example from the Scripture above, it is one thing to know that you have no children; it is another thing to see that you have no children. It is one thing to know that you are struggling financially; it is another thing to see that you are struggling financially. Knowing these things about yourself is real, and really hard and painful, whatever these things are. Seeing compares our lack of whatever we desire to another person, and this is where the pain and sense of meaninglessness is heightened. Seeing what we lack takes us outside ourselves. This is the essence of comparison.
Interestingly, it was when the Lord saw that Leah was hated that God opened her womb (Gen. 29:31). We never see what God is doing in another person’s interior life, all the pain that God is working out beneath the surface in the one we envy. God gives each the grace needed for today. My grace is different than yours. The trick is to know that God is with me and that God is enough, so that when I see what God knows another person needs and has given them, I look to God and not to what I lack.