Don’t Compare Stories

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All three of my children got sick, experiencing the typical cold symptoms, slight fever, sore throat, exhaustion, cough, and congestion.

At the same time, my oldest took a required Covid test to register for her university’s next semester.

It came back positive.

I thought I was unafraid of Covid, so when my daughter announced her positive result, I was surprised when fear punched me in the gut. Why was I suddenly terrorized?

Immediately, I withdrew from everyone and asked the Lord. “Lord, I am suddenly struck with terror at this news. What do you have to say about it?”

I heard a quiet answer in my mind, “This virus will go through your entire household just like every other virus ever has in that it will come, and it will go.”

That same night, someone with covid for whom we had been praying passed away.

Fear gripped me again, and I inquired of the Lord, “Lord, this virus killed people I know, people I have prayed for, so how can I believe you?”

An Image Flashed Through My Mind

Immediately, an image flashed through my mind from John 21:18-23. The scene takes place on a beach after the resurrection of Jesus, where he walks and talks with Simon Peter.  Read their conversation with me?

 18 Jesus said to Peter, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

After the image flashed through my mind, I heard these words, “Don’t compare stories. You must be compelled by what I tell you, not the stories of others.”

Don’t Compare Stories

Consider Stephen the Martyr and Paul. Stephen was stoned unto death while Paul stood back and watched over the coats of the stoners. (Acts 7:54 – 8:2). Paul was stoned and left for dead but got up from the terrible scene and continued preaching (Acts 14:19-20).

Consider the storms God’s people encountered while boating on seas. Jesus calmed a storm for his disciples (Matthew 8:23-27), but Paul’s storm raged on to the point of shipwreck (Acts 27).

Consider Elijah and Elisha. Elijah didn’t die but was caught up in a whirlwind involving a chariot of fire and horses of fire, yet Elisha (2 Kings 2:11), the one with Elijah’s double anointing, died in bed with a terminal sickness (2 Kings 13:14-20).

Jesus asked Peter a question, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” In twentieth-century American culture, the question, “what is it to you?” comes off rude. But Jesus is not rude. It’s a genuine question.

What is Another’s Story to You?

Although we cannot compare stories, we can learn from them all. Common threads persist in each.

  1. In this world, we will have different kinds of trouble, but we can take heart because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
  2. In death and life, we belong to Christ (Romans 14:8).

Stories build our endurance, encourage us, and give us hope (Romans 15:4), but we can’t look to them to know the details of our own stories. For that, we must look to Christ alone.

The virus did run through our entire family. It struck us all, and like every other virus, it came, and it went. And what is that to you?


Featured Image by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

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