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THE THIEF OF JOY

By Regis Neilson

April 21, 2020

Unpopular opinion: quarantine has been pretty great.


Of course, I say this as an introvert who already worked from home on a freelance basis. The projects available to me have grown scarce and I miss attending church events in person, but otherwise my life hasn’t changed drastically. I realize I’m exceptionally privileged to be able to say that, so please forgive me this next bombshell: my immediate gut response to the prospect of our province opening up again was an anxious one.


This was a pretty gross realization. Why would I be troubled by the thought of things returning to normal?


To be honest, I’ve enjoyed this illusion of one giant pause button for everybody. Have a creative project you can’t find time for? Now’s your moment to pursue it! No social life? We’re all in the same boat. Single? Don’t worry about it; nobody’s making much progress in that arena now.


I’ve been better able to forget the ways others appear to be succeeding where I seem to be failing. I’ve been able to focus on my own pursuits without worrying about what I may be missing. In this sense, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a strange but good space for me that I’m not entirely anxious to leave despite my desire to see our world healed.


Jordan Peterson recently wrote, “It’s not useful to compare yourself to other people. … It’s useful to compare yourself to yourself.” That’s good advice that I intend to carry with me. I want to avoid making unfounded comparisons between myself and others whose experiences, talents, and opportunities are different than mine. Still, I can do one better. I can compare myself to Jesus.


When I compare myself to others, I envy what I can’t have. I destroy my joy by putting my hope in becoming someone I can’t who would ultimately disappoint me anyway. When I compare myself to Jesus, I look to someone with the power to make me like Him. If you accept Jesus as your saviour and the lord of your life, you can say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). Christ has made the impossible possible: we have someone we can become like, and He is immeasurably good. Again, in Paul’s words, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).


We don’t know when that day will be, and our current circumstances give this uncertainty a new immediacy. Things will eventually return to some semblance of normalcy, but when the world speeds back up into competition mode I hope we can shape some new, more beautiful forms of normal by resisting the urge to compare ourselves to others. Instead, let’s compare ourselves to Jesus. We can trust Him to transform us in the best possible ways.