The Gift of Challenges


Comparison is a lethal trap for women. Sizing up another woman leads either to pride that I’m better in some way or to self-loathing that I’m inferior in one or many ways. Neither is good for our souls.

The words “my lot” in this my favorite of all hymns presuppose the kind, benevolent rule of a King who does all things in love. It also assumes that the circumstances of our lives are in His wise, capable hands. Therefore my family of origin, your precise DNA, each woman’s individual flaws are given with intentionality.

As a painfully shy teenager I often looked at other girls who were outgoing and popular and wished I could be more like them. My comparison of myself to others continued into college and then marriage.

One day, decades later, I had this sudden realization, whispered by the Holy Spirit I’m sure, that my shyness that felt like a burden and a great weakness was the gift that protected me from being swept away into drinking, drugs, and immorality so common in that generation had I been carefree and part of the popular crowd. My tendency to compare didn’t evaporate, but I became more aware of God’s using what feels bad to me for His greater good.

My lot in life has also included difficulties beyond shyness that seemed impossible to survive. But again, the question remains, “Who has ultimate control?”

Answer: The same God who, in time, brings good to those who love Him out of any tragedy.

In 1871, Horatio Spafford lost many investment properties in the Great Chicago fire. Two years later he planned to join D.L. Moody in England and booked tickets on a ship for himself and his family. At the last minute he delayed his own voyage because of business and sent his wife and four daughters on ahead. On the voyage across the Atlantic the ship was struck by another vessel. The ship sank and took the lives of all four of his daughters. His wife Anna was rescued, unconscious and floating on a piece of wood.

Horatio sailed to England to join his wife. When he passed the area where his daughters had perished, he wrote the words to the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”

When peace like a river, attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I’m studying Job this summer with my Bible study group and the similarities are striking in these men’s stories. Reading chapters one and two are an always-needed reminder of the authority of God, the limits of Satan and the mysterious permissions granted for various sufferings to become our “lot” in life. The death of Job’s ten children and Horatio’s four was not a random happenstance. God knew and allowed it.

I don’t understand it, but I believe every word of God’s book.

Job’s pain and Horatio’s were equally intense. But both chose to trust that God was still good and He didn’t allow their losses as punishment for sin. In the end both men said, “Yet I will trust Him,” and, “It is well with my soul.”

Though many words have been written on this common challenge we women face called comparison, the surest way to defeat the pride or self-loathing of comparison is to give thanks to your Creator for every detail of your “lot” in life.

Believe He is good and sing, “Whatever my lot Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul!”



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2 thoughts on “The Gift of Challenges”

  1. Thanks for this timely post. Just had a treasures 36 hours with a group of 4 of us friends who started out together 30 some years ago as young newlymarrieds in a small group at church. Today we are all mid50’s facing new seasons and challenges. And as we shared our hearts – the talk of comparison and insecurity was a key topic. Such a challenge to joyfully embrace our unique and individual “lots” and trust the Good and Trustworthy Ordered of all things behind it all. Like you “it is well” is my favorite hymn. The story behind it never ceases to choke me up when I share it with others. So moving to consider Anna Spafford’s brief telegram to Horatio after her rescue –
    “Saved alone”
    Thank you Barbara for your honest and encouraging posts!

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