“Now there was a certain man…, and his name was Elkanah… And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children” (1 Sam. 1a – 2 NKJV).
Believe it or not, Peninnah’s name means jewel, but she had less than a sparkling personality. You see, Peninnah was one of two women married to the same man. Not an ideal scenario, and sadly Peninnah lost sight of her worth and value.
We see in Scripture that Peninnah was a wife and mother, having sons and daughters. Hannah had no children but she did have the love of her husband. Rather than making the most of her situation and focusing on what she did have, Peninnah focused her attention on what she lacked and what Hannah had. Thus begins Peninnah’s bitter rivalry.
First Samuel 1:6-7 AMP says, “Hannah’s rival provoked her bitterly, to irritate and embarrass her, because the Lord had left her childless. So it happened year after year, whenever she went up to the house of the Lord, Peninnah provoked her; so she wept and would not eat.”
(Note: Unresolved issues at home make their way to the house of the Lord.)
“Rival” is a strong word meaning an adversary, one who vexes, causes distress, trouble, an enemy, or frenemy. We all know the type. Instead of being a shining example of godliness with contentment (1 Tim. 6:6), Peninnah-types lose their luster through habitual comparison, competition, and cynicism. If we’re not careful, that can also happen to us as pastors’ wives.
Comparison creeps in when we note the similarity or dissimilarity between “ours and theirs” or “mine and hers” and feel better than or worse. This can be about church size, renting vs owning your building, gifts, talents, abilities, ministries, appearance, wardrobe, websites, social media, number of followers, and so on.
When consumed with comparing ourselves to others, we lose sight of our own giftedness and God-given abilities. When tempted to boost our low self-worth by seeking out the shortcomings of others, we shortchange ourselves. Rather than walking in love and celebrating the strengths of our sisters, we let competition and cynicism begin to color our outlook and dull our shine.
Thankfully, we can regain our radiance. The old adage, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle,” can be said of pastors’ wives when we learn to complement and not compete. We complement when we add to something in a way that enhances or improves it.
Don’t compare, practice self-care. Maria Baratta, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., defines self-care as “the mindful taking of time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you.” When we get busy taking care of ourselves we won’t waste time or energy comparing ourselves to others. Instead we can learn to be self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.
Avoid cynicism at all costs. Cynicism is the pervasive feeling of distrust or that something isn’t going to work out well. Believers with this dismal outlook need to remember Rom. 8:28 AMP: “And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”
If you want to get your shine on and become radically radiant, make a practice of seeking to complement others, remembering that we are all a part of one body. Practice self-care, remembering that we’re called to love others as we love ourselves. And lastly, remember that whatever the season or circumstance, God causes all things to work together in such a way that we are blessed, benefitted, and better equipped to bless others.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you” (Isa. 60:1 NKJV). Rise and shine!