I want my blog to be honest and real. I want it to be an encouragement. I want to tell you what I struggle with, and to offer Biblical help if you’re struggling too. So far though, I haven’t accomplished any of this, because my blog has sat empty for quite some time now. Each time I begin to write, I second-guess myself. Do I have anything relevant to say? Is this going to help anyone on their Christian walk? Will anyone even care to read my blog?
At this point, my thoughts move to “I’m just too busy.” Recently, those have turned into thoughts of our impending move, the busyness of settling in at a new congregation, starting back to graduate school, and keeping up with all of the outside commitments I have already made.
I then stop working on my blog. Life is just too busy. It’s really too hard. I’m stressed and tired. I’m already doing so many things. My little blog probably won’t accomplish anything, anyway. I really just feel bad for myself.
These thoughts are not realistic, though. They are distorted.
The realistic view of life is that I enjoy writing, and if I give you Biblical encouragement, I will have helped someone. My life is busy, but it’s busy with blessings. Over the next few months I get to move, make new friends, fellowship with old friends, and meet my newborn nephew. I love being in graduate school, and all of my commitments this fall are exciting and productive. Busy? Yes. Worth feeling bad for myself? Absolutely not.
These two ways of thinking both realize the same facts about life, but my feelings change based upon my perspective of the facts.
The first perspective is one of self-pity, whereas the second perspective is realistic. Perhaps most of us struggle with self-pity. It is an ugly cycle that often begins with one small difficulty. This difficulty quickly becomes the gateway for self-pity to creep in and skew our perspective on the good, difficult, and neutral situations.
Why do we struggle with self-pity? I know that it is a lie–a distorted lie that I tell myself–and yet I still fall prey to it. Self-pity is tempting because it offers temporary relief. This temporary relief is brought about by an inflated ego, suggesting that our lives are difficult because of how good we are–we are martyrs. After the initial relief, we find ourselves unfulfilled. A new cycle begins, and we begin desperately searching for reasons to pity ourselves, reasons to be the martyr. Each cycle seems to grow more outlandish, and eventually we begin to pity ourselves even when things are going well for us. If you relate to this, then you’re good company:
- Consider Moses: When the Lord spoke to Moses out of the burning bush (directly commissioning him with the task of leading the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt), Moses felt too sorry for himself to accept. Though God had promised him all of the help he needed, Moses wallowed in the self-pity of “not being eloquent” (Exodus 4:10). It is illogical to think, “I cannot do it,” when God says, “I will help you do it.”
- Think of Elijah: After Elijah’s finest hour, the hour when he called down fire from heaven and put to shame the false god of Baal, he felt thoroughly sorry for himself. Though he had just experienced the power of God, he allowed the decree of the queen to bring him into a state of self-pity. His thinking became so distorted that he asked the Lord to take his life (1 Kgs 19:4). The queen wanted his life, but he KNEW the Lord the was on his side.
- Don’t forget Jonah: After his sin of running from the Lord, repenting, going to Nineveh to preach the message of repentance, and succeeding at his task, Jonah also was begging for death. He was so deep in his self-pity, that he allowed the death of his shade tree to completely distort his thinking (Jonah 4:5-11). Even in success, Jonah found a reason to pity himself. Self-pity about success? It sounds like Jonah was trapped in selfishness, and a cycle.
These Biblical accounts make it clear to us that self-pity truly can creep in no matter what our circumstances. Furthermore, it makes it clear that God does not indulge self-pity, but rather corrects the thinking that leads to it. Here is a sample of how God responds when faced with His people’s self-pity:
- He corrected Moses: “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” – Exodus 4:11-12
- He instructed Elijah: “Arise, eat.” – 1 Kings 19:5
- He challenged Jonah: “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” – Jonah 4:9-11
When we are deep in self-pity our Lord lovingly meets our needs, and then reminds us to walk the path He has already laid out for us.
When we are already pitying ourselves the Lord feels no need to share His pity. He simply reminds us to get up and keep going, to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and to continue doing what He already told us to do. Even when we face difficulties, as we inevitably will, we are not martyrs. Through Christ Jesus we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37). We have the ability, with the guidance of the Lord, to “overwhelmingly conquer,” despite the difficulty of our situation.
This is likely why the Lord does not tolerate self-pity. Self-pity is irreconcilable with the Christian attitude. It seems that Lord is disgusted with our self-pity–and our self-pity ultimately leaves us disgusted with ourselves–because the cycle prevents us from walking with Him. When we are trapped in self-pity, we become paralyzed, and find ourselves mentally unable to accomplish what God has required of us.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
One of God’s foundational instructions–to walk humbly with Him–is the opposite of self-pity.
Self-pity turns our humble walk with God into a proud walk with ourselves. When we live in a state of self-pity we begin to believe that our problems, difficulties, challenges, and even successes: (1) are worthy to fill our minds (2) will not be handled properly by God. Because of this distorted view of life, when we are struggling in a cycle of self-pity, we have to tell ourselves these two things:
(1) I am NOT the object worthy of my thoughts.
Self-pity crowds our minds with thoughts of ourselves. It brings our little lives to the forefront of our minds, pushing out thoughts of God, His kingdom, our brothers and sisters in Christ, the lost people in the world, and our mission of reconciliation. As a Christian, I have the most important beings and tasks in the world with which to fill my mind, and yet somehow I allow self-pity to tell me I am the most important object of my thoughts. I surely am not.
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:1-3
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21
(2) God will meet all of my needs (and more).
Self-pity stifles the belief that God will meet our needs. As New Testament Christians, we never have the need to feel sorry for ourselves. Not because our lives are free from trials, but rather because God will meet each need as trials arise. We are not forced to meet our own craving for understanding, because when we are in the midst of true difficulty, God provides us with pity, compassion, strength, peace, and solutions. Desperately trying to meet our own needs is foolish, because God truly meets our every need.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33-34
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21
We must remember that self-pity does not reflect reality. The reality is my own unworthiness, and God’s abundant blessings. THIS is reality, and this excludes self-pity.
Even in the midst of difficulty, I can beat self-pity, I can walk humbly with my God, and I can write an occasional blog post. Self-pity has no place in my life, because I serve a God who has already met all of my needs.
“Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.”