This week a family member did and said some things that pained me. I was singled out and reminded of my inferior standing. This stuff happens to you too, right?
As I talked the incident over with my husband, he told me, “Any normal person would be hurt, angry, and upset about this. It’s admirable that you aren’t.”
I don’t think my response was admirable but the truth is that initially, the incident pretty much rolled off my back.
I explained to my husband that I have come to understand the actions of this individual are more a reflection of her than they are of me. Each man gives what each man has. Her disregard of me has little to do with my worth and everything to do with her own health.
However, a couple days later her actions really hit me. Her words struck me in a very painful way. Suddenly I began to feel emotions of isolation, rejection, and shame. I cried out to the Lord, “God, I’m just so alone!” To which His immediate reply was, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Yep, He called me on my words.
In that moment I realized I had a choice. I could continue thinking about the pain of being rejected by someone who should accept me, or I could embrace the simple truth that God is with me and I am never alone. No matter what.
If you are like me, you too have been at these crossroads many times.
On the one hand, we can choose the path of self-pity and our reasons and justifications for it. The second path is that of faith, trust, and truth. It’s the path of denying our flesh and doing the hard work of clinging to God.
Who wants that, right?
Well in the decades I’ve been walking with the Lord, and especially through the gift of adoption, I’ve learned a couple things about self-pity and seeing one’s self as a victim: God is immensely compassionate but God never affirms our self-pity.
Why? Because self-pity is an obstacle to receiving true healing.
My favorite example of this is the lame man in John 5. He had been lying by the pool for many years in hopes of healing.
When Jesus saw him, I wonder what He saw beyond a lame person? What made Him reach out to this particular man? Whatever the case, Jesus wanted to offer restoration of body and soul to him so He asked, “Do you wish to get well?”
The man’s response was, “I have nobody to help me! Every time I try, I fail.”
Doesn’t that sound to include a little bit of self- pity? It was absolutely true that he couldn’t get to the pool. It was absolutely true that no one had helped him. But Jesus wasn’t asking for a list of reasons as to why he was still lame. Jesus was asking if he truly desired wellness. Cause Jesus was in the house and nothing was impossible.
You see, self-pity blinds us to our potential in Christ. It robs us of vision and keeps us from the divinely miraculous. Not only that, but as Jon Bloom wrote, “Self-pity is a feeder sin, encouraging us to comfort our poor selves with all manner of sinful indulgences like gossip, slander, gluttony, substance abuse, pornography, and binge entertainment, just to name a few.” How right he is!
The incredible thing in John 5 is how this man moved from “victim” to “victor” by making the choice to quit with his reasons and “poor me” platitudes and instead, ACT on what Jesus said. I love this! Jesus told him, “Get up, pick up your pallet, and walk.”
And the man did.
My friend, is self-pity hindering you from experiencing real healing in your life? Are you so consumed with your pain or the wrong that’s been done that you can’t hear Jesus speaking to you? If so, here are three steps I’ve found helpful when addressing self-pity in my own life.
- Follow Joseph’s two part example (Genesis 50:20)Joseph didn’t minimize the truth of what had been done to him and the unfairness/evilness of it. Neither did he excuse his brother’s actions or take the blame upon himself. Being truthful about what was done to us is so freeing. However, we can’t stop there. Joseph also reached forward, stretching into faith that God allowed it for a good purpose. This understanding of God’s faithfulness is the bedrock of our faith and essential for moving into a place of healing. Which leads to the next step.
- Hope in God. Psalm 43:5Like Joseph, when David recognized the state of his heart, he counseled his own soul to look to God. There comes a time when we must deliberately turn our eyes away from our circumstances or what’s been done to us and take hope in God, His character, and His purposes. This takes intentionality! Make a conscious choice in the direction of hoping in God.
- Practice “considering.” (James 1:2-3)Considering involves intentionally viewing our circumstances through the lens of faith and coming to a place of resolution and joy. We can be assured that trials of all sorts are allowed into our lives to produce something of great worth. As we conclude this is for our good, we can move into a place of joy (imagine that!) Our prayer can always be, “Lord, help me to see how this is adding value to my life, character, and legacy; and in the meantime, strengthen my faith to trust what I can’t see.”
Self-pity isn’t empowering, which is why I believe God doesn’t look fondly upon it. Compassion, however, DOES empower, and we can count on the fact that His compassions are new each and every morning.
May we each take hope in His compassions and the strength of His character this week.
Oh, and you might be encouraged to realize that many of the prophets experienced times of sulking and self-pity. If you’d like to do a further study on these, check out Jonah (Jonah 4), Jeremiah (sorta the whole book!), and Elijah (I Kings 19). And God had pretty strong words for Job too (see Job 38). Self-pity is natural but that doesn’t mean we need to stay stuck in it. :)
Go in grace my friend, and live loved.