I lie on my bed, curled on my side, as yet another disappointment threatens to crush me. The thoughts start coming: “What’s the point in trying? Why does this always happen to me? Why do other people always seem to have more success? What’s wrong with me?” Before I realize what is happening, my thoughts begin to lead me to a dark place, and I feel powerless to stop them. All I want to do is stay cocooned in my room and escape into something mindless, so that I don’t have to deal with life and its weariness. I lie there for a while longer, then realize that my thoughts aren’t going to get any better unless I take some action. I give myself a stern pep-talk, then force myself to get out of the house and go for a walk.
What is self-pity? The dictionary defines it as “excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles.” Sound familiar? It is so easy to slip into, unless we are careful to be on guard against it. The above scenario is one that I have often found myself encountering, especially if I am already weakened by sleep problems or life stress.
If anyone had a reason for self-pity, it was the apostle Paul. He was beaten many times, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, knew hunger, sleeplessness and slander (2 Cor 11:16-28). He was no stranger to deep suffering, and yet what does he write after this list of hardships?
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” Later he goes on to describe the thorn in his flesh (likely a physical affliction) that was given him by the Lord to prevent him from becoming puffed up and full of himself. And so he boasts in his weakness, because the Lord gives him this promise, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”(2 Cor 12:9).
You see, Paul recognizes something that we often fail to see. It is in our weaknesses that we can see God’s power displayed more clearly to a broken world. If it were up to us, we would act exactly like this world. A lot of the time we still do, if we are being honest. Yet in these weaknesses we are being transformed to be more like Christ, and to showcase His joy, His peace, and His contentment.
Rather than practicing self-pity, Paul practiced self-denial. His main concerns were first that the Lord would be glorified, and second, for the churches that he ministered to. He didn’t take concern for himself. He knew that life was not all about him. Do we know that? Do we have that same mentality? Or are we too busy grumbling about our slight inconveniences, turning inwards and becoming more depressed and anxious in the process? Instead of complaining, how are you leveraging your difficulty for good? Are you giving in to self-pity, or are you practicing self-denial? Are you letting your emotions dictate your life or the Word of God?
Let’s remember that this life is about building God’s kingdom, not ours. Let’s pray for grace to stop pitying ourselves, and to stop complaining, grumbling, and criticizing. Instead let’s look out for the needs of others. This life is short, and if we have placed our trust in Christ alone for salvation, we will spend all of eternity in awe and worship of Him. And there will be no room for self-pity then. Let’s start practicing now.
“Self-pity is a death that has no resurrection, a sinkhole from which no rescuing hand can drag you because you have chosen to sink.”
“Refuse self-pity. Refuse it absolutely. It is a deadly thing with power to destroy you. Turn your thoughts to Christ who has already carried your griefs and sorrows.”