A moment of truth that comes back to my mind repeatedly happened almost fifteen years ago when my youngest daughter was 13 years old.
I was feeling sorry for myself that day and was reciting out loud a list of all the things that were going wrong.
My daughter interrupted my tirade with these words, “Mom, stop feeling sorry for yourself. You have so many good things in your life.”
Then she started to name them.
She was right. The verse that came to mind that day was Psalm 13:6:
I will sing to the LORD for he has been good to me. NIV
Over the years I’ve had an ongoing battle with self-pity. But that day the Lord used my daughter to point out my problem. Since then God has shown me a pattern which serves as a warning sign of this trap.
First comes comparing. I compare my marriage or my children or my life in general to someone else’s.
Next comes complaining about various aspects of my life.
Then comes covetousness where I long for a more romantic husband, more godly children or an easier life—like theirs.
Before I know it self-pity has me in its clutches. If I don’t escape promptly, depression and hopelessness can set in. The key is to put an end to this cycle the minute I find myself comparing.
Other warning signs of self-pity are eating, sleeping, or talking too much, withdrawing, crying sorry-for-myself tears, or feeling like I have no energy.
Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest writes, “No sin is worse than the sin of self-pity because it obliterates God and puts self-interest on the throne.”
My goal in order to keep free from self-pity is to focus on the Lord rather than on myself or my difficult circumstances.
One day when I was feeling sorry for myself and starting telling someone my troubles, she said “I’ve learned that it’s best to keep your eyes fixed on the Lord and only glance at your problems.”
This works. When I focus on the Lord, I listen to Him. One truth from God can chase away a flood of lies, which I’m tempted to believe in the midst of a pity party. Most lies I’ve entertained have to do with, “God’s not in control,” “God can’t be trusted,” or “God doesn’t love me.” When I’m busy comparing and someone’s life looks better than mine it’s “God doesn’t love me as much as He loves her.”
Meditating on and memorizing Scripture, fasting, praying, listening to and singing praise songs—or even writing a new one–going on nature walks and journaling help me to get my focus back on God and His faithfulness.
My grandma who faced many difficulties without resorting to self-pity used to say, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” She had learned to do what Hebrews 12:1 commands:
…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Self-pity is one of those sins that easily entangles me. What about you? God says we can choose to throw it off so we can run the race marked for us. Are you ready to do that and receive God’s riches in exchange?
Lord, deliver us from the pit of self-pity. Remind us of all we have to be thankful for—especially Your generous love for us. Let us run with joy and perseverance the race You have marked out for us. Amen.