Four years ago, I wrote an article for Abbey Wedgeworth’s Advent Devotional, on the topic of self-pity. I’ve often wondered if she asked me to write this piece because she could sense my tendency toward it. You see, I regularly struggle with self-pity. In many ways it feels like the sin Satan likes to trap me in when life feels a bit, shall we say, ‘extra’. And not in a good way. Whenever I begin to wallow, I pull up this article and remind myself of the truth.
As I face a number of challenging life circumstances this year, I’ve found myself battling this sin once again. And I imagine I’m not the only one who feels self-pity. So, I decided to republish the article—with a bit of tweaking—here. If you also struggle with self-pity, and feel the temptation to wallow, I pray it’s an encouragement to you. God invites us to embrace a better way.
Before we even sat down in the pew, my four oldest children started squabbling over who would sit where, and who would color with which crayons. The baby had a dirty diaper, but the call to worship was about to begin. I knew that if I left the kids alone in the pew while I took him to the nursery, a majorly disruptive moment for the rest of the congregation might occur. Grabbing hands and hoisting the baby onto my hip, we paraded down the aisle to the door at the front of the church. I felt completely frustrated and embarrassed.
“Why did I bother coming today? Four weeks without my husband is too long. Why do my children always disobey and refuse to listen to me? Everyone else’s kids obey. Why did God give us a child with special needs? He knows it’s too much to handle. And why can’t I keep it all together and handle these interruptions with grace and gentleness?”
On and on the grumbling continued. By the time we returned to the service, I was a bit more calm. But the feelings didn’t last. Throughout the remainder of the service, the kids argued and whined, and I was on the verge of tears from the weight of my lot in life.
All I could think was: I don’t deserve this.
Self-Pity and What We Deserve
We don’t plan to wallow. But the challenging circumstances we experience in motherhood can make us feel as though our life is the worst.
At its very core, self-pity is an unwillingness to recognize our place as a created being and God as the Creator. Pride, arrogance, and a selfish spirit turn our eyes away from the glory of God to the idols of our own hearts: comfort, ease, importance, a life void of struggle and disappointment.
The Lord has convicted me numerous times about my unwillingness to accept the course that he has set for my life. But when I turn toward him with open hands, honestly and humbly pouring out my struggles instead of shaking my fists at him in anger, he points the eyes of my heart away from myself and back toward his glory.
What do we deserve?
A life and an eternity separated from God.
God’s Gracious Gift
But out of his love and mercy God has given us his Son: Jesus. The One who left heaven and became a tiny baby. The One who put off his glory and chose to be uncomfortable. Jesus embraced exhaustion and frustration. He felt rejected, despised, and scorned. Jesus, the God-man, endured the agony of the cross and took the punishment we deserved for our sin.
He experienced the very worst in order that we might have something far greater than we could ever imagine.
We possess everything when we have Christ.
In our weakness we have his strength. When we’re afraid, we have the confidence of his unchanging character. As we face uncertainty, we have the God of all wisdom who lights our paths. In our exhaustion we have the faithful One who will cause us to mount on wings as an eagle. When we feel desperate, we have the Living Water who quenches our thirst and satisfies our longings. As we grieve difficult circumstances, we have the One who was acquainted with grief and stricken with sorrow.
If we fix our hearts and minds on the gift of Jesus, those moments we’d rather not experience in motherhood become invitations to draw near to God. The unexpected journey that weighs us down allows us to experience the joy of Christ’s presence.
Suddenly, self-pity becomes humility. And we are free to worship God for everything he gives to us in Jesus.