Most people encounter some form of self-pity at one time or another. Some seem to skip right through it; others become entangled. I’ve engaged in both. Self-pity becomes a noose around one’s neck, choking off hope and keeping a person from reaching and receiving all that God intends. It’s sneaky and manipulative, quietly playing upon our emotions, zapping our strengths, and exploiting our weaknesses. Self-pity doesn’t make a grand entrance; it slithers in the darkest recesses, whispers in the shadows, injecting a slow poison that erodes our hope. That voice that puts its arm around us like a comforting friend, telling you that you are wronged. The same comforting arm holds you under the water until you’re deprived of the oxygen of hope.
Cancer and Self Pity
When I was dealing with stage four breast cancer, engaging in self-pity, felt like walking on a jagged cliff in the dark. I couldn’t see the step that would plunge me into the deep dark hole that I was incapable of escaping. One toxic question that feeds and waters self-pity is that famous, unanswerable inquiry of “Why me?” We will never find a healthy or satisfying answer to that question. My years have taught me that we don’t have the luxury of having all of life’s answers. The sooner we deal with that, the more peace we have. We can’t ignore the real thoughts and emotions we feel. I allowed myself a time limit. I’d give myself 10-15 minutes, setting a timer to let loose on all of the questioning, anger, self-pity, etc. I was the one who stopped it. We can’t allow our minds to bury us in the negatives of the situations. There’s a scripture in Romans 21:12, overcome evil with good. We need to think and do more positive than the negative that oppresses us. A simple concept takes work, but the rewards you reap are peace and joy in your situation. It goes into recesses of your heart, treasures of fear of what will happen, and even more self-pity. I know I’m very well acquainted with this enemy.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 21:12
God, Mary, & Joseph
What would have happened if Mary, the mother of Jesus, fell into self-pity? The birth of Christ would’ve never happened the way it did. God needed to have carefully chosen the mother, who would bring our world its greatest gift. At the tender age of 15, while engaged to Joseph, God put his son into her womb. She was supposed to be married to a very upright, kind, and Godly man. What was she going to say to him if she told him she was pregnant? They hadn’t been together as husband and wife. How would he ever believe her? But God came through and gave him a dream as he struggled.
Growing the Gift
In that day, pregnancy out of wedlock would have brought a tremendous amount of shame on the woman and her family. She would always have to endure those looks, those whispers, those judgments. She endured it quietly. The Bible doesn’t say that Mary came out and told everybody that she would have a son of God or be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. She had to carry that judgment from other people, doubt from her loved ones, but she didn’t allow herself to be paralyzed by self-pity. Mary couldn’t allow it. She had to raise the Messiah, the Son of God. In the doldrums and in the depths of being misunderstood, it’s easy for self-pity to keep us from growing that gift God has placed in us.
So after the pregnancy mixed with judgment, shame, and doubt on who she was and her character, they have to go to the census when she’s nine months pregnant. She could have wondered what else do I have to endure? When I was nine months pregnant, even riding in a car to go to the store. Imagine riding all those miles on a donkey. By the time they get to Bethlehem, there was no place for them to stay. She was nine months pregnant and could go into labor any minute. They were out in the street with each bumpy step on the back of that donkey. Don’t tell me self-pity didn’t sneak in and try to woo her. However, the teenager that God wouldn’t have allowed that get a hold or God wouldn’t have chosen her.
The Dirty Place
We’ve all seen those beautiful, warmly lit pictures of the magic after the birth, but you know it wasn’t like that. Have you ever stayed in a terrible hotel room? I’ve stayed in my share when we were building my daughter’s acting career. You don’t rest as you fight off images of buys crawling or germs growing. Let’s imagine being nine months pregnant after an arduous trip through an emotionally and socially difficult pregnancy, and now you have to stay in a barn. Stables are dirty; there’s animal feces, fleas, and other bugs, spiders, maybe ants, and dust. No soft receiving blankets that donned cute baby images. God’s woman kept her head up. In life, we have to wade through the dirt, roll up our sleeves, and get the job done. This young teenager was so mature. Perhaps it was with thankfulness. I know to keep up, she had to lean on the promise that God gave her.
When the time came, and Mary she didn’t have her mama there, her aunts, or her sisters. No crowd of support, wisdom, and calm. She only had Joseph. Joseph was a great man and all but just given the culture, I don’t think he’d ever birthed a baby before. That was really “women’s work,” so both of them must’ve been scared. Mary wished she had her mom. It was the first time she ever been in labor or gave birth. I guarantee you that Mary focused on the honor of birthing the son of God; not all of the less than perfect even, terrible circumstances. The Bible doesn’t say whether she had pain or not. I think she probably did Because Jesus came as a man, experiencing all we do. A painful birthing experience that shapes you as a mom in a way that nothing else does. I think she experienced pain when she was birthing the son of God so that Jesus could, even with a tired and exhausted mother. He lived all the way as we live when we struggle with our belief, God will make a way to help us, but he lets us struggle.
For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin.Hebrews 4:15
Blocking the Self Pity Steal
I’ve dealt with my share of self-pity for sure, and nothing good comes of it. However, we can’t pretend that everything’s rosy when it sucks, but we, like Mary, can choose to focus on the blessings that God has something for us to bring into the earth. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we can also look back on Mary and Joseph. God didn’t take them out of their trials and issues and problems because they had something special. He let them go through it because they had something special. They still went through many hard things, but God strengthened them with their trials. This strength enabled them to bear the next steps of the honor bestowed to them. Is there something that God is giving birth to within you? Does it seem complicated? Do people doubt what got us told you? Maybe you’re going through this because of your delivery of something great. Let’s stick it out, think on the blessings, and not allow the voice of self-pity to steal this gift.