Self-pity, like every other sin issue we may face as we deal with our pain and disability, is a thinking problem. But, like every other thinking problem, it begins in the heart. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts, because everything else—thoughts included—flows out of it. So, as the pain becomes more intense, limitations are increased, and life changes yet again, we must diligently guard our hearts against the trap of self-pity. Self-pity is a direct path away from God because it means we have turned our focus to ourselves: Our pain, our loss, our sorrow, and our sadness. As these become bigger and bigger in our thinking, God’s place in our minds becomes smaller and smaller.
So, we know that we must guard our hearts against self-pity, but how? What are the practical steps to take so that we won’t indulge it this time, and the temptation won’t be so strong next time? I believe there are three things that have to happen in our hearts and minds before we will be able to overcome self-pity.
Biblical View of God
Before you can begin to address your view of yourself and your problem, you must have a biblical view of God. Many times, we who suffer with physical pain are perplexed that a good and loving God could allow us to be in such agony. If He loved us, we muse, He would heal and relieve us of our affliction. But wait. Is that really true? What does the Bible say about the goodness of God? I challenge you to do a study on this subject. You will find that none of the proclamations of God’s goodness are dependent on our circumstances or the outcome of our plans. God is God, and He is who He says He is regardless of what is happening in my life or yours. Read A.W. Pink’s The Attributes of God to fully inform your heart of who God is.
No matter what the cause of your pain or disability, it constitutes a loss. Maybe you are less mobile, less able to walk, stand, and move. Maybe you’re no longer able to drive, or your pain has caused you to give up favorite hobbies or activities. Perhaps you have friends with whom you no longer share a common interest, and they don’t come around as much. Whatever loss you have sustained, have you grieved it biblically? Have you cried to the Lord about your loss, and told Him how much it hurts? If not, this may be one reason you struggle with self-pity.
I am not saying that you should blame God, or whine at Him. There is such a thing as biblical complaint, and David was a master of it! Get a study Bible and look up the Psalms of Lament for a model and pattern of how to cry out to God about your loss. Dear friend, your life changing pain or disability marks a significant loss, and you must grieve that loss before you can leave self-pity behind. Bob Kelleman’s book, God’s Healing for Life’s Losses is an excellent guide for processing through your sorrow. I use and highly recommend this journaling approach to biblical grief.
Finally, if we want to get out of self-pity, we must learn biblical submission. Submission is not a word that many people like. In fact, some equate it with oppression! But in biblical terms, submission is a true source of joy. When we submit our hearts to our loving and merciful God, trusting Him for our lives, we can rest. We no longer have to strive with discontentment, dissatisfaction, or self-pity when we know that the loving, all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe has ordained our circumstances for our good and His glory. What more could we want than to be directly in line with the will of God?
When you are biblically submitted to God, you will not only peacefully accept the condition of your body, but you will thank Him for it! Why? As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we can give thanks in all circumstances because they are God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. Think about this, my dear sister: God thought of you and me, desired to make us more like His precious Son, and came up with the perfect plan to do it! Granted, this might not have been our first choice of how to make that happen, but who are we to argue with God? Read Job 40 and 41 for a glimpse into God’s mind when we question Him!
There is much more that I could say about self-pity. If you’d like to learn more, you can purchase a recording of a breakout session that I did on this subject at last year’s B3 conference, here. The bottom line though, like just about every counseling issue, is knowing who God is, trusting Him, and honestly walking through each day very near to our Healer.