The Ugliness of Self-Pity

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14 “Yet I curse the day I was born!
May no one celebrate the day of my birth.
15 I curse the messenger who told my father,
“Good news—you have a son!”
16 Let him be destroyed like the cities of old
that the Lord overthrew without mercy.
Terrify him all day long with battle shouts,
17 because he did not kill me at birth.
Oh, that I had died in my mother’s womb,
that her body had been my grave!
18 Why was I ever born?
My entire life has been filled
with trouble, sorrow, and shame.”

Jeremiah 20:14-18, NLT

One of our most common battles is with the sin of self pity.  I looked “self-pity” up in the dictionary and found the following definition: “A self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes.”   When we view ourselves, we will engage things that are hurting us, and when we dwell on those things we are saddened and depressed.

Believe it, or not, our pride is at the center of self pity.  When we start to dwell on our hurts continuously–whether they are real or imagined–we start to push out the Holy Spirit.  For years I have been victimized by pain, and hurt.  I perceived the “slights” from people to be worth dwelling on to a morbid degree.

I live in Alaska, and one year, I went commercial fishing for halibut.  It was very hard work.  When we made it back to port, the captain cheated me out of  some of the wages that I was due.  I was so angry, I felt I would explode.  And this man professed to be a believer!  Even though it was only $400.00, I carried an anger and a resentment over those stolen wages. I was hurt and bitter, and things festered.  I tried to forget, and forgive but things only grew worse.

Our hearts are like a ball of soft wax.  They get “rolled” around through the dirt, and the gravel.  They pick-up things that are embedded quickly, and the clean wax becomes full of dirty ugliness.  This was never the intent with the Father.  And rather than clean up we choose to be hurt, dwelling over all injuries that we have absorbed.self pity

Full of self pity, we feed on ourselves.  And we have a voracious appetite.  The prophet, Jeremiah turned on himself.  Afflicted, and miserable he wanted to die.  Everything inside was filled with misery.  A few years ago I went through an exceptionally dark time.  I had this mental picture of a huge fountain in a city square.  Rather than flowing with fresh water, it spewed out filth.  It was a “feces fountain.”  A sewer bubbling in a beautiful place.

That is how I once pictured myself, full of stink, the feces fountain.  Bursting out a stream of sewage.  So much of this is based out of self pity.  I was dealing with many morbid feelings and thoughts.  I would dwell on the past, and combined with present issues created a nasty concoction.

Self pity is evil, it is a form of self-destruction.  We come to the place where we can’t imagine forgiveness.  To be forgiven means self-acceptance.  And we simply can’t accept ourselves.  We are way too evil, we are filthy, and we seem to want to be forever filthy.

Self pity is pride.  Humility is repentance.  We honestly need to move through this, and start liking ourselves.  There is no question we have operated out of ugliness and our personal sin.  But all of a sudden in the midst of our evil, faith steps out and we must believe that every sin is hidden by the blood of the Lamb.

 

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Loving Others (Like Jesus Loved Us)

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““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.””

- John 13:34-35

What is “love” like?  How do we understand love when we come short of it, all the time?

We understand love by coming to know Jesus.  He not only explains it, but He also exhibits it–He puts it out in the public eye for all to see.  His explanation of what love is will mean a cruel death in order to save us.  When Jesus dies, I am saved.  My salvation has absolutely nothing to do with me– and everything to do with Him, and all that He has done.

Jesus helps us to see others.  He makes a definitive statement, that we are to love others.  We are to use what He has done for me, as an example.  What Jesus did is the pattern, the prototype.  We are to be the photostat or mimeograph.  As believers we are to be captured and drawn into this approach.

We are to find someone, and then, in some sense, ‘die’ for them. That is the way God’s love is.

That very strong word, “must” in verse 34 cannot escape our attention.  It implies a deep and a very definite commitment to doing that is beyond us.  We ‘must’ connect and receive all that moves through our life.  We love the unlovely, and this is irrational. God says that people are worth crucifixion. We’re the criminals, and the judge has sentenced us. And then He Himself has decided to pay our penalty. This is ‘agape’ love.

We must love accurately. We should love the way He loves us.  We cannot do anything less. 

But the love of Jesus is tracking each wanderer.  He is working to connect with every person on this planet.  No one escapes His view, or His love.  Everyone who belongs to Him, is required to know this.  Our Lord is definitely not going to move if there are still “seekers” still out there.  He leaves no one behind.

Loving others will require a significant broadening of the way we see things.  We purposefully lift up Jesus because He lifted us.  We exalt Him because we have discovered we are so pitiful.  We must be convinced, that His way, is the way of the cross.

We must love more accurately —the same way He loves us.  We cannot do anything less.  For many of us, love is just a concept–a way of feeling ‘warm and fuzzy’ inside.  But it is far more than feeling nice thoughts. It is all about “the extra mile” and we honestly can’t make that trip if we haven’t been willing to die ourselves.

 

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Righteousness: His, Yours? (or Ours?)

“All of us are dirty with sin.
All the right things we have done are like filthy pieces of cloth.
All of us are like dead leaves,
and our sins, like the wind, have carried us away. “ 

Isaiah 64:6, NCV

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I have this reoccurring nightmare. I jump out of a plane.  I deploy my parachute, and it opens.  But it is completely full of holes!  Yikes!  I wake up before I splat. And then I think in a spiritual sense— what a relief it is to have a holiness that is given, or imputed.  If somehow you could turn off the spigot of the holiness he gives, and then run on your own merits; how far would you go?

Among good Christian people, there is an occupational hazard of sorts, and that is to “advance” in our thinking to that place where we are doing fine on our own.  We very much appreciated Jesus’ help– but now, at this moment, I must figure it out by myself.  This line of thinking, is called “self-righteousness.”

“Many have passed the rocks of gross sins – who have suffered shipwreck upon the sands of self-righteousness.” 

William Secker:‘The Consistent Christian,’ 1660

We begin to travel in our sense of ourselves, away from a desperate, clinging to a trust in his mercy that is moving to a place of a confident, strutting awareness of having put ourselves back together again.  This is the ‘evil ones’ work– to steer you into self-righteousness.  Once you get there, he can just release you and let you ‘stew in your own juices,’ while he rules over your soul.

Becoming self-righteous should scare us to death.  It will damn our souls just as quick as adultery, or murder.  It is evil, and it sedates us to the place where it can work, unhindered and unchallenged.  I’ve read that some predators inject first an anesthetic to soothe their prey. This enables them to take their time, as they slaughter them.

I have had several bouts with self-righteousness.  (And I bet I’ll have several more.)  It is sin that will give you a wonderful back massage, just before it reaches for the knife that will cut your throat.  Somehow, we are lulled into this and my! I’m such a good person (even after such a dark and evil start.)

“Self-righteousness is the largest idol of the human heart – the idol which man loves most and God hates most. Dearly beloved, you will always be going back to this idol. You are always trying to be something in yourself, to gain God’s favour by thinking little of your sin, or by looking to your repentance, tears, prayers ; or by looking to your religious exercises, your frames, etc; or by looking to your graces, the Spirit’s work in your heart.”  

–Robert Murray McCheyne

 Jesus was, and is, and will be all my “righteousness.” 

We must cling to these hand-holds of grace.  The waves are substantial, and we most certainly would be swept out to sea.  But we grab and hold on to him.  And he holds on to us!  The fantasy of having enough of my own created righteousness to please God is simply a crock.  Jesus was, and is, and will be all my “righteousness.”  I have nothing– nothing else.

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Good Medicine

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“A joyful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Proverbs 17:22, ESV

We have from ‘King Solomon’s mines’ a truth regarding joy. Whether we acknowledge its truth, or not, we find its effects on us to be binding. “A joyful heart” is like medicine for our souls. There are many issues that afflict us, many things that trouble us. I find within myself a veritable zoo. But there is a sure and ready relief.

“Worry, fear, distrust, care-all are poisonous! joy is balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power. He has commanded you to be glad and rejoice, and He never fails to sustain His children in keeping His commandments. Rejoice in the Lord always, He says. This means no matter how sad, how tempted, how sick, how suffering you are, rejoice in the Lord just where you are-and begin this moment. The joy of the Lord is the strength of our body, The gladness of Jesus, the balm for our pain, His life and His fullness, our fountain of healing, His joy, our elixir for body and brain.”

A.B. Simpson

 

For those among us who struggle so, we find a  treatment plan that will work. There is an active ingredient within a joyful heart that heals and protects our souls. Real joy— applied frequently to our aching souls— provides something quite  like medicine to someone quite ill. I’m no snake oil salesman. Nor am I into herbs and vitamins. (I suppose I could be a little more aware.) But I know that this principle is true.

“A crushed spirit dries up the bones.” We know first-hand that this is true. There is a ‘crushing’ wound that can breakdown our spirits and bodies. We are simply overwhelmed by life and we experience a crumbling and mashing of our personalities. We are as sick in our ‘bones’ as we might be physically. Now there is a huge difference between a physical illness and a spiritual one, but the factual principles are the same. The pain is different, but is it not similar?

A joyful heart is the pharmaceutical of choice for treating diseases of the personality and spirit. Sometimes we are unwell because we ignore the prescription.  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:10) Joy in the deepest part of us is almost always:

  1. transforming,
  2. God-honoring, and
  3. contagious.

If this is true, then we do well to ‘give it a whirl.’

“The joyless Christian reveals himself by having negative thoughts and talk about others, in a lack of concern for others welfare, and a failure to intercede on others behalf. Joyless believers are self-centered, selfish, proud, and often vengeful and their self-centeredness inevitably manifests itself in prayerlessness.”

John MacArthur

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