The other day I was told I am full of self pity. I could have brushed it off, denying it….but I wanted to investigate my heart and see if there is self pity residing there.
Tonight in MacArthur’s study Bible I found this paragraph:
“The basic theme of Psalms is living real life in the real world where two dimensions operate simultaneously; 1) a horizontal or temporal reality. 2) a vertical or transcendent reality .Without denying the pain of the earthly dimension, the people of God are to live joyfully and dependently on the person and promises standing behind the heavenly/eternal dimension. All cycles of human trouble and triumphs provide occasions for expressing human complaints, confidence, prayers or praise to Israel’s Sovereign Lord.”
My question is what about the issue of physical suffering and pain? Job deals with it but his situation is temporary and it is divinely orchestrated. Where is the question of pain in the OT (Old Testament).? In the NT (New Testament) it appears as Jesus is on the scene to put an end to it and heal it. But what about GOD and PAIN? This paragraph does address it. 1- Admit you are hurting…be honest. 2- Retain your joy in the provisions of the Lover of your Soul. Depend on him. And at the same time be grateful for his gifts to us.
Life gives us reason to complain, however we have a confident Source who will ultimately right the wrong -- REJOICE in that.
Psalms does deal frequently with suffering. Usually suffering of soul and emotions however there is some physical pain mentioned usually in forecast of the suffering at the Cross.
How does all of this relate to self pity?
For one, Job really was a whiner. But who are we to judge if we have not experienced suffering like his? This brings up an important couple of points.
1) Whining is not a sin. (As long as we have legitimate cause to whine)…It will, however, distance our friends from us. NO ONE likes to hear whining –however merited it may be. Whether it is right or wrong for our friends to abandon us in our pain? I’ll leave that up to you. Do we have the right to stifle the expressions of suffering? I say, not unless we ourselves have met or surpassed such pain and not whined ourselves.
2) Although it appeared that God’s ears were deaf to Job’s complaints,.his purposes were merely incomplete which is why he delayed removing the suffering as Job was begging him to do. God is often doing something bigger than we know and we need to just trust this. Yes, we can ask God to remove the pain but we must also ask God to give us endurance and strength to stand up under the weight of it. In due time God restored Job’s losses.
Is whining the same as self pity? I think self pity is worse because it demonstrates a refusal to accept the path that God has laid out for us to walk. A person may walk in righteousness and whine at his pain but he can still accomplish the purpose of God in it. Self pity is more, a statement that God does not have the right to cause us to suffer. Self pity looks at all the healthy people around and does not seek to look at the face of God which may just be revealed in the face of suffering. And I believe that comparing healthy people with ourselves is a form of coveting. We are coveting their health and rejecting the path God is leading us to walk.
The fellowship of the Cross
Regardless of the severity of our pain, we can honestly say that Jesus knew greater pain than we do. When I was in the ER with a dislocated hip and in severe pain where I was sweating and crying and calling out quietly for Jesus to help me. Suddenly I felt God’s Presence and the verse from Ps 22 came to me saying “ and all his bones were out of joint”…..I cried. Wow. Jesus did not only have a dislocated hip or a blown spinal disk, ALL OF HIS JOINTS AND DISKS were destroyed. I felt the sweet presence of the suffering Christ there in that hospital and I know he was holding my hands and wiping tears from my eyes. I could only whisper “Thank you Jesus, for sharing with me a tiny bit of what you suffered.” Needless to say, this revelation pretty much erased all my self-pity and whining.
So I would say to my accuser…”no, I do not have self-pity….I am merely overwhelmed by my pain and all I can do is cry to Jesus or whine. But here is a suggestion: when you need to whine, how about doing it for God’s ears only? And then write a Psalm laying out your complaint and then do not fail to remember that all but two of David’s Psalms begin in sorrow, pain and turmoil and end in rejoicing and thanksgiving…..so do not forget to include this in your Psalm.