Thank You Lord

One of my favorite holidays is today.  Thanksgiving is custom-made for a man whose best future was eternal hell but is now the proud owner of adoption papers stamped by the King of heaven.  And there’s more.  As a recovering depressive, I know how easy it is to crawl inside a bottle stuffed with dark clouds, shortcomings, fears, unfulfilled expectations and get coated with a suffocating dark tar of gloom.  

As a recovering depressive, I now have access to a bottle that is filled with grace including my deliverance, my bride of 39 years (tomorrow), my children who are all walking in faith, elderly parents still in good health, our house, plenty to eat, wear and drive, good friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, colorful birds, sunshine, at least a little remaining hair…  Don’t you have a bottle of grace too?  What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Pride by Another Name [Self-Pity]

I store it everywhere so it’s always within easy each.  Maybe you do too.  There’s a bottle on the shelf of our marriages, one in the break room at work, and containers strategically located in places at school.  There’s always one handy when the family gets together, an app on the cellphone, and a nice big one for the church.

Self-pity is like the edible note God gave John in Revelation 10:9-10.  In my mouth it’s as sweet as a cinnamon bun (yummm!!), but in my stomach it’s like raw, rotten eggs.  What began as an opinion turns into a conviction: I HAVE BEEN WRONGED!  I have been treated differently than I deserve to be.  If he/she would only know what a wonderful person I am, how hard I’ve worked, how much I’ve put up with, how capable I am or worthy of being admired, I would have been treated better.”

It’s my natural refuge when someone criticizes my preaching.  Or how I handled a situation.  Or appears to have a better idea than mine.  Or leaves the church.  We don’t like…, ok, I don’t like to admit it’s self-pity because it sounds so petty and self-absorbed.  It is.  And in biblical language, beneath the costume of self-pity lurks pride.  “I deserve better.”  Even though I realize there are many other people treated like this–or worse, I shouldn’t be.  “People shouldn’t be like this to me, think about me in those ways, or speak to me like that.”  The one we think is treating us with too little regard may be God, spouse, a sister, boss, someone we thought was a friend, or someone in the church.

First, since self-pity is the fruit of believing I deserve certain things, that I’m entitled to certain things, basic theology on the human condition can help: I am a sinner and the only thing I rightfully deserve is God’s judgment and hell.  Having been relieved of that in Christ, everything else is a bonus.  

Second, since God is sovereign and always up to something (actually a lot of somethings since He’s great at multitasking), maybe it’s not even about us!  Maybe the other person’s criticism isn’t accurate but it’s his/her way of trying to drown out what God’s trying to say to him/her.  Or, maybe we’re feeling sorry for ourselves because we weren’t invited to something.  Unknown to us, it had nothing to do with us.  But in our pride, we assume the world revolves around us and surely, why we weren’t invited was because of something the other person has against us.  Surely, it was about me.  

Maybe not.  Self-pity can lose it’s power as God grows greater in our eyes, as people matter more and more, and as “me” takes its rightful but limited place.  Professionals urge us to think well of ourselves; God urges us to think rightly of ourselves.  

  • Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  Romans 12:3
  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Philippians 2:3
  • We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.  Luke 17:10