On Self-Pity

I have read Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” just about every morning since the age of 20. What continually amazes me is how every year there is something new to learn in a book that I have read through about 13 times.

While I am continually learning something new, I am also often confronted with feelings of my past. Today, the February 6th devotion brought a tidal wave of heavy emotions as I read the words that brought me to my knees and transformed my heart in the most gut-wrenching way this day last year.

This time last year I was literally in the depths of despair. I was beginning to lose hope that the family would find permanent housing, and Jon and I had just spent nearly our whole emergency savings on fixing a myriad of things that broke in the month of January (from our furnace to the brakes on Jon’s car and just about everything in between). I also just wanted my home back. The energy I felt in the early fall that propelled me to help this family had dissipated, and I desperately missed the rhythms that our little family of four had before the other family moved in with us. In addition to that, Jon was in the throws of busy-season (he is a CPA), so he was incredibly busy with work. I felt like the world was on my shoulders, and I dreaded each sunrise.

The happenings mentioned above led me to a state of self-pity, and I would literally cry for myself and rehearse verses of "it's not fair" in my head. Then February 6th came and, in the glare of the sunrise that I dreaded, I read the following words.

“Tell God you are ready to be offered; then let the consequences be what they may, there is no strand of complaint now, no matter what God chooses. God puts you through the crisis in private, no one person can help another. Externally the life may be the same; the difference is in will. Go through the crisis in will, then when it comes externally there will be no thought of the cost… The alter of fire—burning and purification and insulation for one purpose only, the destruction of every affinity that God has not started and of every attachment that is not an attachment in God. You do not destroy it, God does; and see that you do not give way to self-pity when the fire begins… Tell God you are ready to be offered, and God will prove Himself to be all you ever dreamed He would be.”

I cried choking, loud tears when I read these words last year. I had offered myself - I had told God that I was willing to walk through whatever He had for me - and now that the time was here to walk in obedience I balked. I hated that I was asked to give up my comforts and I wanted others to help. I wanted others to sacrifice as I had even though they had not been asked to walk my journey - God had only asked me. Refusing self-pity was required if I was going to be transformed, or else my broken heart would heal hard as a rock instead of soft like clay.

It was on this day last year that I made a choice to keep my heart soft and refuse self-pity. I decided to agree with God that He has my best in mind and that the “best” looks very, very different than I think it should look. My best is having a heart transformed to be like His. My best is to identify with the poor and vulnerable, not demand from them. My best is to give up comforts and my hold on time to offer to others. My best looks nothing like what I would have designed for myself - but one year out I can say that I am glad that I went with His idea of “my best” instead of my own.

Ultimately, refusing self-pity allowed me to be compassionate instead of overwhelmed by my discomforts. Refusing self-pity was an act of obedience and one that changed my life.