As I write this, I am nine months pregnant and feeling pretty miserable. (It's also 4 am because, as with almost every night lately, I have insomnia.) My husband has been so kind and constantly expresses that he feels really bad for me and can’t imagine what I’m going through, etc. He knows that in the last trimester of pregnancy, pity is my love language and it’s all I want to hear.
But how silly it is of me to so strongly desire pity when I am among the most privileged people on the planet!
I remember hearing the story of Noah’s Ark and feeling really bad for Noah. The poor guy had to spend a long time building the ark (surely at the scorn of his neighbors), then when the floods came in, he had to be locked up in a boat with stinky animals during 40 days and 40 nights of torrential downpour, then after that it was still quite awhile before he was able to go back on land- - -and even then he had to start all over because everything had been destroyed. But let’s all pat Noah on the back for being obedient even when God made things so hard for him, right? This really does seem to be the kind of message most children’s lessons seem to be conveying when they tell the story.
But I really doubt Noah was thinking “poor ol’ me” in that stinky boat, and if that is what he was thinking, he was delusional. The Lord mercifully saved Noah, by grace, while his neighbors were perishing under the just judgment of God. Spending months in a dark and cramped boat is surely no vacation, but He was saved.
Though the Bible speaks much of the Lord's compassion for us and how we should show compassion for others, the only time I can think of when we are given permission to feel bad for ourselves for being Christians is in the hypothetical situation presented in 1 Corinthians 15:19: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” If Christ hasn’t actually been raised from the dead, that would mean there is no resurrection for us, and that means we wasted our lives following a failure. If our existence turns out to be nothing beyond this life, then we should’ve used our resources to have all the fun and short-lived gratification we could fit into these measly 70 years or so.
But we have great reason to believe that Christ has risen from the dead, and that there is a resurrection future for us. Sometimes I get to meet a Christian who really believes this, and my mother-in-law is the first person who comes to mind. Whenever I ask how she’s faring with her chronic neck pain or other hard issues, she faithfully reminds me, “Don’t feel bad for me. I have Jesus!” She has spent enough time walking with the Lord to know that her suffering is temporary and truly not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18.) We get to be co-heirs with Christ. We get to know God.
In Acts 5, the apostles were arrested, beaten, and charged to not speak of Jesus anymore. Their response to persecution? “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (vs 41.)
Those who are privileged enough to know Jesus must remember what we have in Him. In today’s culture of getting angry about anything and feeling entitled to everything, we tend to complain of “persecution” at every little negative comment or potentially-unfair legislation. But even those apostles who actually were persecuted rejoiced at the privilege. The apostle Paul, who suffered greatly, wasn’t being hypocritical when he charged the Philippian church to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” He was in prison and praising the Lord even for that particular sovereignly ordained circumstance. This kind of mindset only comes from seeing how great of a treasure belongs to anyone who knows Jesus.
So today if you begin to wander into self-pity, don’t forget that God does see your tears and He does feel compassion for you. But those very facts should not drive you deeper into feeling sorry for yourself; on the contrary, the truth that God cares about your hurting heart should help your heart to heal. You are so loved by Him, and by Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection you have been guaranteed an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, and even any chance you get to suffer for Him in big or small ways can be seen as privilege. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today