I am the QUEEN of the pity party. I can go from “My life is awesome!!!” to full-on Bridget Jones with mind numbing speed and expertise. For years I wore my self-loathing like a badge of honor. Humility, in my mind, was mastered through self-loathing, and I had a doctorate in humility displayed proudly on my wall.
Self-pity is unattractive and yet, so alluring. When it belongs to us, it’s like a warm comfort blanket, but worn by someone else, it becomes rancid and repulsive. Either way, it wraps its claws of isolation firmly around its victim, whispering soothingly as it squeezes life away.
We know this. We are fully aware of its detriment, but find ourselves repeatedly wrapped in its cold embrace. It tells us we need it. It tells us we deserve it. It tells us the lie that defines us: “God does not love me.”
God cannot possibly be good in the mind of one wrapped in self-pity, because a good God would never put you in this situation.
It’s like transcribing a Dear Diary page; writing on self-pity. Years and years of my life spent railing at God for this discomfort or that inconvenience.
Yet, pity has a place. Even biblically, pity is not foreign or without purpose. There are definitely times in life when you look around at the wreckage and there is no other emotional option-you need to be pitied. Self-pity is destructive and putrid, and seeking pity never feels good, so what are we left with?
How do we handle those Job moments when all you can think is “why?” How do we take the pity party to Pinterest-level dignity and usefulness? Lucky for us, the Bible is way ahead of social media in laying out a plan.
The Solitary Pity Party (bring your pity to someone who cares)
Two stories stand out to me as I find myself lately in familiar pity party territory. The first is found in Luke 7:11-17. Jesus had just entered the town of Nain and happens upon a funeral procession. Being Jesus, he notices the grief-stricken woman and knows her story and takes pity on her.
I want to point out a few things here:
1. Jesus knows her. He recognizes that she is a widow and that this is her only son. In this time, if a woman had no husband, she had to rely on her sons to care for her needs. Women were not able to be self sufficient because of the culture of the time. (A side note: Luke’s gospel is rich with stories specifically focused on celebrating and pointing out interactions between women and Jesus– I will write more on the sheer awesomeness of this later, but so encourage you to check it out for yourself!!) He knows, that despite the crowd around her, this woman was utterly alone. She had plenty to feel sorry about.
2. Jesus sees her. “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her…” I love this. If you remember, in the famous scene where Jesus weeps, it is in response to seeing Mary and being moved by her grief. In the story of the widow, she does not even know to seek Jesus’ help, and yet he finds her at her darkest hour.
Jesus sees you in your pitiful state (even when you do not see him) and has compassion on you.
Charles Spurgeon puts it this way, “If you would sum up the whole character of Christ in reference to ourselves it might be gathered into this one sentence, ‘He was moved with compassion.'”*
Next Level Pity Party (It’s Gonna be OFF THE CHAIN!)
The other pitiful soul is the leper found in Mark 1:40-45. Lepers, like women of the time, were low on the societal totem pole. His disease made him unclean and unable to be involved in community life. I imagine he had spent long hours indulging in some pretty pitiful thought patterns- I would have!
He sees Jesus and comes near to him. He knows well his miserable state, and is keenly aware of the only one who can rescue him. “If you will, you can make me clean.” A simple statement that says so much about the man behind it. He’s on his face before the only one who can offer pity that matters, saying, “All you have to do is want it, and I will be healed. Please, want it.” Humility here does not require self-loathing, but rather a recognition of the one who sees your worth. If anyone is going to pity you, let it be Jesus.
Jesus does what Jesus do and reaches out to join the man in the filth of his wrecked life. By touching him, he essentially takes on his uncleanness and becomes a leper. His pity moves him to act, his love drives him to trade places with the man, and his Godliness empowers him to give the man back his life.
Rescue from our pitiful state is not enough, Jesus instructs us all in further healing; to leave the party of the pitiful with style and purpose.
1. Further sanctification through liturgy: Jesus tells the man to go to the temple and follow the laws to complete his cleansing. Participation in worship and ordering your daily life around Jesus is the only appropriate rhythm for a stellar pity party.
2. Rejoining community: It’s time. You have survived the darkness and the chaos of pity, you have taken it to the One who knows you, sees you, and has compassion on you. It’s time to step back into the light. God created us for community, and the indulgence of self-pity removes us from the thrum of its heartbeat. It’s time to take your heart, weary and wounded as it may be, and plug back in. You were not made to suffer alone. Jesus’ compassion should always lead us back to the warm blanket of Godly community for rest and renewal.
Party on, my friends.