Two weeks ago I began a two part series on Getting In and Out of Self Pity. This article is the second part. It should have been in the paper last week. However, after I had finished part two, my computer crashed as I attempted to send in part two to the editor. I would have rewritten part two but I had to rush to the airport for a flight to South Africa. So here I am, sitting in a guest house in New Castle, South Africa, rewriting the article a second time. When the computer hard drive crashed, I went into self-pity.
Let’s quickly review. Elijah, our example from the Bible on self-pity, expected King Ahab to call Israel back into obedience to God after Ahab saw God do great miracles. Elijah was sensing spiritual victory. But Ahab was not affected. In fact, Ahab’s wife got so mad at Elijah that she threatened to kill him. Elijah then ran for “his life.” He got depressed. He was feeling sorry for himself. He felt like he was the only one on earth who was for God. He was ensnared in self-pity.
Note these lessons from Elijah’s pity-party. Self-pity leading to depression often follows ‘mountain-top’ experiences. Great things happened, Elijah had expectations but his expectations didn’t happen. He was super high, than super low.
Another observation is self-pity/depression often follow intense periods of stress and hyperactivity. Likewise, self-pity often coincides with physical and emotional exhaustion. What we normally could cope with, we can’t or don’t. Self-pity often follows keen disappointment and disillusionment. Self-pity often results from periods of anger, particularly if we don’t deal with it properly. Anger not transformed, is anger transferred either inwardly or outwardly. Lastly, self-pity often distorts our view of reality. Little things become big and big things don’t seem too important anymore.
What did God do to help Elijah get out of his pity-party? Firstly, God ministered to Elijah with food and rest. Elijah was exhausted. God had him sit down, eat and rest. Next, God gave Elijah the opportunity to ventilate his feelings in a non-judgmental setting. Elijah needed an opportunity to speak his feelings without God or anyone else judging him. Feeling accepted by God or someone with a listening ear we trust, is helpful in getting what is inside of us outside of us.
Next God helped Elijah face reality. Expressing your feelings is fine but at some point we need to gain mental and spiritual insight. After Elijah ventilated two times, God started to help him gain perspective and face reality. Remember, negative reality blocks out positive reality. We tend to see the facts that discourage us. The facts that should encourage us elude us. Believing your doubts and doubting your beliefs is a recipe for self-pity.
Finally, God gave Elijah some truth to live with…God was still in control. Elijah wanted God to strike the unrepentant king and his wife down. But God spoke in a gentle breeze. “I’m long suffering, patient, not bombastic or given to quick judgment and punishment for sin.” God gave Elijah a lesson on His grace and mercy.
What’s the lesson from this incident? First of all, look to God. Place what caused your self-pity in God’s hand. “I’m not going to look at myself, my failures, my circumstances, others actions…I’m going to look to God.” Secondly, talk to God. Tell God you hurt, how you feel. Confess the negative to enter the positive. Then, listen to God. God will talk to you through His people, through His Word, or by prayer. Be still. Walk, don’t run. After listening to God, wait on God. “The Lord works for them who wait for Him.”(Ish. 64:4). Lastly, obey God in the meantime. Disobedience only makes things worse and delays emotional healing.
By the way, Elijah got going again. He finished strong. We can too!
Church-Community Connection is published weekly in 10 newspapers all over the world. Most of these newspapers are local paid subscription newspapers. The goal of these 450 word articles is to build a bridge to the community through humor, wisdom and changing mental perceptions that the community has of the church.