Tag Archives: blessings

When Self-Pity Sets In

It happened way back in the 9th grade but I still remember it vividly. (In that bygone era 9th grace was the end of Jr. High – Sr. High started with 10th grade. Some of you ‘young uns’ need that clarification.) The faculty asked for suggestions for a theme for the 9th grade graduation ceremonies. I dutifully submitted my entry – “The End of the Beginning.” It was from a wartime speech of Winston Churchill – “Now this is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” I really liked it. Apparently someone else did as well – it was selected as the theme. I was elated!

Graduation night rolled around and there was a big banner in the gym with the theme in printed bold letters. There was a printed program bulletin with the theme on the cover. Now I was even more elated – until I realized that nowhere was credit given to me for coming up with the theme. “Well,” I consoled myself, “Someone’s probably going to say something during the ceremony.” Guess again – nothing, no how, nowhere. I was crushed. I was hurt. I was angry.

How unfair, how inconsiderate, how rude! Certainly I should have been credited or somehow duly noted. After all, if I hadn’t come through there would be no theme – or at least not one this good. I didn’t want attention – just credit (or so I told myself!) On and on it went in my mind. For some reason I didn’t really enjoy that might very much! The faculty spoiled it for me. At least that’s what I thought then.

As I look back from my wiser adult years I see and learn some things. I see, for example, a comrade in self-pity.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ (Lk. 15:25-30). (1)

I realize now that on my graduation night the older brother and I were twins. And, if I’m honest, since that night there have been many other times I’ve ‘twinned up’ with him. The malady is called self-pity. If only the older brother had gone home and joined the party! He might just have had a good night! If only he had listened to his father. The lesson? “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”

I now know that going home, joining the party, brings to mind some important truths.

  • First, self-pity simply means I have forgotten the blessings that surround and fill my life every day. The father told his older son, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” When self-pity sets in I need to go back to the place of blessing, back to my Father. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”
  • Second, self-pity means I’ve forgotten that I already have the most important recognition and approval of all – that of my heavenly Father. In reality, His recognition is the only recognition that counts. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”
  • Third, self-pity means I’ve failed to remember that it’s not about me – it’s about God. Any honor in my life should always go to Him. I just need to get back home with my Father to remember this. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”

So from now on I try to see self-pity as a special delivery message from my Father, inviting me home. Hopefully I have enough wisdom to do so. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.” (2)

 

 (1) For a lesson from the younger son in the parable see last week’s blog: When You’ve Had Enough

(2) For more on self-pity read chapter 6 of my book “When the Going Gets Tough”

 

 

So So

I was in the sixth grade (in those days that was still elementary school). I was part of the safety patrol – responsible at an intersection for making sure no students crossed the street until it was clear to do so. One day, a much younger boy tripped and fell right near my corner. So I helped him up made sure he was okay, which he was. Shortly thereafter I ran for Mayor of the school. My mother told me that another mother had shared with her that her son had voted for me because I had been so nice to him the day he fell. It, of course, made my mother feel some pride – and I was always happy when that happened! But I remember thinking that it was really nothing special that I did, and wondered if it wasn’t something that anyone would have done. Little did I realize at that time a couple of lessons. One – not everyone would have helped. Two – I had experienced the divine law of reciprocity. Both lessons would be reinforced many, many times throughout my life.

Yet it was many years later when I finally recognized the divine nature of my actions. Paul said it most clearly in two passages: Galatians 6:7-10 – “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we will not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” And he mentioned the same principle in 2 Cor. 9:6 in regards to giving. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Whether it’s in giving, or in praying, or in loving, or in our relationships what we sow, we reap. Even if we do not see it right away, God will reciprocate – it’s His promise.

I admit that sometimes I get weary of sowing all the time and begin to feel as if there is no return. After all constant sowing can be boring and not all that exciting – sometimes even burdensome. But since it’s a promise of God, I’ve adopted a principle: “When life is just so so, just sow sow.” Even if I never see the return in this life, I will in eternity. Then again, when I stop the self-pity routine and examine my life, I begin to see again the blessings God has poured into my life. He, like my little fellow student, votes for me in a myriad of ways through the blessings He sends – and I know there are many blessings I will never realize until that great and glorious day! In fact, I shudder to think of life without the blessings. I’m convinced that the saddest people, and some of the most depressed, are often those who are not sowing. So their lives are just so so – lacking in blessing and joy. The bottom line is we all have a choice – we can live so so lives or sow sow lives; it all depends on what we want out of life. “When life is just so so, just sow sow.”

And I’ve discovered one more element about the sow sow life. Once we begin to sow it becomes a habit, a pattern, a life-style. Without realizing it we are soon sowing into others lives not because we want a return but because it’s what we were created to do; therefore we feel a sense of inner peace and joy, a sense of fulfillment whenever we sow. And really, that’s blessing enough. Come to think of it, that’s when we’re most like Christ. No wonder it’s enough. So – will your life be so so or sow sow? Remember, what you sow, you reap.

An Incomplete List

Thanksgiving Day is past. But thoughts of gratitude still linger. As part of our celebration some of our family jotted down what they were thankful for. My list was easy – my top three are Jesus and Salvation, a godly loving wife, and a precious family. In some ways it’s hard to argue with my list. Yet today I read an old story I once used to challenge others to consider what gratitude and blessing are all about – and I’m wondering if my list is incomplete. The story goes like this:

An old man showed up at the back door of the house we were renting. Opening the door a few cautious inches, we saw his eyes were glassy and his furrowed face glistened with silver stubble. He clutched a wicker basket holding a few unappealing vegetables. He bade us good morning and offered his produce for sale. We were uneasy enough that we made a quick purchase to alleviate both our pity and our fear. To our chagrin, he returned the next week, introducing himself as Mr. Roth, the man who lived in the shack down the road. As our fears subsided, we got close enough to realize it wasn’t alcohol but cataracts that “marbleized” his eyes. On subsequent visits, he would shuffle in, wearing two mismatched right shoes, and pull out a harmonica. With glazed eyes set on a future glory, he’d puff out old gospel tunes between conversations about vegetables and religion. On one visit he exclaimed, ‘The Lord is so good! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch.’ ‘That’s wonderful, Mr. Roth!’ we said. ‘We’re happy for you.’ ‘You know what’s even more wonderful?’ he asked. ‘Just yesterday I met some people who could use them.’

When the Lord is our treasure, when our heart has been given over to Him and filled by Him, thankfulness and gratitude should never be an end in themselves. Rather, they should lead to sharing our wealth of blessings, no matter how much or little they are. That’s where I sense some incompleteness in my list. Shouldn’t the joy of giving be somewhere near the top? Yes – it should. And once again I am challenged to see what more, and in what other ways I can give – not as a duty but joyfully because of what God has given me in His Son. Surely – what I have is something someone else can use! Surely the blessing I have received is one someone else needs.

I need to embrace again the worlds of the Apostle Paul.

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:1-9)
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

That pretty much says it all. May my blessings and your blessings find their way into the life and heart of someone who needs them. May the heart of Christ find it’s way through us into their hearts. Then my list will be complete.