Remember, Satan is an awful being, he is able to deceive us on the right hand and on the left, and the first beginnings of his deceptions are along the lines of self-pity. Self-pity, self-conceit, and self-sympathy will make us accept slanders against God. –Oswald ChambersThis morning I read about “Man’s Unmaking” in “Biblical Psychology” in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers (from whence comes the above quote—page 144). Chambers quotes liberally from the Bible but I find many of his conclusions to be a stretch. It all makes sense, but I’m not convinced the Bible supports all he says. To be fair, it doesn’t contradict it either.
However, the quote above hit me quite powerfully. I have lived in self-pity and self-sympathy for most of my life. I thought it justified—people were unfair, unjust, cruel—and I was the helpless victim unable to change her circumstances; the noble martyr who endured her pain and soldiered on for God in spite of it all. How arrogant—though it is only in the last day or so that I have recognized that arrogance.
And I’m only now seeing, in the past few days, that perhaps I’ve been the victim of my own wrong choices rather than that of others’ behaviour towards me. It’s a frightening realisation because suddenly I find myself responsible for the pain and anguish I blamed on others. Have others always been noble and upright before me? No. I have been wounded in many ways; but I’ve also had a choice in how I responded and, sadly, more often than not, my choices have been self-focused, self-protective and full of “poor me’s.”
Is this what God wants from us? No! This sort of response takes my eyes off of Jesus and onto myself—a place where Satan is eager for me to be. Job’s wife told him to “curse God and die,” but he refused and “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing,” nor “in what he said.” “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” he asked his wife. (Job:1:22; 2:10 NIV)
We know from the story of Job that the trouble, pain and affliction that came to him was expressly permitted by God, but Job was confident in God:
“[God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 34:31 NIV)Often our difficulties come from God himself:
I will refine them like silver and test them like gold (refining hurts!). (Zechariah 13:9)Think of how God flooded the earth and killed all but eight people (who were forced to live in the confined quarters of a boat with a bunch of stinky animals for a whole year); how he chose to give Israel 40 years of painful wandering through the wilderness (which the righteous Joshua and Caleb had also to endure); how he brought trouble to Naomi in the deaths of her husband and two sons; how he allowed Saul to pursue David to kill him even though he had already anointed David as the next king; how he caused a huge storm when Jonah ran away (Jonah not being the only one who suffered from the storm)! Think of all the disasters predicted in Revelation! They come from God.
Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. (Deuteronomy 8:5)
For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of
abundance. (Psalm 66:10-12)
Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes [his wife]. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears.” (Ezekiel 24:16)
“When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?” (Amos 3:6)
If this is true; if trouble and pain come to us either by God’s permission or by his direct intent, then what is my self-pity? It is the very rebellion against God and his will that Satan is luring me into. And when I rebel against God, I say that he is wrong and I am right. I believe the slander that Satan is bringing against him and thus break relationship with him. I separate myself from unity with him and begin to oppose him. This is the work of Satan.
Lord God, I have bought into the lies of the enemy. I have listened to his slander against you and believed it. I have not trusted you: that you are in control of all things—even the evil that befalls me—and that all things work together for good for those who love you. And so I have fostered and nurtured self-pity:“Woe is me for all that has been done against me!” I have not trusted you for the good that you promise and have even refused to see much of the good you have already given me. Forgive me, Lord! Continue to open my eyes so I can see Truth and believe it instead of the lies constantly fed to me by your enemy and mine. Open my heart so that it too will know the truths my head has already acknowledged. Make my spirit, will and desire to be one with yours. Heal me in every way. Thank you, God. I love you.