In Walk with Me, as Peter crosses the Swamp of Selfishness, he falls into a sinkhole of self-pity. Instead of trying to get out, he settles into the mud. Perversely, he savours his feelings of woundedness and isolation. Perhaps he sings a song our daughters learned when they were young: “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms.”
Self-pity is such a seductive feeling, an emotion that feeds on itself. The more I nurture my self-pity, the bigger the sinkhole becomes. I begin to feel that no one else has ever suffered like me before. No one has gone through such hard struggles like I have. I actually take pride in my pain.
That is a very dangerous place to be, and that is exactly where Satan would like me to stay. My enemy tells me to nurse my hurt, hold my grudge, care for myself because no one else will. He tells me to shut myself off from people so I can avoid feeling pain, to give up hoping, to stop trusting God, to act for myself. If he got his way, Satan would keep me wallowing and self-absorbed forever.
In contrast, Jesus invites me to come out of the hole and sit with Him at His feet. He wants me to lay down my burdens and tell Him what the trouble is.
So last week when I found myself being swallowed up by a sinkhole of self-pity, I resisted the impulse to stay in the swamp. Instead, as I spent time with Jesus, I began to open up about one area in my life. I told Him how difficult and awful it has been, and how hopeless it feels to me. As I shared the emotional tatters of my life with Him, I discovered that self-pity is hard to sustain when you’re sitting at the feet of Jesus.
It’s not that Jesus gave me an instant fix. Far from it. But instead of sending me away, He told me to come closer. Instead of judging me or lecturing me telling me to buck up, He lamented with me and comforted me.
In the presence of His strong compassion, my weak and whiny self-pity vanished. I stopped demanding that He make things better right away and simply acknowledged with Him that the world is not the way it should be. Jesus sadly nodded His head. More than any of us, He knows how true this is.
This quiet pondering is one of the lessons of Advent. In the rush to Christmas, I want to skip over the suffering and head straight to hope and joy and light.
Yes, all that is coming, but first I need to lament the brokenness of the world.
He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted.
I need to name the darkness.
…to proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners.
I need to hear once again, “Comfort, comfort My people, speak tenderly to Jerusalem.”
I need to listen to songs in a minor key, songs tinged with despair and longing.
“O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
What about you? What are you pondering this Advent?