leaving him out of our equations and our day-to-day living. It was because David had set God before himself that he avoided the sin of self-pity. In the Psalms, David shows us what it means to live coram deo — which means, before the face of God.
When pressed by enemies close at hand, when his friends turned against him, when all hope seemed lost, David lived with God’s all-powerful sovereignty and all-encompassing love bearing down on each and every circumstance.
He Did Not Pity Himself
Consider David’s distant son: our Lord and Savior Jesus. If ever a man was entitled to self-pity, it was this man who, though he was without sin, was wrongfully accused. This man had healed the diseased, made bread for the hungry, and cast out demons, yet he was despised and rejected, spit upon and scorned. Though reviled, he did not revile in return. And even as he hung on the cross, he did so coram deo — before the face of God — crying out to him, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Even when enduring the wrath of God for sinners, Jesus never took his Father out of the equation.
The problem of self-pity is a problem of sight. Self-pitying people have not set the Lord before themselves as he really is — glorious, kind, sovereign, and just. They mainly have set themselves and their circumstances in their field of vision. Rather than crying out to God in our big and small moments of distress, self-pity would have us whimper in the misery of our own hearts.
And self-pity often spreads that misery, manipulatively demanding that other finite humans focus all their attention on our circumstances irrespective of God. The people of God are meant to bear one another’s burdens and sympathetically walk with one another through trials and difficulties. But self-pity distorts this beautiful design in favor of making our fellowship based on circumstances, not on our union with Christ.
Cure for Self-Pity
The cure for self-pity begins with understanding just how pitiful self-pity really is. It’s pitiful because it’s powerless. Our own pity for ourselves may conjure up some sympathy from sympathizers, especially those prone to feeling sorry for others. But it cannot ultimately do anything beyond feeling badly. Self-pity may succeed in winning attention and help from others, but it cannot provide the salve that heals. Only God’s pity can do that.
“Self-pitying people have not set the Lord before themselves as he really is — glorious, kind, sovereign, and just.”
It’s only when we turn our eyes to Christ and through him behold the incomparable love of our Father that our self-pity will shrivel and die — finally shown to be the imposter it really is in the light of God’s powerful pity, his decisive grace, and his sacrificial love.
When we taste and see the goodness of God in his Son and his Spirit, self-pity becomes a sorry substitute — worse, a mockery of the God who is love. When we turn to our own pity, our own love, for satisfaction and help, we are in essence denying the God who made us and showed us the meaning of love, for, “in this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
We can trust our Father’s compassion and pity. He knows our circumstances and sadnesses better than we do. There is not one circumstance of our lives that has not passed through the sieve of his sovereign love for us. By faith we declare with David, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
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