How to turn self-pity to joy

DSCN5842Last week was a gift. I was attending a course, and on my arrival, I was greeted with the surprise of the beautiful Treetop Hideaway room with my own little deck and windows that looked out into lush green leaves. Relationships were rich, with lots of laughter and plenty of vulnerability. The teaching was drawing me deeper into the truth of who God is and who I am and I was slowly settling and resting in those truths.

And still, the third day in, I found myself slipping into self-pity. A dog—one of those big black ones with huge laser-sharp teeth and a fenced-in yard with signs saying “Beware of Dog”—had jumped the fence and chased me on my first morning’s run, and each morning after that the run took extra energy as I fought to stay calm. I loved the community and wanted to be out playing Frisbee during our afternoon free time, but I was tired and needed to spend it lying down.

I didn’t like the self pity. I wanted to fix it. I didn’t know how.

Until evening prayers. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but somehow, then, God got through to me. I’d asked him earlier how he saw me and my self-pity, but hadn’t received an answer. But in evening prayers I understood: God sees more deeply than I do. While I was quick to label and condemn my self-pity, God looked beneath it and saw longing: longing to be outside in his creation, to play, to engage in deep relationship, to be drawn closer to God and enabled to receive his love more deeply. He saw my longing for fullness of life, for health and right-relationship with God and self, others and creation. All of those longings echo God’s longings for me. All of them are good and God-given, placed in me by God when he made me in his image and deepened by him as he is drawing me closer to himself.

Tears began to slip down my cheeks as I felt understood and loved. And then I noticed: the self-pity had disappeared, replaced with the joy of being loved and accompanied in the hard places. I’ve checked it out a couple more times since, and I’m convinced of this: what turns sadness or disappointment into self-pity is the sense that I don’t matter. Then guilt descends with the conviction that I should just be able to be get over it. But the harder I try to “just get over it,” the more self-pity digs in its heels and clings to my soul, because my attempts to shake it off are just more deeply ingraining the sense that what I feel doesn’t matter.

I am remembering once more: Every situation and every emotion—even self-pity—contains an invitation to come closer and open more deeply to God as he longs to love me in that place. Real transformation only ever comes in finding myself loved.

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Eph 3:19 NLT)

“Make your home in my love,” Jesus invites. “Let me be your home.” This Home is a place where there’s room to express sadness and disappointment, anger and fear, and find myself loved in it and not alone, accompanied, and reminded by God’s gentle presence that I, and what I feel and long for, matter.

13 thoughts on “How to turn self-pity to joy

  1. Wow. This is a great insight. I have long struggled with self-pity and you hit the nail on the head: “What turns sadness or disappointment into self-pity is the sense that I don’t matter. Then guilt descends with the conviction that I should just be able to be get over it. But the harder I try to “just get over it,” the more self-pity digs in its heels and clings to my soul, because my attempts to shake it off are just more deeply ingraining the sense that what I feel doesn’t matter.” This was very helpful. Thanks.

  2. So much truth in this post and so timely. Thank you for sharing this from God’s heart to mine.

  3. So in the middle of the chaos there’s Jesus transforming hearts and minds. When the chaos gets to despairing there He is transforming and if it all descends into self pity there He is with the transforming. He is who He says He is – Saviour. We are so blessed. Thank you Carolyn for sharing the insights.

  4. Thank you for your willingness to look behind the self-pity to the real truth of the longing. I love how God is big enough to handle our hard feelings, and that I can bring them all to Him. Thank you so for writing the truth.

  5. Hi Auntie Caroli, I liked your post. 😉. It helped me be grateful after a hard day. Isn’t it nice how God helps us be grateful in such a gentle loving way?
    Thank you for writing that post. It gave me courage when I was feeling very sad.

    💖, Liam

    1. Dear Liam, Thank you so much for reading my post and leaving me a note. It was such fun to find your note here! I’m sorry you had a hard day. Yes, it is so lovely how God helps us to be grateful in such a gentle way. He loves us so much, doesn’t he? Love, Auntie Caroli

  6. “…what turns sadness or disappointment into self-pity is the sense that I don’t matter.” That strikes a chord with me, deeply. And then what rises up is the need to convince or even fight to make sure I matter…to them, or her, or him. I defend my sense of mattering…and feel the disappointment and exhaustion of this way of being. And then that I shouldn’t feel that way as well. Thank you for taking me back to the One who assures my heart that I matter very much, and then the transformation of feelings into my reality so that I begin to not need anyone’s affirmation of that truth. He delights over you with singing, Carolyn!!!! Thank you for being vulnerable in your writing. <3

    1. Thanks so much for these thoughts, Lesley-Anne. “I defend my sense of mattering…and feel the disappointment and exhaustion of this way of being.” So true. I’m so grateful that God keeps calling us beyond this way of being into the freedom of knowing ourselves beloved!

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