Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world. ~Helen Keller
Last night I watched a show that involved a man named Charlie. Charlie had been working hard for a group of lawyers who treated him like a peon. He made their coffee runs and endured their mocking scorn. When a friend questioned him on the nature of his job, he responded with these humble words: “You can always learn from someone. Even if it’s what not to do.”
We can choose to focus on all the negative aspects of our lives: relationships, kids, work, obligations, church, etc., or we can determine to grow through the hard stuff, learn from the imperfect people and crummy circumstances, and find gratitude for what we do have.
Your other option involves inviting people to your pity party, passing out hats and frowny-face stickers and sour-lemon cake. Pretty soon that party starts to look like a pit. Be forewarned: those that stay in the pit with you are also miserable, bitter and unwilling to walk in gratitude. They will never be able to help you restore contentment. Happiness will remain elusive. There’s no light in the pit.
However, if you want to crawl out, here are a few steps to give you a boost.
Don’t equate understanding with acceptance. Those that love us the most will attempt to sympathize and understand (not merely pat us on the back and say “buck up”); however, those that love you won’t let you stay there either. They may stoop down into the mud with you and wipe off your face, but they will also try to pull you up and encourage you forward on the path. Don’t resent them for wanting the best for you. Because they love you, they don’t want you to stay miserable and continue in a bitter state of wail and woe. They may speak what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. See these people–not your emotions–as the true friends.
We need to refocus our lens, zooming out to the more eternal.
John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Stasi Eldredge puts the directions this way: “There are many things we need to rename in our lives. Our work. Our relationships. Even our life itself. Rename them. Rename your life. It’s good. Because your life belongs to our good God, and he’s got you. Rename yourself. God has.”
Don’t focus on all the things going wrong. Choose to thank God for what is right and good. And if nothing else, thank Him for your eternal Home. For sending His Son to redeem us from this broken, sinful world. I’m not advocating a Pollyanna approach that denies the existence of evil or the presence of pain; what I’m encouraging you toward is exactly what Paul challenged the Thessalonians in, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thess. 5:16-18).
Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”
Living a life of gratitude–yes, there’s always something to be thankful for–is God’s will. Praying, not worrying, is God’s will. Praising Him in worship, regardless of your circumstances, is God’s will.
The best way to regain happiness is to bring cheer to someone else. You may feel angry, discouraged, rejected, or even trapped. Don’t act out of those emotions, but in spite of them. Bake a pie for a friend or take flowers to an older neighbor or widow. Write a letter of gratitude to a professor that impacted your life. Call a friend and just listen. Post funny pictures on social media or take balloons to kids on the pediatric ward of the hospital. Babysit for a single mother or give a gift card to a fatigued teacher. The ideas are limited only by your imagination.
The bottom line: spend a day focusing on someone besides yourself.
A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Prov. 11:25).
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).