“You need Me every moment. Your awareness of your constant need for Me is your greatest strength. Your neediness, properly handled, is a link to My presence. However, there are pitfalls that you must be on your guard against: self-pity, self-preoccupation, giving up. Your inadequacy presents you with a continual choice- deep dependence on Me, or despair. The emptiness you feel within will be filled either with problems or with My presence.”
Lately I have been reminded of the dangers of self-pity. Having a chronic illness like Crohn’s, I’ll admit that I have often fallen into this trap. The danger of self-pity and self-preoccupation is that it distracts us from how we should really be spending our time, which is in communication with God. It gives way to doubt and despair. This in turn affects our attitude and how we treat people. My devotional puts it like this,
“When your circumstances are stressful, it is easy for you to become irritable. But I want you to demonstrate gentleness- not irritability.”
During hard times, especially this past little while when I have had more days of not feeling well again and worrying that this means my infection is coming back, I can definitely attest to the fact that I find it easy to complain and take my bad attitude out on others, especially my family. This is not right and, as my devotional so kindly reminded me, is certainly not what Jesus calls me to. Moreover, it shows a lack of faith in Him. As the quote that I shared at the beginning makes so clear, the emptiness we often feel as human beings is either going to be filled with our problems or with God’s presence.
So how do we counteract this ugly trap and get from irritability to the gentleness that God calls us to? My devotionals have some ideas on that as well.
“Thank Me for my continual Presence and My constant Love. When circumstances are getting you down, turn your attention to Me and consider the great Love I have for you. Rejoice!…. Rejoicing in Me can protect you from the temptation to complain.”
“Make Me central in your consciousness by praying continually: simple, short prayers flowing out of the present moment. Use My Name liberally, to remind you of my presence.”
In short, thank God for the good things He does and talk to Him about what you are feeling. Connect with Him. Study His word. In the midst of the business of our lives and the self-centered emphasis of our society, this requires conscious effort. However, I am hoping that I will become better at putting these things into practice and that eventually they will become ingrained habits. I want to gain a heavenly perspective of my trials. As I have said in past posts, when we go through trials, we have the unique and privileged opportunity to learn more about God’s character, if we’re willing to let Him teach us. Paul says something similar in his letter to the Romans, which happens to be one of my favourite books in the Bible:
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”
The Bible also says that,
“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
-2 Corinthians 4:17
“When life gets tough, don’t waste those hard circumstances. Instead, ask God to use them to transform you more and more into His likeness- helping you become your true self. You must be willing to share in His sufferings so that you may also share in His glory.”
This leads me to another way to get from irritability to gentleness. Remember that you are not the only one suffering. Suffering is a part of life for every human being. This is why God has placed us in community, so that, with the help of His Holy Spirit, we can help each other through it. I am often guilty of being selfish and thinking that the trials I am going through are worse than everyone else’s. This is just the kind of thinking that allows the devil to get a foothold on us and prevents us from becoming more like Jesus. The good news is that, with God’s help, we can break free! Yes it requires discipline and hard work but the reward at the end is worth it. I may have been failing a lot lately but thankfully the God we serve is one of forgiveness and grace (boy do I need a lot of that!) As my good friend Anne Shirley likes to say,
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
-L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Indeed it is, Anne. Indeed it is.