There are multiple reasons why it feels so satisfying to throw a pity party. For one, the food menu almost always includes a good roast. Roast beef, roast teacher, roast preacher. Whatever the kind, it can be counted on to be juicy. And as if the roast isn't decadent enough, there's always the toast. You know. That tradition where we drink to the happiness of another while consumed with finding our own.
Another reason the pity party feels satisfying is that it offers comfortable engagement with what we know. We identify with the life of Pain, we understand the heart of Misery. They're loyal friends. An odd sense of warmth and comfort accompanies their presence. It may not be the best party on the block, but it's the easiest. When left alone and made the focus of attention, Pain and Misery are low-maintenance friends whose only demand is self-service. Unlike Hope and Faith, they don't summon us to anything greater than ourselves. No calls for conviction, no calls for courage. Just whining and dining, licking wounds and licking chops.
I'm fascinated with Martin Luther. His strong intellect and unquenchable thirst for knowledge, his intense passion for truth, and his rebel determination merged together to fire a tension within his soul that tempted him toward dark introspection and self-pity. They merged together to incite a war fought on the battlefield of his mind under the light of a sky ablaze with saving grace. His life of endurance nourished by the power of the Word is a sweet encouragement to persevere in the midst of suffering.
There's much about Martin Luther I desire to emulate. Putting the kibosh on the pity party is one of them. I don't want to listen to my heart, I want to counsel my heart. Just like he counseled his. Exactly like this:
"Don't just sit there by yourself and hang your head and shake it, and gnaw your knuckles, and look for a way out with nothing on your mind except how bad you feel, how you hurt, and what a poor guy you are. Get up, you lazy scamp! Down on your knees! Up with your hands and eyes toward heaven!" Martin Luther
If you're struggling today, my prayer is that you won't sit alone in the company of Pain and Misery. My own heart is strongly bent toward dark introspection, so I understand the temptation to bathe in self-pity. May we both claim the grace that is ours to look away from ourselves and look to Christ. That's where we'll find Hope and Faith. Hope to endure and Faith to persevere!