Numbers 20:2-5 NIV
Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, "If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord's community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!"
Have You Been Given a Fair Deal?
During one of my trips to Russia, I was shocked to discover as I was about to board the plane back to the U.S. that I didn’t have my ticket with me. This of course was not the end of the world. The airline could simply look on the computer and find that I had purchased the ticket for that flight and reissue me a ticket and boarding pass. That is what I thought would happen. Apparently the Russian airline did not keep records of tickets issued in a data base and I was going to have to purchase a new ticket if I was going to board the plane. Terribly annoyed, I gathered my luggage and trudged over to the customer relations window and waited to meet with a service representative. By the time someone was able to speak with me, I missed my flight. What was worse, the airline people said they could not find any record of me buying a ticket with them and that if I wanted to fly out of Moscow, I would have to purchase a new ticket. What was I to do? It seemed incredibly unfair for me to have to pay for a ticket I had already bought so I sat in the airport and stewed, waiting for someone with more authority than the ticket clerks to help me. In the meantime, all the other flights leaving Moscow for London where I was to transfer were booked. I began to feel sorry for myself. “Why did I have to pay extra money to fly home?” “Why wasn’t God helping me?” “How come I had to miss my flight?” “What sort of airline treats its customers so unfairly?” I finally called the school where I had spent two weeks lecturing and complained to the director about my terrible situation. He told me to hire a cab and come back to the school and figure out what to do there. Now I had to spend fifty dollars for a cab ride back to Moscow. What a joke! What a waste of money! I just knew the cab driver would overcharge me too! Where was I supposed to stay when I got back to Moscow? What would I have to pay for a hotel room? Why did this have to happen to me? It wasn’t right that I sacrificed so much to come and teach in Russia and then to have to put up with this.
Have you ever felt sorry for yourself? Of course you have! You have been mistreated and misunderstood. You haven’t had enough money to get what you wanted or take the sort of trip you would like to take. So-called friends have ignored you and taken advantage of your kindness. You don’t get paid what you deserve. Everyone else gets to relax while you have to keep working. Why did you have to get sick now? How come your car had to break down where it did? Why did you have to get hit or your house robbed? The work you do isn’t appreciated. There is so much that isn’t fair in life! How come God doesn’t take better care of you?
Perhaps you can relate to Ahab and his attempt to buy a field near his house. He went to the owner of the field with a quite reasonable proposal. Ahab said to Naboth, "Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth." (1 Kings 21:2 NIV) Ahab, although king of the land, did not use his political power to force Naboth to sell to him. He nicely and respectfully tried to work out a deal with him. However, to King Ahab’s surprise and dismay, Naboth refused to sell the land. When nothing Ahab said could convince Naboth to sell his vineyard, King Ahab literally went back home to his bedroom and sulked. Ahab’s wife later found him in his bed, refusing to eat because he felt so sorry for himself.
This is a brilliant example of how self-pity operates. Almost always it is a product of lust. Many mistakenly think of lust as merely some sort of misguided sexual desire but it is much more than that. Lust as we see it in the Bible is the wreckage of desire. “I want this now and I must have it.” It could be anything that becomes an object of lust. I want someone to respect me. I want to be appreciated in this home. I want that job. I want a better income. I want to buy that car. Desires are built into you by God and they are important to your personality. However, a corrupted desire is rooted in the unwillingness to wait for God to satisfy the desire His way. When King Saul tried to kill David because of his jealousy over David’s popularity, his longing to kill David flowed out of his lust for respect. Jacob lusted after his brother Esau’s place in the family and betrayed his father and his brother by trying to wrest it away from Esau by deceit.
When a lust is not fulfilled, when we don’t get what we want and we are not willing to wait for God to satisfy the desire we have in His way within His time frame, self-pity is the result. I want this and I want it now. If I don’t get it, I feel sorry for myself and become either angry or depressed. She must love me. He must treat me fairly. They must respect me. I deserve to have a better salary. Lust, the unwillingness to let God work things out for me so that my desire can be fulfilled in the way He wants, leads to self-pity which can disconnect me from God and replace God’s joy and peace with misery. The great sin of Job’s friends was that they pushed him into self-pity. Rather than encouraging Job to patiently wait for God to sort things out for him, they prodded Job to become dissatisfied with God by insisting the Lord was punishing him for sins he knew he had not committed. The more they accused Job of hidden wickedness, the more Job’s dissatisfaction with God grew.
The great lie of Satan which he first tried with Eve is that God is not good enough to make your life right. This festering discontent with the Lord bubbles up into bitterness, frustration and depression. It saps us of our moral strength and incites rebellion against God. Listen to how Satan sowed the seed of discontent in Eve. "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5 NIV) “God is keeping you from something good and it is not fair the way He is holding you back.” Lust refuses to accept God’s plan for how to have one’s needs met. Self-pity is our response to a lust that poisons our heart before we engage in outright rebellion against God.
There are two principles that every single person must be taught and if they are embraced, the peace of God can be attained. The first is: God is in complete control of your circumstances. Satan isn’t. Luck isn’t. Others around you are not. God is in complete control of your circumstances. The second is: If you are in love with God, then every circumstance in life is good for you. Why would you feel sorry for yourself if you know that God, who loves you with unlimited affection, is in charge of your life and will make it perfect in every way if you just trust Him? Consider how Joseph from the Old Testament long ago discovered that these two principles were true.
When he was seventeen, Joseph’s brothers, out of jealousy, (or more precisely because of lust) sold him into slavery. For twelve years his life wasted away first as a slave and later it got even worse after he was unjustly sent to prison. Everything that happened to Joseph was unfair, at least from a human standpoint. He did not deserve to be a slave and certainly it was not right for him to be in jail. But you must remember and it needs to be certain in your mind, God is in complete control of your circumstances and everything that happens to you will make your life better. At the age of twenty-eight, the Lord put Joseph to the test. Into the prison where Joseph languished came two former employees of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. One was Pharaoh’s chief baker and the other his cupbearer. Both were sent to prison because of Pharaoh’s dissatisfaction with them. On the same night, each had a dream that baffled and troubled him. Joseph asked them to tell him their dreams because as Joseph put it, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” After Joseph explained to the cupbearer what the Lord was telling him through his dream, Joseph asked him to try to get Pharaoh to release him from prison. He added this bit of commentary about why he was in jail. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon." (Genesis 40:15 NIV)
In this one simple statement, Joseph showed that he had not yet learned to live by the two principles. He did not believe it was God who brought him to prison and he did not see any good coming out of it. As a result, Joseph had sunk into self-pity. What Joseph did not realize and perhaps could not know was that the Lord was preparing him for the great task that only someone with tremendous humility and unbending loyalty to God could perform. To make such a person, the Lord had to put him through slavery and unjust imprisonment and in it all learn to trust the Lord and stay loyal to Him no matter what. Joseph was being prepared to become second in command of Egypt and bring the knowledge of God to that pagan nation. All arrogance and self-pity and lust had to be squeezed out of Joseph before the Lord could entrust him with this responsibility. Finally, after two more years in jail, Joseph was ready to trust God in any and every circumstance and believe that no matter what he faced, the Lord was good. How do we know Joseph learned that the two principles were true? When Joseph was finally freed by Pharaoh and Pharaoh put him in charge of running the country, his brothers who had sold him into slavery came to Joseph begging for food to feed their starving families. Rather than making his brothers pay for what they had done to him, he reassured them that he did not blame them for selling him into slavery but rather was thankful God let him go through what he did. "So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” (Genesis 45: 8 NIV) Later, after their father died, Joseph reassured his brothers once more that God put him in Egypt for good both for him and many others including his brothers and their families. But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:19-20 NIV)
How much happier and more peaceful we would be if we could just see things like Joseph did. Everyone around us would be uplifted by our approach to life. We would be encouragers rather than discouragers. We would lift up the spirits of those who are feeling down and be like a breath of fresh air everywhere we go. There is no reason to feel sorry for yourself if you know that Christ is in charge of your life. If Christ could take the brutal beatings and barbaric crucifixion He suffered and turn it into salvation for you and the rest of the world, then He can and will work out everything we face with perfect care.