We are in unprecedented times here in the springtime of 2020. We wouldn’t have dreamed a year ago of a nationwide quarantine because of a worldwide pandemic. I believe our lives and culture will manifest permanent changes in years to come, just like our world after 9/11 was different from the one before. In 2001 we gained a heightened awareness of terrorist threats and security measures. Air travel would never be the same and our country experienced a renewed patriotic fervor.
I certainly can’t predict the future, but I can guess that one of the lasting effects of this quarantine may be a greater tendency to paranoia and self-isolation. People, especially the elderly, may develop greater fears of public gatherings and spaces. We may perhaps rely more heavily on technology for our communications going forward and continue to keep some distance, even after the threat of the virus is gone. The term social distancing will surely remain in our vocabulary.
The natural result of such an attitude will be less community and more lonely people. Being alone isn’t always a bad thing, many of us cherish our alone time when life is too busy or demanding. But “lonely” is a negative term: it doesn’t mean just being alone, a lonely person is one who is alone and doesn’t wish to be. And it often leads to sadness, self-pity and depression.
One of the lessons the Lord taught me the hard way is that self-pity is to be avoided at all costs. It’s an attitude, a mindset, and an easy habit to slip into when I’m sad, lonely or bored. And during this difficult period of forced separation from loved ones, friends and activities, it’s easy to indulge in a little self-pity from time to time.
What could be more natural and understandable?
(“Poor me, I’m not allowed to go anywhere, poor me, nobody keeps in touch, poor me, I’m worried about getting sick….running out of toilet paper…..losing my job or my mind…..insert your own worry here”)
But the fruit of self-pity is always bitter: it produces selfishness, anger, fear and despair. It takes my mind off Christ and puts it firmly onto myself. It keeps me from reaching out to others and from having a servant’s mindset. It blinds me to the abundant promises of God, that He will never leave or forsake me, that He is working out these hard things for my good, that He is in charge of death and life, viruses, the economy, and the entire universe!
But the worst thing about self-pity is that it keeps me from giving thanks. I can either view myself as a recipient of blessing or a victim of my unhappy circumstances, but never both. You can’t be thankful and self-pitying at the same time, it’s impossible! And Jesus tells us to be thankful in all circumstances, not just when things are going our way (I Thessalonians 5:18).
There is always something to be thankful for! We must strive to look for the good.
So how can we avoid self-pity? Be vigilant. Think about what you’re thinking about! Ask the Lord to keep you aware of when you’re slipping into this thinking. Pray and ask Jesus to transform your thoughts. Force yourself to list things you’re thankful for, no matter how small or mundane. Actively fight the pity party and take your thoughts captive as described in 2 Corinthians 10:5 : “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Jesus promises that nothing can ever separate us from his love (Romans 8:35-39). Let’s claim that promise and fight self-pity!
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39 New Living Translation