// “you can’t always get what you want…”

I’ve been under the weather for the past week and a half, something which doesn’t happen to me very often and so has effectively resulted in my spending the whole of that time under a duvet, emerging only very occasionally to cough up bits of my lungs. This in itself is not especially remarkable, and I don’t tell you it to elicit any kind of sympathy (although, when I’m less contagious, I could use a hug), but what is more remarkable is just how strong the temptation towards self-pity is at times like this. I’ve prided myself on standing on my own two feet for a while now, trying to be responsible and mature and competent, but when things don’t go my way it instead turns out that I retreat into a mixture between angry self-righteousness, demanding of God how He could allow this to happen, and acting like a small boy.

It’s startling, too, the range of emotions that go through your head when you have too much time to think. They range from the all-too-familiar whispers of “you are worthless, and repulsive, and nobody cares about you. If they cared about you, they would be here to help – but why would they help? All you do is drive people away,” to the more subtle entreaties, telling you that it’s okay to have a little moral lapse, as after all, God will understand that you’re not feeling well, or you should do whatever you want, because normal rules don’t apply when you’re ill. They are so, so seductive – and they are also just a more vivid picture of the temptations that we regularly face in the day-to-day.

Lately I’m coming to the conclusion, and I say this with as little intended melodrama as possible, that self-pity is of the devil. Because self-pity tells you that it is okay to put yourself first; that God, or doing things God’s way, is not actually that important after all. It is an invitation to accept the life that you think you deserve (good or bad) rather than trusting in the goodness of God for the life that He has offered. And because it is easy, when life is hard. It’s a safe, established comfort mechanism that is proven to work for you in the short-term.

No matter that it rests on lies. Voices of discontent from every angle telling you that if you looked different or were a little more charismatic or hadn’t been given this personality or those issues by God, then life would be different – would be better, in fact. It’s misdirection, at the end of the day; keep you blaming circumstances rather than doing anything about your response to those circumstances.

And so praise God that we are not powerless. Because I’ve spent a lot of this week beneath my duvet being bombarded with lies from all angles and, crazy though it maybe sounds, when my strength was dried up I started quoting Bible verses. One of my pastors last year used to talk about the importance of countering lies with truth and it never seemed to work back then, always seemed like the lies were too strong, like it was too much of a hard fight to win – but my word, am I coming to believe in the power of God’s word these days.

Look, I know it’s not very fashionable to talk about the power of God’s word, but if you don’t have a grounding in it, how do you know how to react when people start throwing lies at you? What is your counter-claim, where’s your objectivity, what’s your foundation? I mean, I know I sound like some kind of wild-eyed, Bible-bashing fundamentalist here, but the only other option I know is to trust myself, and you’ll have to excuse me if I tell you that hasn’t worked out so well for me in the past.

We are not left as orphans, and we have been given resources for this fight – to love God, and to love His people – but those resources are not from ourselves or from within, they’re from Him. So let’s not make the mistake of trusting ourselves as we move into 2011, listening to those well-meaning voices that seem to promise to give us what we want in the short-term. It might well be a fight to do otherwise, but it’s that fight that we were called to, and we would do well to commit to that afresh as we face the year ahead.

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