Walking through grief, it has become clear just how easily it can be to falter into a full-blown pity party.
Oftentimes, grief and self-pity can resemble one another. However, there are significant differences between them.
Perhaps one of the clearest ways in which to see the difference is our heart attitude towards God in the midst of our losses, difficulties, or hardships.
Grief is a state of intense sadness that is typically associated with the loss of a significant person or aspect of one’s life.1
Self-pity is pity for oneself, especially a self-indulgent attitude concerning one’s own difficulties or hardships.2
Grief is not sinful. Self-pity is.
Self-pity is a pride response. We believe we are entitled to a different Providence. It’s a form of anger, a demanding discontent.
Self-pity can be a strategic tactic for seeking and manipulating sympathizers. Self-pity will not look for edification but coddling.
Self-pity is often the slippery slope of excuses into other sins. When we’ve lost our plumb-line to truth, subjective standards abound.
Because it is fueled by a high view of self, self-pity will be accompanied by a lack of gratitude; willfully blind to the goodness of God in our life.
Nursing a low view of God. Attempting to place ourselves above God.
Never was there anyone so deserving of glory, yet received such an onslaught of sin as Christ. He was tempted in every way, including self-pity. Though it would have been understandable, He never resorted to self-pity.
Instead, He trusted His Father. Choosing to abide in the goodness that His suffering would accomplish while seeking to serve others and please God through it all.
Christ never sinned but rather offered Himself on the cross as the only sufficient sacrifice by whom the wrath of God for our sin could be thwarted. The propitiatory work of Jesus Christ in our place removed our condemnation, including that for our self-pity. He is our hope. We can seek His forgiveness for the sin of self-pity and receive it freely.3
Godly grief is right and appropriate.
Jesus Himself wept at His friend’s tomb. The Bible does not dismiss or minimize grief, and we shouldn’t underestimate its impact. But we grieve differently than those without hope…
In the midst of grief, it is critical for us to remember that the God who is sovereign and mighty is also Immanuel—God with us.
When our grief is debilitating and it feels impossible to function, God does not sit aloof in heaven. He does not leave us to figure out how to handle grief on our own or how to cast about for resources to get through it. He walks every step of the journey with us.
Jesus came and lived as a human in this broken world. He gets it. He knows the tormenting thirst and weakness of life’s final hours. As our High Priest who fully understands our heartaches, He intercedes for us, as does His Holy Spirit. He calls us friends and promises that He will never leave nor forsake us, that His Spirit will dwell in us, and that He will give us peace and even joy.
What we need most in the midst of grief is God Himself. He will meet us, give us Himself, fill the void left by our loved ones, warm our hearts, lift our burdens, and draw us into the sweet balm of fellowship with His Spirit. And as our Father tenderly swaddles us in His love, our love for Him will grow, our faith and trust will deepen, and even amid the heartache of grief we will praise Him with deep and true joy.4
1Bellevue Christian Counseling – Grief Definition
2Dictionary.com – Self-Pity Definition
3Cripplegate, Self-Pity Refresher, paraphrased
4Elizabeth Groves – Grief and the Christian, Ligonier