God Deals With Self-Pity in the Wilderness

This is an excerpt from Eugene Peterson’s book Where Your Treasure Is. I highly recommend it. He reflects on the Psalms to show how God “unselfs” us. I thought you’d appreciate what he has to say about unself-pity. Below is part of a reflection on Psalm 77 pp.107-108

“Not until this wound is dealt with for what it is–in this case, malodorous self-pity–can salvation be said to be accomplished . . . self-pity is not pressure that exacts concessions from the Almighty. Rather, it is an occasion that God uses to work in our largely self-generated misery to bring about his pleasure, which we are surprised to find is also our pleasure. The hand outstretched in self-pity is answered by the hands of Moses and Aaron. Their hands do not protect people from trouble but train them in the midst of it. They do not hold the hands of the people, sympathizing with them over their loss of home and security in Egypt. They take their hands and lead them into the harsh desert. The redemption has already been accomplished (by the ‘arm’ of the Lord, v. 15). Now the life of faith must be learned. A life of compassion must be nurtured. This can only be done in the midst of hurt and pain, where wisdom is inaccessible to self-pity. God does not answer our self-pitying request but our need for unselfing. He enters our lives and provides prophet and priest to lead us into and through the wilderness of temptation and trial. Only then can we learn the ways of providence and discover the means of grace–a long difficult, mercy marked, grace-guided forty years that represents the middle of the journey for persons who live by faith. It is a journey through which we learn personal morality and social responsibility. Salvation is put to the work of building community, engaging in worship, encountering evil.

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