Word-y Gifts for Christian Faith & Life

Goodbye, self-pity! Hello, life.

An influential old man found himself in the twilight of his life unable to stop mourning the demise of a once promising king. He had played a prominent role in the king’s inauguration, the first in the emerging nation, and had had high hopes for him. The old man became a steady support and critical adviser to the king as he navigated treacherous and unfamiliar political terrain as ruler of a young and vulnerable nation. He was so involved in the king’s affairs that he felt a personal stake in his success.

For his part, the king was a celebrated warrior. He fought many battles on behalf of the nation, and many of his subjects were fiercely loyal to him. He, however, failed to understand the nature of his role. He may have been king, but he was to rule under the leadership of a Higher King. His inability to respect that hierarchy led to his repeated failure to execute the will of the Higher King and eventually led to his removal from office and death.

The prophet Samuel, the old man, grieved the loss for a long time, probably wondering if he had failed Saul, the king, by not adequately impressing upon him the importance and nature of his role. God, the Higher King, had to disrupt Samuel’s grief and ask “How long will you mourn for Saul? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way… I have chosen [another] to be king” (1 Sam. 16:1). In other words, stop feeling sorry for yourself; it’s time to move on, I have another plan.

How often and how long do we carry regrets and wallow in self-pity like Samuel? Too often, we grieve way past the value of our losses and God has to disrupt our grief to remind us that it’s time to move on; there’s more life ahead. The disruption is necessary because self-pity is a useless but dangerous emotion. It saps the energy that ought to be channeled to worthier endeavors and steals our future one sad moment at a time. Instead of wallowing in self-pity after disappointment and loss, we must find a way to redirect that energy and use it to build our future instead. Believers must recognize that God always has another plan up his sleeve. Always. In Samuel’s case, he had David, the man who would become ancient Israel’s most celebrated king. What might he have in store for you beyond the disappointment?

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