Appeal of Pity Parties

pity_party_ice_creamContinued from here.

I used to love a good pity party. I could wallow in my pain and the unfairness of my life for weeks at a time. I would relive all of the ways that people wronged me and nurse my hatred and bitterness toward them. To God, I probably looked like Pigpen from the Peanuts comic strip with self-pity surrounding me like a cloud.

Wallowing in self-pity makes us miserable, so we do we do it? The best lies contain much truth, which is what enables others to be deceived so easily. It was true that I was severely abused as a child, that I suffered greatly in the aftermath of that abuse, and that I was in no way responsible for having been abused as a child. Because I believed these truths, I took the next step to believe the lie that I would never be freed from the pain of the aftermath of the abuse.

I believed that my pain was bigger than God’s ability to heal me. Because I believed this, it became my “reality.” No matter how many times I prayed for emotional healing, I stayed mired in pain. Despite numerous Christians praying for my emotional healing over a period of years, very little progress took place. I did not experience freedom from my emotional pain until I obeyed God by replacing my pity parties with prayers for my enemies and deciding to forgive my childhood abusers, no matter how long the process took. I had to choose this again and again – day after day and month after month for over a year before it became a reality.

While I have met people who were able to forgive quickly, that was not my experience. I had marinated in my bitterness for decades, so it took a long time for me to learn how to live differently. I enjoyed hating my childhood abusers, and I wallowed in bitterness and self-pity whenever anyone did anything that hurt my feelings in my present-day life. My thoughts were filled with a checklist of all the ways other people had wronged me. I was constantly at the center of my thoughts. The enemy was happy to encourage me to keep myself as the center of my universe, knowing that I would never experience God’s healing power as long as my pain, and not my God, was the object of my worship.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying while eating a gallon of ice cream. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Temptation of Pity Parties

pity_partyLast week on her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyers preached on the keys to getting the breakthrough you have been praying for. One of those keys is resisting the temptation to indulge in a pity party, which is such a vulnerability for me. Meyers made the astute observation that even though we might have good reasons for engaging in pity parties, they are harmful to us and can interfere with the process of experiencing the breakthrough that we are seeking.

Like Meyers, I have many legitimate reasons to feel drawn toward a pity party. Both of us were sexually abused as children, and we grew into emotionally-wounded adults as a direct result of the child abuse. Both of us had to work very hard to heal from the pain, and neither of us was responsible for the damage that was inflicted upon us as children. The child abuse was unfair, and having to suffer through serious aftereffects from the abuse was also unfair. If I wanted to, I could build a strong case for my “right” to indulge in a pity party.

Meyers stated that when she complained to God about her abuser being responsible for her brokenness, God’s response was that this was true. However, not being responsible for the damage did not give her (or us) the “right” to treat other people – even our abusers – wrongly. Instead, we need to go for God healing and learn how to behave in a godly manner, even when our circumstances are unfair. That was a difficult lesson for me to learn, but it was also profoundly healing.

This week, we are going to explore the appeal of pity parties, why they are so destructive, and how to avoid them. As Joyce Meyers pointed out in other sermons, God promises to give us beauty for ashes (Is. 61: 3), but we don’t get to keep the ashes. If we want the beauty of emotional healing from our pain, we must part with the ashes of our self-pity. I loved my ashes and did not want to give them up: I enjoyed stewing in my bitterness toward my child abusers. However, I did want emotional healing, and to receive it, I had to give up the pity parties. The ashes are not worth the pain. The beauty is so much better.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying while holding balloons that are crying. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Miracles Don’t have to be Uncommon

magnifying_glassContinued from here.

Some Christian songs make mention of miracles being rare, but I disagree. I have experienced many miracles in my life, three of which I have written about throughout this blog series: healing from an eating disorder, emotional pain from childhood abuse, and marital strife. There’s nothing special about me that invited in these miracles. They came about as I chose to obey God and live my life as He commands. I had to choose to turn to God for comfort instead of food (no idolatry), forgive my childhood abusers, and humble myself in my marriage. As I walked in obedience in these difficult areas, God transformed me closer to the image of Christ, which invited these slow miracles into my life. This can be your story as well.

Whatever you are facing in your life, God is bigger. Study your Bible and find out what God has to say about your situation. Then, do what God commands you to do, even if it is really, really hard. If you will make the choice to start living your life God’s way in a particular area, God will enable you to do it, which will usher in the miracle you have been seeking. Miracles are not infrequent events reserved for particularly special people. The Bible is a handbook showing you how to tap into God’s power and experience His miraculous power in your life, not because you are special or because you deserve it – it’s grace.

I challenge you to try this in the most “impossible” area of your life. If you simply cannot get over the pain of a betrayal, commit to praying for that person every day and repeatedly ask God to help you forgive him or her. If your marriage is dead, work through Alex Kendrick’s and Stephen Kendricks’ The Love Dare and learn how to humble yourself in your marriage. If finances are your challenge, start tithing 10% of your income to your local church and see what happens. Bring God the driest desert in your life and start doing things God’s way. The miracle may be slow, but it will come if you will live your life in that area as God commands you to live it. GOD’S WAY ACTUALLY WORKS!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace peering through a magnifying glass. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Slow Miracles Lead to Transformation

barbellContinued from here.

One reason we are on this earth is to transform into Christ’s image. Transformation does not happen quickly: by definition, transformation is a slow process. As you pray for your miracle, you might not see anything happening, but God is much less concerned with changing your circumstances than He is with changing YOU.

The lesson we all need to learn is that GOD’S WAY ACTUALLY WORKS. When we choose not to forgive those who wrong us, we are refusing the slow miracle of God’s healing. Our pain is not caused by the wrong that was done to us (although I know it feels that way). Instead, our pain is caused by our reaction to what was done. When we choose to think negatively about someone and feed the bitterness, we build our own emotional prisons. While God could miraculous tear down those prison walls for us, without transformation, we will simply build them right back up again. God tells us to forgive and to pray for our enemies, not because they deserve it but because that’s the door to opening the miracle of healing. How quickly or slowly that happens depends upon your willingness to live your life God’s way.

The same holds true for healing your marriage. Marriage only works God’s way, which involves humbling yourself by deferring your preferences to your spouse. Because you are one, the more you lash out in anger toward your spouse, the more wounds you inflict onto yourself. Conversely, when you defer your preferences to your spouse and honor him or her, you open the door to the slow miracle of healing your marriage. Many of God’s slow miracles are invited in by simply doing things God’s way.

While my preference at the time would have been quick miracles for healing the eating disorder, childhood pain, and marital woes, if I could go back in time and change this, I wouldn’t. Quick miracles would have only been temporary fixes because my disobedience to God’s ways would have simply placed me back in the same situation as before. The slow miracles transformed me so that I am no longer tempted to go back. I know how much effort was required to experience God’s miracles, and I refuse to return to the bondage from which God has freed me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a barbell above her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Slow Miracles Focus on Who We are Becoming

Continued from here.

God cares more about who you are becoming than where you are going. When we are in pain, we want our miracle NOW, but God wants more for us than simply deliverance from pain. God certainly has the ability to heal us instantly – God healed one of my close friends from cigarette addiction instantly, and she hasn’t smoked again in decades. However, quick miracles happen too quickly for much character develop to take place. The blessing of the slow miracle is that is provides much time to transform us closer to the image of Christ.

While we are waiting on our slow miracles, we aren’t just sitting around doing nothing. God expects us to do our part, and that’s what drives us to transform. Of course, we need to be in prayer about our miracle, not only asking God to perform the miracle but also thanking Him for what He has already done. If the miracle involves not doing something (such as not drinking, smoking, eating, etc.), we need to be in prayer throughout the day to help us stay the course and not give in to temptation. As we do this, we are learning dependency upon God: how to stay connected to the Vine.

Some of my slow miracles did not begin until I started doing things God’s way. One example is that God did not begin healing my deepest pain from the childhood abuse until I started praying for my abusers with the intention of forgiving them. As I obeyed God by choosing forgiveness (which is a process), God gradually healed the pain until I one day realized that the pain was completely gone. Another example was healing my marriage. God did not heal my marriage quickly. Instead, he led me to work through Alex Kendrick’s and Stephen Kendrick’s The Love Dare as I learned what unconditional love looks like in practice. I had to humble myself in my marriage, doing marriage God’s way, to experience the slow miracle of His healing. Not only did God miraculously heal both me and my marriage, but He transformed me closer to the image of Christ.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Love Dare. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Slow Miracles Lead to Compassion Rather than Judgment

struggle_is_realContinued from here.

In areas of our lives that have never been a struggle, it can be easy to judge others who are struggling. For example, I am not vulnerable to alcoholism. I can drink a beer one day and go months, or even years, without having another beer. Then, if I have a beer again, I have complete freedom about whether to drink a second beer or not. Addiction to alcoholism has never been an issue for me. Thus, in my flesh, it could be easy for me to judge an alcoholic as I expect that person’s experience with alcohol to be the same as mine.

However, I have been addicted to food through an eating disorder, so I have a frame of reference for how difficult it must be for an alcoholic to choose not to drink. I remember the internal drive inside to “stuff down” an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting and how “impossible” it was for me to stop eating/bingeing once I started. Because God healed my addiction slowly, I have deep compassion for someone working through the Alcoholics Anonymous program. I know the challenge of making a healthy choice minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day and how easily months of progress can be cast aside in a moment of weakness. I would not have this empathy if God had not healed me with a slow miracle.

Being judged in an area of one’s deepest weakness is particularly painful. I have been on the receiving end of that type of judgment, and it cuts deeply when someone pours salt onto your open wounds. God fully understands our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and He is gentle with us as He guides us toward what we need to do to participate in His slow miracle. Being healed through a slow miracle helps us better understand how to demonstrate this aspect of God’s character to others who are struggling in their own difficult or impossible situations.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace grimacing and holding up her fist while saying, “The struggle is real.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Empathy Developed through Slow Miracles

forgive_youContinued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, God healing me from the pain of childhood abuse happened slowly as I obeyed His command to forgive them. I did this by praying for them day after day, week and week, and month after month for over a year. I knew I had forgiven them when the pain was gone. If God had miraculously healed that pain instantly, I never would have forgiven them, which would have led me right back to where I started – mired in bitterness, which would have brought more pain. Instead, I am free and refuse to go back into the bondage of bitterness. I choose to forgive anyone who hurts me immediately and pray for each transgressor daily until I no longer feel pain. God not only gave me the tools to participate in the slow miracle of healing the pain from childhood abuse, but He also showed me how to apply those tools in my day-to-day life so I am not mired by bitterness today.

Because God used a slow miracle that required me to exert much effort in obedience to Him, I have deep empathy for those who are mired in unforgiveness. I have not forgotten how difficult unforgiveness is or how distasteful the thought of forgiving a wrongdoer is. I vividly remember all of my own objections: “But they don’t deserve it! You have no idea how deeply they wounded me! Nobody could forgive what they did to me! I have every right to hate them, and I DO hate them!” This deep empathy helps me be gentle as I guide people toward obeying God in this sensitive area.

As an example, I have shared that I am the executive director for a statewide prison ministry. A woman called about potentially volunteering for our post-incarceration ministry. I told her that ALL are welcome, from shoplifters to murderers. I also mentioned that even sex offenders are welcome, which was a stumbling block for her. She had the wisdom to recognize that she was not yet spiritually mature enough to offer comfort to sex offenders who were reentering society. Rather than judge her for this, I told her I understand – and I do! – because if we were having this conversation five years ago, it would be completely different because I used to feel the same way. I told her that I had been victimized by sex offenders as a child, and I was only able to develop compassion for sex offenders after God led me to forgive my own abusers.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a halo and angel wings saying, “I forgive you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]