“If you dwell on your own feelings about things rather than dwelling on the faithfulness, the love, and the mercy of God, then you’re likely to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Our feelings are fleeting and ephemeral, aren’t they? We can’t depend on them for five minutes at a time. But dwelling on the love, faithfulness, and mercy of God is always safe.”
One day just before Christmas I returned from the post office, parked the car in the driveway, and sat there alone for a good two hours, consumed in my own pity party. Here we were in the midst of the most joyous season of all, and I was among men most miserable. I scanned social media to find others who had more cause to be miserable than I, and I found some. A widower friend is facing his first Christmas without his wife, another friend is recovering from a fall down the stairs, and a third is continuing to support her husband in a years’ long battle with cancer. This third friend floored me by sharing the quote above by Elisabeth Elliot. If anyone has an excuse to wallow in self-pity, it is she. Yet she refuses. Instead, she and her husband both choose every day to trust God, even though they do not understand why He has chosen to send them down this road.
The words I read sank in, and the tears that had been bottled up inside me broke loose and began to flow, because at last I was sorry for my sin… the sin of doubt, the sin of self-pity, the sin of anxiety, and the sin of selfishness. Do I have cause for self-pity? Perhaps, by some standards. But my God’s mercy shines brightest when the night is darkest. And right now my night is pretty dark. How much better would it be for me to look up and see the light of His mercy shining on me than to wallow in the murk of my own selfish sorrow.
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Elisabeth Elliot’s writing has greatly influenced my life, even as a grown married woman. I truly wish someone had introduced me to her works when I was a teenager, but I am learning that it is never too late to incorporate the principles she teaches: namely, that passion is not sinful and purity is not prudish. Nor are they mutually exclusive. You can have both.