Sometimes, it is really easy for me to feel left out and forgotten. Like everyone has (or will have) their happily ever after except me. Sometimes I feel like I’m the one carrying all the weight and being the one everyone leans on like the perfect invincible side character with no one to help shoulder the burdens. Sometimes I feel like the things I do have no meaning, my goals feel impossible, and the things I’m passionate about have no purpose.
Feelings can lie to us, but they are real at the same time. Dissatisfaction, discontentment, loneliness, burnout, and impatience are real. And feelings are okay. It’s how we deal with them and address them in our minds that leads us toward sin or toward Christ.
For myself, I know the tendency is to dwell on the source of pain, take a detour down memory lane, throw a pity party, and shed a few selfish tears over what I believe I’m missing. Pure selfishness. All about me.
What I’m forgetting in those moments is that God allowed me to be in that season, which means that where I am is good, regardless of how I feel about it. Where I am is where I’m supposed to be as long as I am moving toward Christ. I can be content knowing that He has given me everything I need for this season.
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”Philippians 4:11-13
I can do all things He calls me to through Christ who gives me strength to accomplish them. It isn’t about me and the things I’m “missing out” on. These verses are very familiar (and often taken out of context), but we need to take a closer look.
Paul has been talking for this entire letter about the church’s focus and is using himself as an example. At the time of writing, he was imprisoned in Rome, having endured all kinds of mistreatment and hardship, yet he says:
“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel”Philippians 1:12
Can we say the same? Has the gospel been advanced because of the things which have happened to us? Because of that painful relationship or difficult decision or awkward situation? Or have we allowed ourselves to become distracted by our circumstances and comparing them with our desires?
How easily you and I lose focus. This world is not our home; our goals ultimately are not here.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”Philippians 3:20
Kingdom-minded living is not easy. Scripture tells us that the day is coming quickly and no one knows exactly when, just that as believers we need to be ready. Paul gives us instructions on how to be ready:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”Philippians 4:4-9
Notice that the focus is fully on the Lord and our witness to others. Nothing about ourselves. That means the pity party has to go.
It is fully a human desire to have certain relationships, responsibilities, and goals fulfilled, and nothing is inherently wrong with wanting them. But the point we come to when all we can think about is the lack, we’ve lost our focus.
Part of our self-pity, I think, also comes from wanting recognition. We pause too early in our race to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.” We want acknowledgment. Some encouragement that we are doing His will. That we’ve been a good friend, that we’ve loved our neighbor well, that we’ve proclaimed the Gospel rightly, that we’ve served the church diligently… sometimes God grants us that vanity, but think about it: When you are at work and have a list of tasks to do, do you look for a thank you when you complete the list? A promotion or a raise? Maybe sometimes, but certainly not everyday. You did what was expected of you. Being a Christian is the same.
“‘And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”Luke 17:7-10
We do our duty and go on, consistently loving and following the Lord, even in dry seasons. In seasons where we have fire and passion, we may do more than the basic “expectation,” but it is still our job as Christians.
We have done our duty. No thanks needed.
But you… have you thanked the Lord for His goodness and grace? Have you counted your blessings and realized there are more than you can number? Have you cried tears of gratitude for what the Lord has done for you?
Let’s continue each season there.