In self-pity we take our eyes off of God and focus them on ourselves—our circumstances, our difficulties, our weaknesses. It shouldn’t surprise us, therefore, that we aren’t making decisions with the glory of God in view. The final week of Jesus’ life is instructive. Ultimately it would be his commitment to the glory of God that guided his thoughts away from the trap of self-pity.
When You’re Frightened, Live for His Glory.
In the final week of his life, Jesus spoke with great transparency of his soul’s emotional condition. On Tuesday of the Passion Week, one of his disciples brought to him a group of non-believers. The teaching moment prompted Jesus to speak about his death. In so doing, he opened up a window onto his soul. Jesus spoke of a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies that it might bring forth much fruit. The conversation reminded him of his own impending death. He responded with the phrase, “Now is my soul troubled.” There is a sense of violence to the word “troubled” that eludes our English language. The Greek root word tarasso is used elsewhere in the Bible to reveal one’s condition at the loss of a loved one.
As a pastor, I have been, on more than one occasion, the bearer of the news that a loved one has died. I have heard uncontrollable wailing. I have seen sheer terror in the eyes of a young boy at the news of his father’s death. I have seen the body shake uncontrollably as emotions reject restraint. When a parent loses a child, sometimes the soul refuses to be comforted. I have heard of people that responded to this kind of news with vomiting or by losing consciousness. This is the very word that Jesus chose to describe how his soul felt with only a few days between himself and the cross. The fear moved him to prayer—even though a crowd had gathered—and that prayer reveals his focus. He says, “Now is my soul troubled (tarasso). And what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
With overwhelming fear rising in his soul, Jesus riveted his attention on the glory of God. It was his greatest desire even if it would mean his death.
When You’re Disappointed, Live for His Glory.
Occasionally in my ministry I’ve known the disappointment of someone who walked away from what I’d taught them. Perhaps in your life you’ve experienced a similar event. Consider the disappointment that Jesus faced in the final week of his life. On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus gathered the disciples for a final evening of fellowship and instruction. Luke recorded that Jesus actually looked forward to their final hours together. Over dinner, a debate broke out among the disciples over who was to be the greatest. They were in the mood to bicker, but in no mood to serve.
Imagine the situation from Jesus’ perspective: three years of selfless ministry, his sacrificial death less than twenty-four hours away, and still they’re arguing. That’s enough to push anyone into the self-pity chasm. But look at his response: “Jesus . . . rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
Remarkable. Where we would see an opportunity for self-pity, Jesus saw an opportunity for service. Jesus did this without fanfare or attention; he took no credit for his actions when the last foot was washed. He was as much a servant as he was a host. There was no sense of entitlement; he chose a spirit of humility instead. With that humility came the desire to pursue his Father’s glory and not his own. The apostle Paul captured it this way,”Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
When we don’t feel the need to get the glory, we are more prone to serve. And when we give the glory to God, we are most like Jesus.
Taken from Dead End Desire: biblical strategies for overcoming self-pity