Thou didst say, Woe is me now! for the LORD hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.

Jeremiah 45:3

Each one of us has experienced this before. Taking on a victim mentality, we crab and we pout about the hurt others have caused us. We become downcast and despondent because one after another circumstance, or so it seems, has piled up against us. Navel-gazing, we take on the doom and gloom mindset, crying silently within as Jacob of old, “All these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36b). Or as described by the scribe of Jeremiah named Baruch, we murmur, “Woe is me!”

Regarding this sensitive topic, we must clarify. Pity itself, of course, is not wrong. In fact, we ought to cherish God’s compassion toward us! With lamenting Jeremiah, we find relief in the Lord’s sympathy toward us during our suffering: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22). We ultimately depend on Jehovah’s loving pity upon us.

As we value His compassion toward us, we will show that same love to others. Paul explains in I Corinthians 12:26 that this will be true of members united to the same body of Christ: “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.” How good and necessary it is when our Christian fellowship includes expressions of pity for hurting members in the church. Such are reflections of our merciful God. Implied, then, is the propriety of not only showing pity but also receiving it. Humble reception of sympathy from others is a beautiful benefit of the communion of the saints. Receiving pity in and of itself is not sinful; rather, pity of this kind is God’s gracious gift to His beloved church.

However, self-pity is sinful. It is the selfish turning of pity “inside-out,” or more precisely, “outside-in.” Focused upon self, the heart forgets God’s pity. Without cherishing God’s unfailing compassions, the empty heart craves others to join in his pity party, seeking pity in all the wrong places (for example, the world’s social media). Instead of selflessly showing compassion to others who suffer, the heart turns inward and becomes fixated on “poor me.”

When was the last time you threw yourself such a personal pity party? The question is asked of you, dear reader, so that you might not accuse others of such but so that you might examine yourself regarding the matter. Has your mind been on these things? “Woe is me! My grades are no good, I don’t have any good friends, I lost again, my parents are unfair, people don’t understand me, death has visited, there is sickness I bear, government restrictions are so inconsistent, the leaders of country and state are so liberal, I’m so busy, tired, and stressed, and don’t get me started on all the problems in my church….” We sound a lot like Baruch: “Woe is me now! For the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, I find no rest” (Jer. 45:3).

Proper sorrow is one thing; a pity party is another. When we trap ourselves in this pity-party prison, the first thing we desire is the last thing we need. We do not need someone to join our bitter fest, encourage our pouting, and tell us we have every right to feel this way. Rather, we need someone with a gentle but firm spirit to show us the pity of Christ we need, and then confront us with our selfishness. The prophet Jeremiah, who himself had his difficulties with self-pity, came to Baruch, his struggling scribe, and said, “Thus saith the Lord; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. And seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (Jer. 45:4-5). Baruch needed such a rebuke. And so do we.

God’s Word addresses our self-pity by calling us first to consider the doom and gloom of others. “I’m going to destroy the whole land and bring evil upon all flesh, and you’re thinking about yourself?” Dear reader, there is no denying that “many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Ps. 34:19). You may even suffer a greater degree of pain than others around you. Yet do not consider only your own suffering! Many of us mope about in middle class suburbia, the walls of our self-focus blocking from our mind spiritual brothers and sisters who endure far greater affliction than we can even imagine. We claim that our inconveniences kill us, while our fellow saints actually die for their faith. And more, we forget the misery of so many who live without the comfort of the gospel. So turn outward. Turn outward. That is the proper direction of your pity.

Secondly, God’s Word rebukes us for the pride of self-pity. Ironically, the reason we often feel so deflated is that we have too inflated a view of self. God rebukes Baruch: “Seekest thou great things for thyself?” When we say, “Poor me,” we often include quietly, “I deserve better than this.” We need someone to remind us of the Reformed truth we often forget to apply to ourselves. A totally depraved sinner (yes, I refer to our remaining old man affecting all our thinking, willing, feeling, and doing) deserves nothing good. In fact, sinners like you and me deserve far worse than all the afflictions we endure. We are not mainly victims of others’ sins but chief perpetrators of sin. Our self-pity is another sin that proves this. So bend humbly. Bend humbly. That is the proper posture when the pride of self-pity is exposed.

In the third place, God addresses our self-pity with the truth of the gospel. Although we deserve all things to be against us, God gave up His Son. He showed great compassion to us, by causing His only begotten Son to endure the punishment we deserve: far greater suffering than we pity ourselves for and endure today. What we suffer today cannot even be compared to what He already suffered in our place. And now, God promises with His Son freely to give us all things: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). With great compassion, God works all things for the good of His people in Jesus Christ. So recognize His pity. Recognize His pity. That is the only antidote to self-pity.

In light of that gospel, the sin of our pity party is exposed even more. “Woe is me” is not true. “All these things are against me” is false. When we pity ourselves, we reject His compassion. We ignore the gospel. We claim that Jesus from whom all blessings flow is not enough. Instead of celebrating His grace, we throw our party of ingratitude and unbelief.

Yet His compassions still fail not. So great is His pity that He forgives us of all the selfishness, pride, and unbelief of our self-pity, all for Jesus’ sake. So believe in Jesus. Believe in Jesus.

Once upon a time, a man named Baruch said, “Woe is me.” But his own name contradicted his words. Baruch means “blessed.” Let us learn from his name to confess, “Blessed am I.”