An old Christian man said to my friend, "Our biggest problem is self-pity." And because he was old and because he was Christian and because it was an oddly specific thing to say, I mulled it over for days and found a lot of truth in it. I was shocked to realize the extent to which we can spend year after year in self-pity-and not even know it.
Self-pity must be one of those "designs" Paul had in mind by which Satan "outwits us" (2 Corinthians 2:11). And the interesting thing about Satan's designs is that they are always along the lines of unreality. Christ lives in the pure light of reality and wants us to fellowship with Him (1 John 3:1) in that place. When Christ says to walk in "truth," He means what we mean by "reality."
Name any sin you can think of and it is a seduction into abiding in unreality: fear of man (other people aren't really thinking about you as much as you think they are), pride of intellect (it is only those who become like children who know God truly), giving your husband the silent treatment to teach him a good lesson (you think it will make him "come around" but it is only whittling away at his affection), obsessive amassing wealth (Christ is your only security), unforgiveness (you are blind to the fact that you need forgiving, too).
Self-pity is such a delusion that people can even prefer it to joy. C.S. Lewis describes the phenomenon through a fictional character in a way that may make you squirm:
"We have all done it a bit on earth, you know. Pity … can be used for a kind of blackmailing. Those who choose misery can hold joy up to ransom, by pity. You see, I know now. Even as a child you did it. Instead of saying you were sorry, you went and sulked in the attic … because you knew that sooner or later one of your sisters would say, 'I can't bear to think of him setting up there alone, crying.' You used your pity to blackmail them, and they gave in in the end. And afterwards, when we were married … oh, it doesn't matter, if only you will stop it."
It is only when you have come out of the land of self-pity that you are able to look back in horror at how much time you wasted in unreality. From the clear-eyed state of Christ-like obedience, the place that had been your entire emotional environment now appears to you the way God and all your family saw it all along-an area the size of a snowflake.
Let us catch every whiff of self-pity and promptly replace it with thanksgiving. This is God's tried and true means of escape from it (Philippians 4:6) and no one has ever improved on His method. You can always find something to thank Him for. Even if it's only for your salvation.