For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
In a candid moment, I might tell you that I am often tempted to self-pity. In truth, I have indulged in it far too often. Of course, it could be argued that I have a good excuse to do so, for my peculiar set of issues includes migraines, arthritis in my spine and big toe joints, muscle spasms in my neck and upper spine… well, it can be a lot. Suffice to say that most days it is not so much a question of if pain is present but to what extent.
But I have learned that even the best excuses do not negate sin when it is present. When I have chosen to feel sorry for my poor little self, my Father has brought it to my attention that the root of my self-pity is self-focus. Self-focus is, of course, just a tidier-sounding name for idolatry. In short, it is sin.
In dealing with chronic pain, one thing I have learned above all else is that when my focus is on myself, my circumstances, or even the pain, it overwhelms me. I feel a bit like Peter who asked the Lord if he could join Him walking across the water – and he did! At least, he did until he took a look at the storm all around him. Then poor Peter began to sink (see Matthew 14:28-31).
When I take my eyes off the Lord and fix them on my problems, I also begin to sink into despair or self-pity. In my case, the words of Romans 8:6 are very literal – if my mind is set on my malfunctioning flesh, it leads to death of joy, of peace, of patience, and other such things.
However, if I can set my mind on the Author and Perfecter of my faith, the One who endured so much in order to set my mind free from sin, I find that my self-pity is replaced by reverence and awe. My joy is renewed. My hope is restored.
Rather than worrying about my own suffering, fixing my mind on the Spirit of God reminds me to see instead the suffering of those around me. Often, their suffering is far greater than my own, particularly if they do not share the hope I have in Christ and the undercurrent of joy in Him that is pervasive even in my darkest moments.
Gracious Father, today I publicly repent of idolatry of self. Please forgive me for every time past that I have failed to trust You in the midst of pain or difficulty, displaying a fixation on the problems rather than setting my mind on Your Spirit. You are enough for me; help me not to forget it in a time of testing. Fix my mind firmly on You, increasing my faith and giving me unwavering trust in Your name and ways. Use me – pain and all – for Your glory and let the life and peace of the Holy Spirit shine brightly through me to help those around me, amen.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.