I encountered a classic Chambers phrase in my reading this morning: the “luxury of misery.” Misery doesn’t sound very luxurious, does it? But the more I thought about it, the more I knew he was onto something, especially when he added that this kind of wallowing “puts self-interest on the throne.”
If I imagine that God has left me to my own devices, then my “minor” sins and indulgences begin to look quite reasonable. I begin to think, “Oh, I’m sure God doesn’t intend for my life to sparkle with perfection. That much is clear from my bad knee and the scarce contents of my refrigerator just now. A bit of wordliness isn’t such a big deal.” By such generalizations, a few small hardships can serve to justify the viewing of a racy television show or some other compromise.
Complaining, audibly or otherwise, puts the focus squarely on my own comfort. For all the effort I put into increasing it, comfort is an unhealthy thing. Once I have a good amount of it, it becomes the goal pretty quickly. Especially in America, there are plenty of little comforts that can be had without any expense, and I suppose there’s nothing wrong with enjoying them. But how quickly, and with how little awareness on my part, do I add to those free comforts new ones that I have to displace important things to enjoy? How easily incidental conveniences become the standard I insist on. The shifting of my focus happens without any fanfare.
It’s a bit depressing how naturally self-pity takes over. Though I know it is a sin, it feels like the right thing to bewail the suspension of my right to ease and prosperity. The unspoken logic suggests that I must feel bad about my own troubles since no one else will. As though one way or another someone has got to recognize for the record that I’m getting a raw deal. The entire line of reasoning rests on the assumption that all my plans are supposed to come off without a hitch.
The antidote to all this, of course, is to remember Who is running this show, to trust that all the mishaps and obstacles I’m encountering are tailor-made for me (Romans 8:28). It has to be that God is resolutely working His character into me. All the more reason to swear off the habit of seizing the objects of my own gratification and to disavow my own will. After all, if I got what I wanted all the time, my life would be a colossal mess. It’s a good thing God doesn’t always give us what we ask for.