“The humble live in continuous peace, while in the hearts of the proud are envy and frequent anger.”
Thomas a Kempis
The older I get the more I have realized what a terrible burden it is to be prideful. Thomas a Kempis had it right–nothing steals my contentment, peace, and joy more than the jealousy, anger, and pressure that comes from pride.
In my own life, the cost is evident: How many times has a minor insult ruined my day? How many times has envy kept me from celebrating the success of a friend? And isn’t it ridiculous how competitive moms can be, when the thing we all really need is love and support from one another?
Pride isn’t just a bad thing that we do. Pride kills our joy. It robs us of the sweetness of life.
And yet, I don’t fight pride quite as fiercely as I should. Here’s why:
I’m afraid to pray for humility.
Whenever I pray for humility, I pray with great fear. I pray as if I might get struck by lightening any minute. I pray as if God is going to do something HORRIBLE to me in order to humble me.
As a result of that fear, I pray for humility without much sincerity. Or, I don’t pray for it at all. For me, a prayer for humility is a terrifying prayer.
However, I realized something this week. When I look back on my life, I notice that humility rarely dropped like a hammer on my head. Not usually. Instead, humility often came to me like a gentle hand on the small of my back, guiding me toward the new creation I am intended to be.
I first began to recognize this gentle humbling when I received a compliment that I felt totally unworthy to receive. I was grateful for the compliment, but I felt undeserving. I was humbled by it.
And that got me to thinking…
Isn’t it funny how compliments can have the effect of humbling? Sometimes it is not humiliation but affirmation that inspires you toward the repudiation of pride. In my own life, compliments compel me to be the kind of person who is worthy of such kind words. I might feel unworthy, but I also feel encouraged to grow.
Sometimes, that is exactly how God humbles me. Humility does not always come to me through hardship and trial, but through gracious encouragement and gentle affirmation. Sometimes, God reveals the beauty of a life made small so that He can be made big, and I strive after that smallness all the more, because I am so captured by its power and beauty.
Yes, being humbled can be painful. Deeply so. But it isn’t always. As I look back on the arc of my life, I see that God answered my prayers for humility by humbling me ever so gently. Each day He quietly chiseled at my soul as He shaped and reshaped me, and sometimes it wasn’t painful at all. Sometimes it was exciting, and exhilarating, and sweet.
There is a lie that many of us believe about God, and it is this: God can only grow us through pain and suffering. If God is going to refine us, He must always do it through fire.
This lie comes straight from the pit of Hell. It makes us frightened of God, and frightened of the good work He wants to accomplish in us.
My friend, let me hearten you with this truth: Whenever we ask God to conform our hearts to His, we do not have to fear Him. He loves when we draw near to Him, and does not delight in hurting us.
So I encourage you to join me in praying for humility with confidence. Ask for a humility that sets you free from the bondage of pride, and ask boldly. Not only is God faithful to answer, but He does so ever so gently. He does so with abounding grace. Because that is the kind of God He is, and He loves you.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.