“A great man is always willing to be little.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
― Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869–1948)
SOONER or later the circumstances of our lives run south enough that the humility-of-humiliation comes rapturing, with thunderbolts and lightning cracks, to expose our pride. Even the very thought is humbling.
Reading 1 Kings 18 and 19 recently, God reminded me of Elijah. Having had a great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he is quickly assailed by the spirit of Jezebel into fear, fatigue, failure, and flight. He isolates himself. He becomes depressed. He falls into a deep sleep, wakes to eat, then sleeps some more. Elijah’s humiliation came in the form of the spirit of Jezebel, which is a spirit of fear and isolation, of power and control, and of subversive manipulation. We have all been oppressed by such a spirit, as we have all been tempted to embody such a spirit. But God has a purpose in us rebuking such a spirit of oppression.
We rebuke it by spiritual obedience; an allegiance to the Lord our God, alone.
We bear the humiliation the best we can. We see the big picture reality – that what Jesus bore was so much more than our First World problem (if indeed that is what it is!).
The Blessings of the Works of Humility
I wonder at the work
God desires to do in me.
I wonder for the sake
Of His sweet Divinity.
His provision and command
Is to shelter me from above,
Through means I’m certain
Where I’ve no doubt, but to love.
The greatest witness we have for Christ is the love we have for one another. This love is made manifest, in and through us, when we love the one who hurts us by betrayal, disappointment, or lack of consideration. Forgiveness is what will set us apart as ‘Christian’. The only thing I can ‘do’ for God is be faithful enough to trust and obey.
Humiliation has its greatest outworking by our response of humility when we are transgressed. It’s possible to respond by trusting obedience. Not only is it possible, always, but it’s blessed. It’s the response of faith. So, humiliation can be used by God as a character refining tool, from his armory for our good.
Humility’s greatest, most salient test is what we do under the circumstances of humiliation. If we react in pride, which is our default, we don’t meet humility’s silent challenge. But if we respond in love, trusting God, obeying in the Spirit, greater blessings of humility are ours and glory goes to God.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Disclaimer: one humiliation that is not in focus for this article is the receiver of abuse. Victims of abuse will not ‘resolve’ their humiliations with humility.