As humans, our pride and ego can get in the way. A lot.
In the way of good deeds.
In the way of relationship and intimacy.
In the way of integrity and vulnerability.
In the way of our health and well-being.
In the way of our faith and future.
How hard it is, to be humble.
As soon as you try to be humble, you realise how horrible a human you really are and that everything about you is selfish and you shouldn’t try at all because you’re such a hypocrite and not a very good person. Surely God wouldn’t want anything good for someone who is so double-natured, so at war within, so unable to keep his precepts… Or would he?
The thing that is extraordinary about God is that he is good.
And his goodness is not based on our goodness.
We don’t earn or receive God’s grace by effort. By trying and striving we don’t gain favour in the eyes of man or God. All are under the power of sin (Romans 3:10). All fall short of the glorious standard of God (Romans 3:23). And all are therefore in great need of Jesus, the one who breaks the power that sin holds over us (Romans 6:6-7).
Salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:4). The unfathomable nature of grace is that we don’t deserve it, and we could never earn it, which is why it is a gift from God. One of my favourite words at the moment is “propriation”. A word that embodies the power of the cross in changing us from creatures of wrath, enemies of God, to works of grace. The punishment we deserve for our sins is extinguished – what once separated us from God is replaced, substituted, redeemed – by the blood of Jesus; an offering and sacrifice freely given as a gift that we receive in reverence.
But oh how stubborn we can be.
To think we deserve more than what we have already received in Christ. We can get so caught up in a greed game, fighting for our way, selfishly considering our own name before God’s fame. A part of our human tendencies is this assertion, which starts from a young age, that we are right and that anything that goes against our will or way is wrong. Unfortunately, what springs in childhood innocence can continue into our adult lives. We can remain ignorant in our unbelief, in our inability to believe in something beyond self. We so often fail to believe there is a will and way that is much higher and mightier than our way.
That is, we can get so caught up in the natural that we don’t fathom the supernatural.
We are stubborn.
A humbling example to share from my own life relates to sickness (hence, the title of this post!). Due to past traumas, my trust of doctors and medical professionals has unfortunately been tainted. In response, I have many-a-time chosen to resist the urge to check in on my health, rejecting the opinions and suggestions of friends, family and even doctors. I have endured grief, suffering and pain – self-inflicted, you might say – by refusing to follow up on various ailments, take any form of prescribed medication, or listen to medical advice.
I am a sickly stubborn human.
Now, while my response makes sense given previous experience, it does not make it right or wise. I allowed the failings and mistakes of other humans to determine my future movements. I have always told myself that God is my great healer (which of course he is!) yet failed to humbly accept his ability to work in and through those who have been trained to treat illness within the health systems of society.
Such behaviour was bred from the fear that others would misdiagnose me and make more mistakes; which is inevitable in one sense, since no one is perfect, yet not guaranteed, given God’s sovereignty. I didn’t trust others to take care of me, yet what that revealed – more strikingly – was that I didn’t trust God to take care of me. I didn’t trust his power and dominion over me, over others, over this world.
See – he has the ability to intervene, to take charge over our health and wellbeing,
to take full authority according to his will and purpose and in alignment with his ultimate plan.
There is something to say here. Something we can learn in how we can act and react from places of irrationality, though seeming rational and logical. Something I do not at all advise is living from suspicion and fear based on past traumas.
Do not allow any wounds or damage to harden you,
to create a stubborn surface for the pride and ego
to get in the way of you humbling admitting
your own inability to take care of yourself.
Jesus, when he came, told us that he did not come for the healthy, but the sick (Matthew 9:12-3). And despite my example of a physical sickness to demonstrate how we can be stubborn humans, there are many emotional, mental, spiritual – even ethical and intellectual – ways we can be sickly stubborn.
We are in need of a doctor to treat areas where our consciences are contaminated,
unable to conceive and therefore perceive and receive the testimony and truth of Jesus.
How hard it is, to be humble.
Yet, it is not about being humble so much as it is about being humbled – in submitting, allowing God to work in our lives, as his Spirit tranforms our hearts and minds. We conform to his will and purpose when we allow ourselves to be changed in this way – obedience through submission. What a reflection of the Cross, where Christ made a way for us to be saved from our sin, our wrong-standing before God. Through his obedience – submitting to the point of death – we are delivered to a status of grace before God, a right-standing in Christ.
Here, we only need submit to life, to Christ, the one who makes us alive and well through the healing power of his Spirit. As he redeems and restores, we turn from love of self to love of God and others. And what’s more, our sickly stubborn selves turn from trusting in self to trusting in God.
Now, before I finish, if my last post on Psalm 23 didn’t convince you that God-coincidences are a thing – then brace yourselves.
I wrote this post a few months ago. But I withheld posting. Then, the last two week happened. What can the God of the universe do and reveal and speak and breathe into being in a few mere weeks? Jonah-style, God ‘brought up my life from the pit’ (2:6), and as ‘my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord‘ (2:7).
In the past few weeks, I have been in deep agony due to back pain. I was not sure if my spine was going to break, if I had bruised something, if I were going to be paralysed from this pain. And typical me, I tried to push through and ignore it. I was told that in the acute inflammation stage to just wait before seeing a physio. And with university and working full days who had time for that anyway? But by one of the Thursdays I had a headache. And not a normal headache.
That night, my body was involuntarily shaking-all-over ft. teeth-chattering and strange sobs-among-screaming.
My thoughts were a whole lot like Jonah’s prayer:
‘The waters closed in over me to take me life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds wrapped around about my head
at the roots of the mountain (2:5).
Engulfed in the pain, all I could think about was Jesus. How much grief he must have been in on the Cross. I had never known such pain. If his pain was beyond the pain I was experiencing in that moment – when my own heart was crying out for my cup of suffering to be taken from me – then how excruciating it must have been for him when bearing the weight of all our sins, suffering in our place once and for all. And by choice.
Now I won’t go into the details of the medical condition that has left me bed-ridden and pale and lacking in vibrance the past few weeks, but I will tell you what I knew in that moment of pain, when the only thing I could say was “God will bring good from this“:
I knew that God’s promises were true.
I knew that God is good.
And that God is good to me.
And that God is good at being God.
(These are three truths another Christian, Lysa Terkheurst, claimed when also experiencing a medical emergency). I may have desired to die multiple times in the past few weeks while battling a ghastly E.Coli in multiple organs, but in my grief I knew God would bring good from this misery. He was with me. Surrounded by God-sent support, I returned to Psalm 23. For in the valley of the shadow of death, not only are we to fear no evil, but we are to claim in faith God’s goodness to us.
“Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life”.
Indeed, it is hard to say when all is not good. But that makes it all the more relevant and increasingly important. We need to proclaim in faith God’s promises to us in Christ. Faith is for those days when we don’t turn a corner, when we don’t see any change, when we cannot see God’s goodness and healing. And we aren’t promised the healing this side of eternity.
But God has consistently and clearly shown me how he has authority over life and death. He has shown me how deeply he loves me and cares for me even when I cannot care for myself … and even when I did not care for my life, wishing to greet death to end the pain. I am incredibly grateful to God. All the little things are all the more special – food in the mouth that is appetising, a bed without hospital monitor beeping.
God used an empathetic and thorough doctor, a smooth and seamless system, and a horrible hospital experience to show me how he truly does care for me, and does wish to restore me, and longs for me to regain strength to do his work here on earth. Even when there was a time where I was so empty, so faint that I couldn’t see if I were getting better, he was filling and meeting my every need. And I know that he also longs to restore you and show you how he cares for you, how his goodness flows.
The question is, will you trust him?
May God’s grace abound to you this day, so that you might fathom your place before him, resting in his sufficiency, rather than your own efficiency or ability.
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
– Matthew 9:12-3
“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”
– Romans 6:6-14