I’ve recently been hearing so much about humility that it’s forced me to take a moment and reflect. At church the other day, a good friend of mine gave a small talk based upon the premise that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” We all know, upon examining scripture, that this is a reference to Proverbs 3:34. This verse is expounded upon in the writing of James in chapter 4, where it is quoted in verse 6, and built upon in verses 7-10: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (ESV)
I love the correlation here between humbling oneself and mourning. I think that, all too often, believers are encouraged to “let go and let God,” to “surrender it to Him,” or to “trust the Lord,” as if those things magically remove the pain from our hearts when we encounter difficult circumstances. This is certainly an act of humbling oneself, but I believe it also becomes one of deception when we refuse to acknowledge grief or sadness. Much like sin (we see this elsewhere in James), grief and hurting can only really be healed when we finally admit that we need healing. Sometimes, we’re like small children who have cut our hands playing somewhere off-limits. We return to our parents, simply because we have nowhere else to go, and instead of raging about our disobedience, our Father simply beckons to us and says, “Show me where you’ve been hurt.”
Part of humility is an unrelenting honesty about the state of our hearts. When we humble ourselves, He is faithful to lift us up; that means that He will be faithful to heal our heavy hearts.
But how precisely does this God, this loving Father, this Great Comforter, heal us?
Does God heal us Himself, by His spirit, independent of other people; does He use new relationships and friends to comfort our hearts; or does He allow some of our hurts to remain, in order that we might find our comfort in the promise of His eventual return at the end of the age? This question could occupy our minds for the better part of our lives without ever truly being answered fully; however, for our purposes here, it is worth discussing. I believe the Lord uses all of these things and more to heal our hearts, and to prepare us for the Kingdom of God, both here-and-now and in the age to come.
This one should come as fairly obvious, and thus will not be discussed in as much length, for it’s a truth every believer knows, confesses, and takes heart in: He is our Great Comforter (John 14:26, where the Holy Spirit is referred to as our Comfort); He is our refuge (Psalm 46:1-3). The Holy Spirit himself comforts our hearts, speaking through the Word of God. According to Isaiah 58:6-11, when we care for the oppressed and act as justice-seekers for those who need justice, He is faithful to heal us, and our gloom “will be like the noonday”; that is, it will become light. While this message is contextually for the Israelite people, we as 21st century Christians can glean much wisdom from it. Rather than focusing on our own healing, we should seek to share the Lord with others, not only in the preaching of the Gospel but also in taking care of those who need to be taken care of. It echoes something Jesus says in Matthew about seeking first the Kingdom of God, and its righteousness; then, all things will be added to us as well. In this sense, we simply obey, since “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam.15:22), and trust the Lord to be faithful.
The Lord’s heart to heal is all over Scripture. He is faithful, too. Even before Israel had a king, in the time of the Judges, He always appointed someone to save His people, even though it was their unfaithfulness that caused their pain. How crazy awesome is that? Even when it is our own sin that causes us to be harmed, He is STILL faithful to heal us! He doesn’t even abandon Israel when she is unfaithful in the years of the United and Divided Monarchies; rather, He is constantly sending prophets who preach a word of forgiveness and repentance to a faithless and loveless bride. One needs simply to read Psalm 40 to realize the depth of God’s commitment to healing and delivering His people: “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Verses 1-2, ESV). This is what He does. He heals.
Another key point to remember is the truth that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), and therefore, at the basest level, every good thing that brings joy to our hearts, be it a song, a relationship, or even the sunrise, is ultimately from the Lord. Make no mistake: He is the source. He always has been and always will be. This could go on for ages. I’d like to move on to a slightly more controversial topic in part 2!