Friday, February 13, 2009

pride (2) the Valley of Humiliation

In my first post on pride, I told you how God used a series of reminders about pride to get my attention, and then a series of ministry failures to confront me with my pride. In today's post I'd like to talk about the link between suffering and humility.

Until late last year, I couldn’t understood what valleys have to do with pride.

I sang these words with no awareness of how deeply I needed a valley:

When You lead me to the Valley of Vision
I can see You in the heights
And though my humbling wouldn’t be my decision
It’s here Your glory shines so bright
So let me learn that the cross precedes the crown
To be low is to be high
That the Valley’s where You make me more like Christ.
In the Valley

I looked at Cathy’s blog: "It is never comfortable circumstances that teach us humility. It is the painful and disappointing things." Huh? I still wasn't getting it.

I read Pilgrim's Progress and watched Christian, so eager to prove himself better than his fellow pilgrims, stumble down into the Valley of Humiliation (Humility). But it was only on my second or third reading that I noticed it was pride which made the Valley such a dreadful place for him. In the Valley he comes to Forgetful Green, forgets where his gifts and graces come from, and is forced to fight demonic Apollyon. The Valley brings him face to face with his pride.

The Valley of Humiliation is a picture of those times in our lives when circumstances like illness, poverty, or failure bring us low. There are two ways to react to the Valley: the meek enjoy sweet communion with God here, but the proud find it to be a place of terror. The Valley divides people. It shows us who we are. It brings joy to the humble, and humbles the proud.

What's the connection between suffering and humility? As long as things are going well for me - as long as I am wealthy, powerful, intelligent, beautiful, respected, healthy, outwardly godly, or successful - it becomes terrifyingly easy for me to forget God and his grace, and to become smug and self-confident.

We don't even realise we're doing it. But gradually, we stop depending on God in prayer, we become subtly critical of others, and we take our privileges for granted. We accept praise for our achievements with an assumed humility so carefully judged that we fool even ourselves.

It takes suffering to tear the mask away. Failure reveals our dependence on success and praise. Depression shows we're not quite as well-adjusted as we've always assumed. Sorrow shatters our smug self-reliance. Poverty exposes our helplessness. A long struggle with a besetting sin teaches us our need for grace. Such experiences drive home the lesson that I can't make it on my own, that I'm not strong enough, that I'm dependent on Another.

Only those who are proud need fear a fall. For God "opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (Jam 4:6).

images are from stock.xchng

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