In my line of work I lead a lot of public events. A few days ago I was trying to lead an event I was not meant to be leading, although I saw myself at the time as offering helpful suggestions to the leader. Thankfully this was a friend of mine and a couple of lovingly frank conversations have taken our friendship deeper. They have also helped me recognise something that I doubt is unique to me: some of the most stressful times I have are when I want to be in control but am not. That desire for control itself often stems from insecurity.
Now, as you may have noticed from previous posts, I have been reading through some old journals. In the midst of thinking about my reactions the other night, I read some notes I made 6 years ago about humility. They’re from a talk by James Ryle, who I’ve mentioned before, reflecting on 1 Peter 5:5-7 in the Bible:
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him.
Ryle’s main points:
- God calls us to be humble. The dictionary defines humble as ‘pitiable, subdued, disgraced, shamed’. Yet the Bible defines humility by pointing to Jesus. Just read Philipians 2:5-11 or John 13:1-11. So what is humility?
- Humility is: “God given self-assurance that eliminates the need to prove to others the worth of who you are and the rightness of what you do.”
- Do read Philipians 2 and John 13. Jesus demonstrates humility in coming to earth as a man and in washing the disciples’ feet. What lay behind his humility? Not being ‘shamed’ but rather the opposite – he knew beyond doubt his value and worth. “Being in very nature God” and knowing that “the Father had put all things under his feet” he simply did what he was called to do, no need to prove himself or gain approval.
- Humility, then, comes when we are secure in the Father’s love – when we know we are loved and valued so have no need to prove it by what we do.
Amazing as this truth is, you may well have heard it before, but Ryle went on to say something that hit me afresh:
How do we humble ourselves? 1 Peter 5:7 gives the answer – “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”. The word we translate ‘cast’ is not a gentle word like a free flowing fishing line, rather it has a sense of violence and urgency – ‘hurl’ your anxieties away – just get rid of them! Throw them away and don’t fish them back up. Get rid of every ‘care’ – every concern that pulls us in different directions, taking our eyes off the constant, faithful Father who walks into each situation with us.
Back to the event I mentioned trying to lead. I got stressed. I tried to take control. I did so because I was worried. I had a number of different concerns on my mind: timings for the new way we were doing things, people’s opinions about how it all went, a number of particular concerns brought to my attention before the evening began. I can strongly relate to that sense of being pulled in different directions and then, when the leader didn’t seem to do exactly what I would have, I tried to step in. Behind all this essentially lay a fear about what people would think if it all went wrong, but I don’t think I ever really considered what ‘going wrong’ meant.
How different would it have been if my eyes stayed on God? Recognising His presence and His character – that He is in control. If I had ‘hurled’ each concern to God as soon as it came to me? I’m not talking about irresponsibility or not caring about things that come up. I’m talking about pausing, reminding myself that God is in control, and asking what He wants me to do.
It’s not a new thought that this might be a less stressful way to live, but I have never made the link to humility before. Anxiety, cares, fear are so often behind our pride and control. Humility, the conviction of God’s love and confidence in His faithfulness that removes any need to prove ourselves, comes from throwing every concern to Him.
So here’s what I’m trying out: giving up control for Lent. Not ignoring cares or concerns, but bringing everything to God before I try to run off and sort it myself. Guess what – this is something you can try too!