This morning I lost at squash. That’s normal. How badly I lost at squash was a whole other story. In previous weeks I had thought that I’d been making progress, getting better. This morning, however, I don’t think I could have made a shot if we had’ve been using a beach ball.
That’s embarrassing. It’s super-frustrating for lots of reasons. For one thing, I hate knowing that I’m ruining the game for the people I’m playing against, who are actually good and would have a lot more fun playing against other people that are good. For another thing, I’m not a bad athlete. I mean, I’m no Neon Deion or anything, but I can generally at least play most sports when I set my mind to it. Apparently not so much with squash.
As I was showering I thought to myself, ‘Well, at least it’s good for my humility.’ And that made me feel a little bit better. But then I thought again and realized I was wrong. The event itself is not good for my humility any more than winning every game 9-0 would be good for my humility.
The only thing that makes one event or another ‘good for my humility’ is what I choose to do with it. How will I respond? If I respond with self-pity, I’m developing pride. If I get angry, I’m fleshing out my pride. If I get sullen and withdrawn, I’m acting out on pride that says I should have better than what I actually do have. But if I take a step back and apply truth, I can take either failure or success and make it an opportunity to grow in humility.
What kind of truth do I need to apply? I need to ask questions of hope, joy, life, and meaning.
Why does losing at squash make me feel hopeless or worthless? What was I looking for in that game that is being denied? Why would I believe that joy could be found in being esteemed as a good athlete? Why in the world would I think that my identity should be tied up in how I can play a game?
Squash is a bit of a silly example, but it serves to display a point that I think is worth thinking about.
One of the tremendous honours that comes with pastoral ministry is being privy to the different struggles and hardships of people’s lives. Whether it’s just living in a fallen world where we have trials of various kinds or battling against horrible sin, people all around are struggling with hardships. What I’m eager to point out here is that it is a lie of Satan to think that merely going through hardships will be good for developing humility. Circumstances can be used as tools to develop humility as you choose how to respond to life, but circumstances themselves will never do the hard work of preaching to your heart.
Circumstances may point out the vanity and superficiality of joy in this world and in this life, but the only thing that will produce humility is taking the truths of God’s word and applying them to your heart.
For the Christian, our identity is in Christ. Our hope is in his finished work. Our joy is in fellowship with God. Life is found in communion with his Spirit. Our purpose is entirely wrapped up with Christ and his purposes for us.
So what situations are ‘good for your humility’? All those which you choose to take as opportunities to remind yourself of your meaningless, purposelessness, hopelessness apart from Christ. Each and every situation which provides you opportunity to remind yourself that your joy, hope, comfort, peace, and identity are tied up in the gospel of Christ. Every one of those circumstances becomes good for for your humility because it’s a circumstance that you use to preach your need of Christ’s finished work on your behalf to yourself. And there’s nothing more humbling than that.