The Joy in Humility

My husband recently told me, “I feel like you’re constantly disappointed with me, no matter what I do or how hard I try.” My initial (sinful) response was to say, “Well, just do what you’re supposed to do and I won’t feel disappointed!”. We both laughed and then proceeded to have a serious conversation. We have a unique relationship.

But his comment continued to stick with me, because this is a recurring struggle for me. I feel disappointed a lot in life. After some reflection I was able to identify the main cause of my frustration: I often feel that I am owed something more than I am getting.

For me, the feelings of being overwhelmed and disappointment walk hand in hand. I look around and see everything that’s on my plate, all of the tasks, all of the responsibilities, and I think, “Why does it always have to fall on me?”. This is the crack through which feelings of discontentment worm their way in. Thoughts like, “I am under-appreciated and unvalued. I am overworked. No one realizes how much I am contributing.” quickly follow. In my resentment, I look around for someone to blame.

I am not the only person who experiences these things. Many of us feel overlooked at work. Someone else is always getting the accolades and promotions we deserve. Some of us come home to ungrateful children or demanding spouses. Our schedules are often dictated by the needs of everyone but us. Some days I feel like everyone wants a piece of me, and by the time I crawl into bed at night, there’s not much left of the woman who woke up that morning. Hence my desire to escape to the Caribbean. Maybe my missing pieces can be found in a hammock beside the ocean. 

Our study in humility has opened my eyes to see that feeling overwhelmed, overworked and unappreciated does not necessarily have to lead to disappointment. Instead, these feelings can be a doorway for something better than escape. God is at work creating something beautiful. He is crafting the character and nature of his humble Son in me. 

  Listen to the experience of this humble Son from Isaiah 53: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (v. 3, 4, 7) 

The life of Jesus was one of constant service. Everybody wanted a piece of him. The crowds crushed in, each one demanding their slice of Jesus. It was exhausting work, and yet Jesus embraced it wholeheartedly without complaint. He didn’t just check out and go through the motions of healing. He saw and knew the pain in everyone’s story. He could have closed his ears and blocked his heart from feeling, but instead he transferred their griefs and sorrows to his shoulders. He made time for those that were undervalued. He allowed his days to be shaped by our needs and never demanded the rights and privileges that were rightfully his.

You would expect a man like this to receive every promotion and accolade that we could give him! But that wasn’t the case for Jesus. Instead of receiving the gratitude he deserved, Jesus’ life ended in humiliation and rejection. He died unvalued and unappreciated. “He was despised, and we did not esteem him.” (v. 3)

Why would Jesus put himself through all of this? Andrew Murray tells us of the heart that motivated Jesus: “If it had not been for his boundless humility, he never would have died.” The humble heart of Jesus followed the Father, even when he was led up a hill and laid upon a cross. He never opened his mouth to complain or express disappointment in the plan. He courageously resigned himself to trust in the goodness of his Father, even when that goodness led through so much pain. 

Like Jesus, our path of humility must also lead through death: death to self. Paul says it so well in 2 Corinthians 12: our weakness, our frailty, our pain forces us to die to self and rely on the power of God. We learn to humbly lean on his chest when we feel overwhelmed and insufficient for the task ahead. We learn to listen for his voice when the voices around us are critical or dismissive. We learn the best kept secret of all—that in humility there is great joy. 

It makes me sad that my husband feels my disappointment. That is not the person I long to be. I want to be a woman that ushers in the presence of Christ with me wherever I go. But I cannot carry within me the spirit of Christ and the spirit of disappointment. They are incompatible, for one springs from humility and the other is born of pride. To embrace humility, I must allow Jesus to lead me like the lamb that I am. I must learn to listen for his voice. 

When I feel unappreciated, it is an opportunity to lean on Christ and hear him say, “I have crowned you with glory and honor.” When I feel weak and overwhelmed, he says, “My power is made perfect in your weakness.” When I feel unseen and unappreciated, he sings over me, “I rejoice over you and delight in you!” Every night when my tired body crawls into bed, he tucks me in and stands watch saying, “I am with you always. I will never leave you or forsake you.” When I look up from the heavy burdens in this life and see that he has yoked himself to me, this place that felt like a prison of disappointment becomes a place of joy. 

For he is here with me, and in his presence is fullness of joy.