Sometimes we're just so overwhelmed with work, family, and perhaps even church work that we can't help feeling weighed down with burden and weariness, unable to experience the joy and freedom that God has promised. Coming home from class one day, I found my house a mess—the dishes needed washing, socks needed picking up, the kids needed attention—and I still had to make time for church and school work. I wanted to scream at the top of my voice, "Give me a break!"
I felt resentful and totally fed up. "Life is so unfair!" I protested to myself. All these responsibilities piled up like weights on my shoulders. I wondered, "Is this the kind of life God intended for me?"
Humility Is the Key
One night during service, we turned to Matthew 11:28. The gracious words of our Lord Jesus reached out to me: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." I thought, "That's exactly what I need, but how?" Verses 29 and 30 explained, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
That night, the Lord Jesus gave me the answer that I'd been searching for! He instructed me to learn from Him, to be gentle and humble in heart. Only then would my soul find rest. But I had one question: what is a "humble heart"? The meaning of humility is so abstract. How can one grasp it? I was determined to find the answer.
Taking the Focus off Yourself
An interesting fact about humility and pride came to my attention as I read a Christian publication. It explained that humility is focused outward, while pride is focused inward. In other words, pride is self-seeking, but humility is not. This didn't seem to make sense at first, but upon further research, it made perfect sense to me. Humility is not about denying compliments or degrading yourself. It's about not thinking of self at all.
When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses kept making excuses until God's anger burned against him (Ex 4:14). Why was God angry with him for saying such humble statements as "Who am I?" and "I am not eloquent"? By saying these things, he was exalting his own opinion over God's command. He was saying that he knew himself better, that God had chosen the wrong guy.
Furthermore, Moses wasn't thinking about the freedom of his fellow Israelites but about himself. He was worried about the possibility of making a fool of himself before a multitude of people, even after God assured him time and time again that He would be with him. Moses was worried about his own abilities rather than trusting in the power of God.
Saul and David are also classic biblical examples demonstrating the characteristics of pride vs. humility. When Saul heard the women singing and exalting David above himself (1 Sam 18:7), he was angry and jealous. Why? Because Saul was proud. Rather than rejoicing with the people over the triumph of defeating Goliath, his focus was on himself. He was worried about his reputation and his kingship, and he resented how he didn't receive as much credit from the people as David did.
On the other hand, David demonstrated humility during the two incidents where he spared Saul's life. Instead of seeking his own interest, his focus was on the interests of God. Respecting the Lord's anointed was more important than anything, even when his own life was on the line (1 Sam 26:9). In the end, God exalted David above Saul, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (Jas 4:6).
Meeting the Needs of Others
1 Peter 5:6-7 tells us, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." By casting all our cares upon the Lord, we shift our attention from ourselves, and our burdens are lightened.
There was a young man who visited a pastor in Dallas; depression had gripped him for nine months. After hearing his story, the pastor offered no counsel but wrote down a name and hospital room number on a piece of paper and said, "This person has to be visited today, but I don't have time. Can you stop by on your way home and visit him for me?"
The young man was surprised, but he agreed to go. Then something remarkable happened. As he visited with the patient, the power of his depression was broken. He was freed. Why? Because he finally focused on somebody other than himself.
From teaching children's religious education classes, I've had similar experiences. The class had always been unmanageable, and most of the students lacked respect for adults. I didn't understand the reason for their misbehavior, nor did I have time to care. Even though I was doing a "good thing" by working for God, I wasn't experiencing any peace and joy. Instead, it was a burden.
But when I took the focus off myself, amazing things started to happen. I decided to take God's word for it and just "cast all my cares upon Him." Then I listed the children's needs—emotional well being, sense of security, affection, recognition, freedom from guilt, and new experiences. Before I started planning a lesson, I posed the question, "How can I meet their needs?" The results were marvelous. The children were more interested and more attentive, and God touched their hearts.
What a difference it made when I took up the words of God and turned the attention from myself to my students! I was freed from my worries and burden of teaching, and God's joy flowed in. One of the characteristics of love is "not self seeking" (1 Cor 13:5). There is a direct connection between humility and love, for only a humble heart is truly able to love. In John 15:11-12, the Lord Jesus says:
These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
Jesus knew true humility, and He loved and cared the most. Therefore, He was anointed with the oil of joy above all others (Ps 45:7). Humility benefits a person in many ways. Not only does it give us rest and peace, but it also comes with blessings of joy!
Resting in God's Love
Before we can have a successful relationship with another person, we must make sure that our relationship with God is set right. The Bible says, "We love because He first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19).
When a person is in need of love, he or she is like an empty cup that needs to be filled. One of Satan's deadliest weapons is to raise doubts in us about God's love. Satan whispers to us, "You are not good enough for Him," and "Why would God love someone like you?" Satan emphasizes our own inadequacies rather than the grace, the cleansing, and the power of God. That's why we need to shield ourselves with faith to block his flaming darts (Eph 6:16).
The Lord said, "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jer 31:3), and "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). The Bible declares that nothing can separate us from the love of God:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39).
God's promises of love are fulfilling and unfailing. Only when we are confident of God's love will our perspective change. We change from an empty cup to a full cup, ready to give. We will no longer be troubled with our own world of worries but instead start to think about what we can do to help others. It may be to build up and edify their faith and to advance the kingdom of God.
Everyday we should ask ourselves, "What is God's calling for me?" Do not disregard even a small deed, for any small gesture or word of kindness is like a tiny drop of water that helps to make up a mighty ocean. The most important thing is to be a part of it, and to realize that each one of us can add a significant drop.
This enlightenment has been an enriching experience for me. The heavy workload of yesterday becomes a precious opportunity to serve today. Although sometimes I have a tendency to revert back to a self-seeking mode, by the grace of God and with more practice, the future looks pretty bright.
Finding rest for our souls does not mean ridding ourselves of our responsibilities but facing them with a new attitude, with the power of the word and the promise behind it, for we are "transformed by the renewing of our mind" (Rom 12:2). Learn from Jesus' humble and gentle spirit, and you will fulfill the law of love. And above all, remain in Jesus (Jn 15:5). Continue to grow in faith, through prayer and the precious words of the Bible. Only in Christ can we find life, hope, joy, and peace at last. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13).
1. "Dispelling the Gloom of Depression," in Rick Howard, Jamie Lash, and Jack W. Hayford, This Was Your Life!: Preparing to Meet God Face to Face (Chosen Books, 1998)