How do I humble myself?
In one sense, it’s a question Scripture prompts us to ask, because we are commanded throughout God’s Word to humble ourselves. “Seek humility” (Zephaniah 2:3). “Put on . . . humility” (Colossians 3:12). “Have . . . a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).
Okay, then, how do I humble myself? Yet this could be a question we approach in a quintessentially, unhumbled American kind of way, assuming we can just up and do it. Just tell me how. I’ll get it done.
In contrast to this attitude, the humble-self theme in Scripture turns our human instincts and assumptions upside down. Yes, this is indeed a biblical directive. And at the same time, it’s not something we can just up and do. We cannot humble ourselves by our own bootstraps.
When we trace out this language of self-humbling going back to Exodus and the lowly Moses standing before Pharaoh, mighty and arrogant, and through the history of Israel’s kings (especially in 2 Chronicles), to the exile and restoration, and into the ministry of Jesus and the words of the apostles, we find this to be a humbling theme indeed.
We humans are not the drivers of our own humility. Our God designs the humbling way he forges the virtue of humility. He takes the initiative. He acts first. Our humility happens on his terms. He sees. He knows. He moves, with sovereign, omnipotent, meticulous care. He is intimately engaged with his created world, and with each of his creatures. He is the one who humbles us with his mighty hand, and when his humbling hand descends, and we’re cut to our knees, or flat on the ground, then the question comes to us: Will you humble yourself and embrace God’s humbling hand, or will you try to fight back?
Will you receive his humbling providences or attempt to explain them away?
Will you soften to him in humility, or harden with pride?
True self-humbling is not our initiative, but it does require our doing as we learn to welcome the uncomfortable work of God.
Is there anything we can do to seek humility, or are we simply left to wait for God’s next severe mercy to humble us? God has given means of his grace to pursue, and to build habits in light of, so that when his humbling hand does descend again, we might be ready to receive it as what it is, embrace him in faith, and genuinely humble ourselves in response to his uncomfortable work.