THE COMFORT OF HUMILITY by Laurel Goodwin for Core Christianity
In 2014, I joined the Navy. Fresh out of college and a six-month overseas volunteer opportunity, I’d decided that an office job just wasn’t for me. There were bigger, better things out there and I intended to find them. With that in mind, I confidently walked into a recruiter’s office and went on to ace the ASVAB, enlist for a special program, pass my aviation physical with ease, breeze through bootcamp, and arrive for my training in Pensacola, Florida, riding a wave of success.
Two weeks into my program I had a heat stroke as a result of improper training by a vindictive instructor. I was rushed, unconscious, to the hospital, and sent back that afternoon. I was then ordered to go to the chaplain’s office, who explained that two family members had died that morning. He was very sorry.
A month later, I was informed that I’d been disqualified from the program because of my heat stroke. After my disqualification, I was certified “needs of the Navy,” sent to the next-needed billet, and then washed out of that, too. The stress of my family situation was far too much for the technology-focused program. I was then sent to Japan, where I would spend the next three years on a base with some of the highest work stress and the lowest morale in the fleet. In an office, of all places.
While my dignity suffered greatly, my pride most certainly remained intact. I’d legitimately been wronged in many ways over the course of those four years. Not only that, but the very idea that my best laid plans could all come crashing down was something that happened to other people—not to me. The inevitable, though gentle, suggestion from fellow believers during that time was that the Lord was humbling me. I don’t want to read into Providence, but there might be something to that suggestion.
The Comfort of Humility
Peter’s admonition to “humble yourself” (1 Pet. 5:6) was difficult for me to accept when I was at my best, insulting when I was at my worst. I’d certainly been brought low by life, and it was painful to imagine bringing myself even lower—on purpose. Especially when it seemed that life had already done the job so well.
In retrospect, I can see that there’s more to Peter’s exhortation that I’d overlooked. He gives us a promise of comfort and hope in our humiliation:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
The Timing of Suffering
We’re to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, and then our Father will lift us up in due time. Suffering believers can comfort themselves knowing that God, who holds us in his right hand (Ps. 63:8), will not leave us to our sufferings. We get no timetables in Scripture, and the same holds true for this verse. The one who works all things for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28) will do so in his own timing.