Humiliation. When’s the last time you experienced this? When I face something as painful as this, I wonder, what good could come from this? What am I supposed to be learning that I may still benefit herein?
If you have been the object of humiliation enough times, you are alert for it. You may even live in fear of it. Where will I find it this time? When will it happen again? It would not be surprising if you have made a goals that are centered around it — whether that be to avoid any occasion that could possibly serve it, or to become masterful in the art of recreating situations similar to previous instances so that you can feel in control this time.
For myself, I chose the former strategy and worked hard at it. Pride is a marvelous impetus for this sort of proactivity, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Since I had plenty of it, I had plenty of reasons to protect myself and an equal number of systems to accomplish this.
I thought I was doing well. What could hold me back now? I wondered. I had myself in a perfect shell and saw no way for anyone to poke through and discover my shame. Well, like most fool-proof plans, mine wasn’t as perfect as I thought, neither were the problems I faced as predictable as I expected them to be.
Not only had I grown accustomed to anticipating and avoiding situations that presented the occasion for another to compromise your confidence, but I worked hard at developing a flawless public presentation of myself to work as an added buffer.
Anyone who has been the object of humility enough times, will likely turn to reprocessing these moments of shame and reorganizing the elements originally involved. The shame incurred on such an occasion does not rub off as a matter of course, just as a bit of soil on your favorite garment. Soil on the soul cannot be lifted by the one who wears it, and no attempt to personally manipulate its effects to live well again.
Serious work must be done. But, how is it to be done and what can such operations be expected to look like?
Though there are a lot of ways that the subject of humiliation could be addressed, I would like take the focus we have here from Isaiah 30:3.
Therefore the strength of Pharaoh Shall be your shame, And trust in the shadow of Egypt Shall be your humiliation. (NKJV)
According to Scripture, our greatest humiliation is not in what someone can do to us, or in who we are, but how we have turned against God. He is the One who has declared our worth and has traced out our limits and potential, but we pretend that we are the makers of ourselves. The very idea of God claiming connection to everything that we are is unnerving, and so we deny it.
And yet everything of our humanity disturbs this idea — we can do nothing in our own strength. Everything we have comes from Him. We are in no position to guarantee anything, we rest on God’s mercies whether we acknowledge it or not. Our next inescapable proof waits only for the next disaster or sorrow that will bring us back to our knees. Why else would Scripture so blatantly declare our inability to make ourselves what we ought to be? We must see that it is obvious. Ezra 9: 7 leaves no question:
From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today. (NIV)
But humiliation does not end with us, God is involved in this epic as well. In the final four verses of Ezekiel 16 we observe our Maker’s intended conclusion to our spiritual failure:
“Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.
“Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both your older and your younger; and I will give them to you as daughters, but not because of your covenant.
“Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD,
so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” the Lord GOD declares.
Clearly what God would stir up in our souls is a deep humiliation of the soul — the realization of one’s sin and how this has wounded the heart of God. This goes far beneath the level of mourning the consequences of our sin and wishing that we were perfect for our own sakes. The desperation of agreeing that Christ’s atonement is our only hope takes hold when we identify ourselves as the only reason that God would ever suffer at the cross and yet He did anyway — for reasons too holy for us to understand.
Abiding in Christ — the Priceless Lamb of God who sacrificed Himself for our sins — we would sooner live by the counsel of Provers 25:6:
Don’t work yourself into the spotlight; don’t push your way into the place of prominence. It’s better to be promoted to a place of honor than face humiliation by being demoted. (Msg)
We would recognize the honor the Father has placed upon Christ, and we would rejoice in how He has brought the fulfillment of all God’s promises to deliver us from our sin and restore us to Himself.
Our prayers would become one’s centered on Christ, we being people that would most gladly accept humiliation for the cause of Him who acquaints us with all that David reflected of the Savior prophetically.
Let us offer the Words of Psalm 132:1 to God in our gratitude for Christ (whose place in the Psalms David’s name first held in ancient times):
[ A Song of Ascents. ] LORD, [earnestly] remember to David’s credit all his humiliations and hardships and endurance–(Amp.)
Thus before God, we find in Him the conclusion of the whole matter:
Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:]Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained,
But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.
And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!
Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name,
That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11 (Amplified Bible)