“The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing. But because he wants to do it in his own strength, he is fighting not with man, but with God.”
― Soren A. Kierkegaard
It is a difficult thing to come to terms with one’s own pride. It is one of the most insidious vices that we have. It has a tendency to creep up on us when we are doing the most noble of deeds. I guess that is where it starts – with the “noble deed”, the sacrificial deed.
Too often we get caught in its grip when we are doing something that is good and noble, but we are unwilling to let the results be what they will be. We have “invested” more than we can afford to lose, so when the results turn out poorly, we become frustrated – so much so that frustration is the tell-tale sign that pride has wiggled into the mix somewhere.
Yes, frustration can be a motivator, but usually it is only for the short term. Once frustration has spent its energy, despondency often takes over – and after that bitterness is soon to follow.
It is in the state of bitterness that so many well-meaning people eventually remain for years because it is a natural place to end up once the wind has come out of our sails. In the age of sail, it was referred to as “the doldrums,” that windless place where many ships and their crew never returned from.
So why does God allow us to end up here?
That question has no easy answer, and spending your energy trying to find one will lead to an endless loop of frustration, anger, despondency, and bitterness– like one who tries to find their way out of a forest only to find themselves back at the same spot days later.
When we look at Jesus’ life, we can see these same trends: frustration – anger – despondency. The difference between Him and us often comes down to pride. Jesus had the wisdom to not let pride get in the way. Pride is that natural response when we feel God has abandoned us; or worse, somehow “forgotten” us.
Doesn’t He understand how essential we are? Doesn’t He understand we are just trying to advance His kingdom? Then why doesn’t He do something?
Jesus certainly felt this way the night before His crucifixion. He had laid it all on the line, been ridiculed for pretending to have a kingdom somewhere else, and He had even healed one of the bad guy’s ears. Surely this this was enough to prove He had good intentions to those who were His detractors. But it wasn’t to be. It wasn’t The Plan.
So it is often with us. Our plans are not part of The Plan, and that is a very painful thing to come to terms with once we have invested way too much.
When we get to that place, “the doldrums”, there is only one choice: complete submission to The Plan, which is the opposite of pride.
It is what Jesus had to do. To say those painful words – “not my will, but yours be done.”
They are the same words required of us if we are to ever escape pride’s angry grip.