The one thing God opposes
Pride is such a subtle thing, isn't it? And it wears different hats--haughty eyes, arrogant speech, thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, thinking we are better than someone else, looking at a person and judging them by appearance before even taking a moment to know them...I could go on, but I think we all get the idea. Why is it so hard for us to be humble? I mean truly, the moment we think we are humble, we probably aren't. But pride is so hideously subtle. Then again, sometimes it's completely obvious. We've all met people who are proud to the point of narcissism. We see it in world or business leaders, and sometimes we see it when we look in the mirror, don't we? I know I do. Though I usually don't recognize pride in myself quite so easily. But then it's always been easier to see the faults in others, right? We judge on looks first. Even the prophet Samuel had that problem when God sent him to anoint a new king. He took one look at David's brothers and thought that tall, handsome firstborn was surely God's choice. Took him seven rejections to get to the scrawny kid who took care of the sheep. I'd bet by then Samuel was sufficiently humbled for looking on the outward appearance when God had to tell the prophet that He looked at the heart.
Not being God, we don't have the ability to see to the heart of people, but actions and words can give us a good clue as to what they are like, what they care about - themselves or others? - how willing they are to submit and sacrifice for the sake of God's purposes?
Several verses in Scripture tell us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Have you ever had someone oppose you? Tell you no? Or you can't do that? It's tough to handle, isn't it? I've been flat out told "no" for things that I thought were reasonable requests. In those instances, those people were opposing my desire. They didn't want to do what I wanted to do or wanted them to do. They opposed me. (Hundreds of book rejection letters are one small example.)
But those were minor things. Even if they felt like giant obstacles at the time, they really weren't. In the grand scheme of life, not getting my way on certain things doesn't really matter except to cause me sadness or some other emotional reaction. At a heart level we might be affected by opposition or rejection for a time, but we can't stay there or we end up really bitter people.
And truthfully? Having people oppose us is nothing in comparison to having God oppose us. Imagine for a moment...God. Even if you only have a vague idea of Him or question His existence because we can't see Him...think about the things in creation that are way beyond our ability to comprehend. Look at the stars on a clear night or through a powerful telescope. Gaze at a snow-topped mountain or an ocean so vast you can't see land on the other side. Watch the beauty of birth. Ponder the dreams of a newborn as she sleeps. Study even one small part of the human body - the eye or the hand or something equally amazing - and then think again...God.
Assuming (as I do) that He made these things, can we take it one step further and say He is bigger than what He's created? Now imagine Him, big as He is, standing up to you, opposing you. All because of pride that He sees at the heart level. Pride or arrogance or haughtiness that we don't even realize resides in our spirit.
Can you imagine what that feels like? I can't tell you how God opposes us in our pride. Some might say He withholds blessing, and that's entirely possible. He gives grace to the humble, which seems to suggest that He comes alongside and helps those who admit they need Him. Grace. Don't we all need a touch of grace these days? Every day?
And God wants to give it to each one of us. Grace is there breathing faith into our doubt. Grace is there saving us from ourselves, showing us how much we need a Savior and how willing that Savior is to save us. Grace brings beauty from the ashes, showers us in joy amidst heartache and various trials. Grace is greater than our pride. Grace gives us the ability to forgive those who have hurt us. Grace extends love to our enemies, our neighbors, our friends, even those who cause us the most distress. Grace gives.
As God gives to those who love Him, to those who humbly admit they need Him.
God isn't looking for a fight with us. He isn't the enemy that wants to oppose us. He doesn't find pleasure in saying "no" to our desires or even our heartfelt prayers. But sometimes He does say "no". Because sometimes we put Him in a position where He has to oppose us in order to teach us to trust Him.
Proud people don't need to trust God. Proud people have a tendency to tell God what to do. (We've all done that, haven't we?) We don't pray, "Your will be done." We pray, "Lord, this is what I want You to do"...or... "Please bless these plans I've made" when we haven't even asked Him if those plans are in line with His.
Pride gets to us whether we are Christians or not. It slithers into our hearts unnoticed sometimes. We cast that haughty look, hidden behind a seemingly genuine smile. We say all the right words, but if our heart does not mean them, we are really thinking that we will do what we please. We just speak to appease or to get out of a situation we don't like. Rather than stopping to consider that perhaps God has placed us in that position for a reason.
It's hard to set aside the "I wants" and "me firsts". Waving my guilty hand here. Or as Ann Voskamp uses in her hashtags, "Preaching the Gospel to Myself." This post is for me because pride is ugly and I'm as guilty of it as everyone else.
The truth is we are all guilty of this thing that God not only opposes but in Proverbs it says that He hates it. Pride is the one thing that keeps most people from meeting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Pride says we don't need a savior. Pride says I'm better than that, I don't need God, I did it my way, and any number of other ways it can be expressed.
It's the need to be self-sufficient. To prove we can stand alone. Americans throughout history have "prided" themselves on not needing anyone but themselves. Self-made men (or women). I'm sure there are examples far beyond what I'm mentioning here.
But I think what hit me most about these verses is that I don't want to be standing before God one day, any day, and have Him turn His back in opposition against me because I was too proud to admit I needed Him. Or I needed to forgive. Or I needed to trust. Or wait. Or count trials as joy. Or suffer a little while longer. Or think more highly of other people than I do myself.
I would rather be humble. That's a hard concept though, isn't it? Humility isn't the same as humiliation, but they might feel the same. Humility is admitting I'm not God. I'm not great. I'm not better than. I'm a sinner. I need a Savior. I trust Him even when I don't understand. I need grace.
When we can get to that place, God doesn't oppose us. He comes alongside us and calls us into His family and fellowships with us and etches our name on the palm of His hand. He puts the golden ring on our finger and promises us eternity with Him. He kills the fatted calf and holds a grand feast because we've finally admitted our need and come running to Him even if we are miles away now.
May we all be like the one whom God longs to help, to show His immeasurable grace, rather than oppose. What side will you choose?