DAY 9 - THE HUMILITY OF AFFLICTION

The affliction of fasting brings humility and submission, a kneeling soul. It is from this position that we can best bring our requests before God’s throne.

And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.

EZRA 8:21-23

OUR DEVOTIONAL

Humility is one of those words… It has such a depth of meaning and a variety of uses, but somehow I feel like it gets misused an awful lot. I’m just gonna say it right up front: humility doesn’t mean self-deprecation. “I’m so bad,” “I can’t do anything right,” “I’m not worth the care/love/attention of others.” Nope. In true humility, there is honesty. It’s okay to acknowledge your strengths and your skills. God gave me everything I need to do the work He has called me to do—and to do it with excellence. Here’s a thought to chew on: If it’s okay to look at a sunset, acknowledge its beauty, and be in awe of its Creator, then isn’t it okay to look at yourself, acknowledge your beauty, and be in awe of your Creator? (See Psalm 139.)

That last part is key. The crux of healthy humility is to always be all about Jesus—seeking His will, doing His work, being the best of who He made me to be, and giving Him all the glory. Healthy humility includes deep submission to God. This is the kind of humility we can live in every day. There is joy here.

But sometimes, there is a special humility we need to visit from time to time. One of the ways you can translate the biblical word for humility is “affliction.” That’s the way it’s used in our verse today. I gotta be honest—that’s not the type of humility I want to live in. By definition, it’s uncomfortable. But sometimes we need this to get outside of ourselves, to be reminded who the real Boss is, to seek His will and His plan.

Are you familiar with the character from The Lord of the Rings, Denethor II, the steward of Gondor? Now there’s a lesson on humility and submission (how not to do it, that is). Here’s the short version: He was the ruler of Gondor in place of its true king who had been gone for generations. In the book, he was depicted as a capable man who loved Gondor and its people. But no matter how great a leader he was, he had forgotten his real purpose. His job was to do the will of the king, to be a placeholder, reminding people who the true sovereign was. I can’t help but wonder, what if he had taken some time to afflict himself and seek the will of the king (as in today’s verse)? Would he have suffered the same fate? (Read or watch The Return of the King to find out exactly what that fate was.)

I think sometimes affliction and discomfort—like we have in the self-denial of fasting—helps us to remember how to submit to God and to point people to the true King. It reminds us that we are only stewards, not kings. Kings have no one they need to kneel for; stewards do. As we “afflict our souls,” it’s like we’re reminding ourselves to kneel to the King. And it’s there, on our knees, that we are in the right position to bring our requests to God and to receive what He has for us with the right heart.

FAMILY MOMENT

If age-appropriate, watch The Return of the King together. Discuss how different characters displayed humility. Did they humble themselves? Were they humbled by some outside force? Pay special attention to how Denethor responds to the idea of Aragorn. Use that as a starting place for a discussion on what attitude you’d like Jesus to find in you when He returns.

NOTE: We live in a media-driven culture. It’s a very useful skill to be able to watch a movie as a family and then use it as a jumping-off point for a deeper discussion with your kids.

PRAYER & REFLECTION

  1. Where do you tend to fall on the spectrum of pride, healthy humility, and self-deprecation? Ask God to help you find the sweet spot. Ask Him if there is any area of self-discipline you need to work on to help you maintain it. (Examples might include healthy self-talk, developing a sense of gratitude for your strengths, serving others, etc.)
  2. As we do our 21 days, are you finding that you are appropriately afflicted? Have you brought your soul into deep submission to the King? Are there changes you need to make?
  3. Consider the verse, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). Think about who is doing the humbling and Who is doing the lifting. God doesn’t leave us in our affliction! Let this thought reinvigorate your prayers for breakthrough and breakout of the oppression caused by the pandemic (or anything else!).

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