John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Life is a journey where God is shaping us to be more like Christ. A proud person can’t be like Christ. A self-centered person can’t be like Christ. An ego-filled, arrogant person can’t be like Christ. And God’s plan is to make you more and more like Christ every day. So to make you more like Christ, God has to break down those things that are hindrances to becoming more like Him.
Have you ever noticed how many teenagers seem to think they are invincible? They feel that way in part because they are young, strong and healthy. Do you remember that feeling? I do to some extent. Then life beats you down a bit, and you realize you are not so invincible after all. It was all an illusion anyway, and you find that out, sometimes the hard way. But that invincibility has its base in pride, and let’s face facts, God says in I Peter 5:5, that He resists the proud. God has plenty so say about pride in Scripture. Here are some other verses that show us exactly what God thinks about pride:
Proverbs 16:5, “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.”
Proverbs 11:2, “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.”
Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
Isaiah 2:11, “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.”
Isaiah 2:12, “For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low.”
A proud person does not think about God, because pride is an occupation with self. Look carefully at the verses again. In almost all of these verses, there is a very negative consequence to pride. It will be punished. It causes shame. It destroys. It will be humbled and brought low.
So why are we concentrating on pride in this chapter? Because some of the depression associated with illness is rooted in pride. If you really dig deep and be honest with yourself, doesn’t some of the despair you feel result from not being able to rely on your own power? You want to be able to get up in the morning and do what you want to do, not what your ailing body allows you to accomplish that day. You don’t want to be limited by God, especially when you have experienced years of self-sufficiency only to have that unexpectedly snatched away.
Maybe your physical appearance is different because of your illness. Perhaps your joints are deformed, or medicine has given you some unwanted extra pounds, or you have to walk with a cane or can only get around in a wheelchair, which draws negative attention to you. Most of us do not like negative attention, and let’s face it, it is probably because we like to have pride in our appearance. In my case, my disease and my medicine has changed my appearance, and well-meaning people have made comments that hurt my pride.
Because of my scleroderma, I have deep wrinkles around my mouth. I am not talking about little smile lines. These are abnormal deep wrinkles. I have had relatives mention those wrinkles trying to make me feel better about them, which only made me realize that yes, they are very noticeable to everyone. I once saw a new physician who did not know my history, and he walked in the room and immediately said, “Oh, you have scleroderma! I could tell by the vertical furrowing around your mouth.” I also have severe Raynaud disease, which makes my hands blue most of the time. Even though I am on medication to help open up my blood vessels, my hands are even blue in the middle of July. I was once in a grocery store, paying for my items, and the cashier noticed my hands were blue. They actually look like I should be laid out on a metal slab with a tag on my toe (which are also usually blue, too). Just visualize a Smurf and you’ll get the picture. But this cashier took one look at my hands and said, “Oh my goodness, are you okay?” She looked absolutely frightened by me. I tend to forget my appearance might be disturbing to some people, and really, that’s not the reaction I want to get. Most people would rather think their appearance is pleasant to others. But the root is pride. It isn’t a reflection of the person I am inside. I strive to be a beautiful person on the inside, and since I cannot change what I look like on the outside, it makes developing the inward person even more important.
God sees the beauty in me. God sees the beauty in you. And it isn’t the outside He is concerned about at all. That is not important to Him. It isn’t the real you. How many of us have known people who were beautiful on the outside, were drawn to them, only to discover they were not quality people on the inside? God wants you to develop your beautiful soul and spirit. When you are beautiful on the inside, there is no pride. The two cannot occupy the same space.