January 8, 2014

Securing serenity

Serenity and humility are both elusive like a shadow; as soon as I try to step into them, they move out of reach. Of course this is because the act of trying to attain either immediately means focusing on myself, and as soon as that happens, I cannot be humble or serene.

Today’s devotional reading is titled, “Securing serenity” and offers excellent thoughts, such as a description of patients in a mental home. He says they are totally wrapped up in themselves without a care for the woes of others. As Romans 3:16 says, “In their paths are ruin and misery” for they are not interested in God either.

Paul had a different take on life. He cared deeply about God and others, but was not overtly concerned what they thought of him . . .

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1–5)

For Paul, the praise of God was his source of affirmation, not the judgment of anyone else. As I think about that, I realize that when others praise me, it appeals to my pride. While I can use words like confirmation, or edification, those are euphemisms. The bottom line is that such talk builds my ego and makes me proud of myself. God has been showing me that this is folly because pride and arrogance are not at all like Christ and eventually lead to a downfall . . .

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

Instead of trusting me or what others think of me, I need that wisdom that comes from God alone. If I struggle with feelings of inadequacy, they are not reversed nor am I built up by the praise of others or by any sort of positive self-talk. I need instead to trust the Lord and walk in the truth that He gives me . . .

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26)

Today’s reading points me to a psalm of praise that amplifies these thoughts and helps me realize how silly I am to want or rely on praise or the flattering words of others.

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalm 138:1–8)

Instead, God strengthens my soul. He regards humble and lowly hearts. He alone gives that desired inner satisfaction and serenity of heart.

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