One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. – Proverbs 29:23 (ESV)
How many of you have heard the expression, “I’m a strong independent woman who don’t need no… “fill in the blank. How many of you have listened to society’s proclamation that you can “have it all”? How many of you are exhausted from trying your hardest to “do all the things” and can’t understand why you still feel empty? Friends, you are not alone. I have lived as an adult for nearly a decade now, and I have come to find that the freedom I was promised through independence and productivity isn’t as fulfilling as I had hoped it would be. It’s hard to understand why doing things, good things, still leaves us feeling burnt out. Allow me to share with you how God has been working this out in my heart. I pray that this is an encouragement to all of you reading.
I married my husband mid-COVID this past summer. At the time, I was working a full-time job and was preparing to go back to school full-time in the fall. Classes started in August, and it quickly became apparent that juggling my roles as a wife, an employee, a student, a dog/cat/horse mom and a volunteer in our church was A LOT. So, we prayed. We looked at our finances, talked about priorities, and came to the conclusion that leaving my job to focus on school was best for our family. At first, the thought of having a 40-hour work week taken off of my plate sounded so good! I could sleep past 5:30 am and maybe even find some time to go outside during the day! I was excited to have the time to pursue new opportunities and see what God had in store for this time. But then I had this thought: will I be a burden if I am not working? How will I contribute to our household if I am not making money? I’m a strong independent woman; I’m supposed to be able to juggle work and school and being a wife and serving in our church… maybe this sounds familiar to some of you?
I shared these thoughts with my husband, and he sweetly assured me that my fears were not grounded. He told me that he felt blessed that he could offer me this gift and was thrilled at the joy and relief it brought me. I was thankful for his love and assurance, but I still wasn’t convinced. I knew that I needed to seek the Lord in this struggle.
I asked the Lord to search my heart and help me understand why I felt this way. What He has shown me is epitomized in today’s verse: “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (Proverbs 29:23, ESV). On the surface, my motivations for “doing all the things” didn’t seem prideful – what’s wrong with wanting to be a good wife, an A student, a hard-working employee and an active member of my church? But when my desire to do these things becomes greater than my desire for the Lord, my pride is revealed in where my identity lies. You see, I wasn’t comfortable accepting my husband’s gift of leaving my job because I felt like it would mean that I was less; less capable, less helpful, less equal. It meant that my identity as this strong, independent woman was breaking down, forcing me to admit my weakness. With pride, I had found my identity in all of the things I was doing; not in Christ. I was uncomfortable giving these things up because I was identifying myself by the standards of the world and not by God.
In Matthew 11:29, Jesus calls us to be like him: gentle and lowly in heart (ESV). Similarly, Proverbs 29:23b says, “he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (ESV). This call to be lowly is not a call to diminish our self-worth. Instead, it is a call to humbly identify ourselves before God, as Christ humbled Himself for us. In humility, we are able to rest in the sovereignty and power of God, knowing that we are not identified by our list of accomplishments but by the awesome love and grace of our Lord. We are freed from the pressure of needing to do it all and can find rest in our eternal identity in Christ.
If you are feeling worn thin and burned out, running on coffee and dry shampoo, seek the Lord in prayer, and ask him to reveal where your pride and identity lies. You might find that He is calling you to be lowly, which isn’t a bad thing; it’s a gift that He wants to give you.