Psalm 131:1 (ESV) – O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
My first thoughts, when I read and pray through this passage are, “Who can really say this?” Who can really come to God and say that he or she has fully divested himself or herself of pride? “There’s no ‘self’ talking here. You know it, Lord. Just a perfectly humble desire to present myself before you.”
Well, that’s probably not a fair representation of what the psalmist was saying, but sitting down and praying through this psalm has forced me to really think about what I am actually saying as I pray these words before God.
As I’ve prayed this week, what I’ve come to understand is that this is something that a Christian should be able to say “truly” but never “perfectly.” In other words, a growing humility should grace a believer’s life, but that humility, if its true humility, also understands quite well and readily admits that there’s always a need for more humility.
What does it mean to humbly pray this way? What does it mean to pray and admit to God that you long to be more humble even while you are growing in humility? What are these things that are “too great” or “too marvelous” for me that I’m not searching and pursuing because of my growth in humility?
For one, things that haven’t been revealed would definitely qualify as things “too great” and “too marvelous.” They remain secret to God. For some reason, he has chosen not to let us know some things. In fact, because God is infinite, there are an infinite amount of things that we don’t know about God than what we do know about God. It will always be this way. Even when we get to heaven, we will be finite in our knowledge of God. That must be one reason why heaven is an eternal state. We will always have an infinite amount of truth to learn about God as he reveals himself throughout eternity. It’s both exciting and mind boggling to me, but I think it’s true.
This isn’t a bumpkin’s attempt to glorify sloth and ignorance. I am to love the Lord with all my mind! There is plenty that has been revealed that I can and should think about. Think deeply and painfully about. Another psalm says, “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2). I should be faithfully studying and thinking about what God has worked within this time and space continuum.
But that should be enough! And it is for those whose thoughts are curbed by the humility of Psalm 131. So I think this is part of what our psalm for prayer is encouraging. We should be content like a little baby nestled comfortably in the crook of his mother’s arm when it comes to wondering and worrying about those things that have not been revealed.
There’s more to it though. There are also things that have been revealed but haven’t been given to me.
I am fallen and cursed. I’m a frail and failed human being. I know this quite well. Justified? Yes! Glorified? No! But even without my sins, known and unknown, I’m still limited by the way God has made me. I haven’t been given every spiritual gift. I’m dependent on the rest of the body where I lack. I haven’t been given every talent and ability. I’ve dunked a basketball once in my lifetime. One time in high school, while I was getting pumped up in pre-game warm ups, I actually threw one down. But there are guys who are half a foot shorter than me who can do a two-handed 360 degree dunk from a standing position. I can’t run a 4.2 second 40-yard dash. Never will. I don’t “get” astrophysics. I don’t have a photographic memory. I could go on and on. Even without my sin, I’m a limited person.
Part of humility is accepting my limitations. God has put those things out of my reach even though he’s put them well within the reach of others. And I’m OK with that. I want to be the best version of Mike DeVries that God could possibly make me. But I’m content being Mike DeVries. This is part of humility.
It hasn’t always been this way. There was a time when I was deeply jealous over anybody and everybody who was better than I was in any way whatsoever. I questioned the sovereignty of God for making me less than better than everybody else. I doubted his love. I was arrogant, boastful, proud, unthankful, unholy, and everything else 2 Timothy 3 describes as “difficult.” A fair amount of my spiritual growth has been accepting my limitations and being who I am, how God fearfully and wonderfully made me.
This growing contentment has helped me in many ways. Life is better for me now that I’m not lifting my eyes too high and focusing on those things that are beyond me. My soul is calmer and my days are much more productive when I don’t occupy myself with things that are too great and too marvelous for me.
So focus on what’s been revealed and given. This is what I’ve prayed for you as a church family this week as I’ve meditated on this psalm. Be content with such things as you have. Never stop growing and pursuing the best, most Christ-like version of you that God’s grace can make you, but don’t try to be somebody else. Know your limits.