“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:3-7)
For the most part, I live my life in expectation: sometimes in expectation of all the good things that I hope God will bless me with, but more often I live in expectation of all the trials and punishment I fear He will send my way. Both of these mindsets are wrong, because I am putting my focus on God’s actions, rather than His character. Whether I am proudly expecting God’s blessings, or living in fear of His judgment, I am still failing to live a life of humility before God.
Living a life of expectancy
Expectations are scary things. Nobody likes the feeling of putting their faith and confidence in someone and then being let down. I learned a lot about expectation and humility during my most recent season of collegiate swimming.
During my freshman year of swimming, I experienced a lot of success. I did the work and at the end of the year I saw great, immensely rewarding results. Naturally, I went into my sophomore year expecting that if I put in the same work I would see the same results. So, sophomore year rolled around, our season began and I trained my heart out. I did everything that was required of me and more. I gave it my all. But, when the championship meet finally arrived and it was time to reap the fruit of our months of toil, I got sick. After an entire season of avoiding illnesses, I finally got one. I spent the last two weeks leading up to the big meet wrapped up in bed, surviving on Dayquil and vitamin C.
If I had trained so hard and put in so much effort, why did God let me get sick during the most crucial part of my training? Weren’t my faithful efforts to my team, all of my hard work and dedication to this sport worth anything? Didn’t I deserve to do well and succeed?
Discovering humility in the midst of disappointment
I’ve come to believe that all of the months of hard work that I put into that season were for the purpose of getting me to the national competition. However, it wasn’t because it was my chance to be the shining star. At the meet I had the privilege of supporting my teammates, celebrating with them, praying and cheering for them, even comforting them. In a way, I viewed my role at Nationals not as an opportunity for personal success, but, in the way that I held my head high despite my disappointment, as an opportunity to humbly serve my team. Even though the success wasn’t as tangible this time around, I still feel like every second of hard work and every ounce of sweat that I put into that season were completely worth it, because I was a part of something bigger than myself.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul calls the believers to submit to one another out of a Christ-like humility and love. He teaches that the unity of the Body of Christ is dependent upon the humility of its individual members.
Expectation in the face of disappointment
Alexander Pope once said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” While this statement is true, I can’t help but think about how much joy and contentment we are wasting in life by refusing to expect anything because we are afraid of being disappointed.
Life is extremely unpredictable, and, more often than not, it lets us down. But, we serve a God who is so much more omniscient than our temporal little minds can understand.
We can be brave because of who we know our God to be. Dare to expect great and beautiful things, but be prepared to not understand them immediately. Most importantly, humbly submit to God’s plan, not only for your life, but also for all of His creation. As you put your faith in God, have the confidence to live a life that proudly proclaims the truth that His divine plan will always be accomplished. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am often disappointed by life. However, I will never stop believing that God is greater.