Happiness in Humility

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It is a matter of truth that all of our sorrows began with pride and disobedience. It is a corresponding truth that our happiness here and now, and our hoped for eternal happiness in heaven, begins with humility and obedience.

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This psalm of David recognizes these truths in this powerful prayer:

“O Lord my heart is not proud,
Nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
Nor with things too sublime for me.”

Who could be more tempted to pride than a king? We know that David struggled with this deadly sin and suffered its consequences. But we also know, because of his psalms, that he, more than most men, also came to understand the benefits of humble submission to the will of God, rather than his own. In this psalm he is reflecting on how he has finally realized that his formerly proud heart and his “haughty eyes” were the source of his sorrows. He no longer busies himself with the “great” things, nor with things beyond his grasp. It is enough to pay attention to God’s will and to live in accord with it.

“Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted
My soul like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap
So is my soul within me.”

This is a lovely image of peacefulness. David compares his soul now to an infant who has been sated at its mother’s breast and has sunk into stillness and quiet in the warmth and the comfort of her lap. All the anxieties of its various “hungers,” gone. So too is David’s soul now, because it is in union with God, no longer troubled with desires that have no life in them. This is our fondest hope, is it not? That we might come to know the peace that David describes here. Do not our hearts crave that peace? Is it not our deepest desire that our hearts might finally be stilled and quieted from those terrible, prideful and disobedient urgings that so trouble us and that we would know the kind of inner peace that David describes in this prayer of thanksgiving? If pride and our willful disobedience of God’s law have been the cause of our sorrows, then, it must be true, that humility and our willing obedience of God’s law would be the beginning of our happiness.

Then let us pray for the life-giving grace of humility in all that we do. Let us still and quiet our hearts by meditating always on the Law of God. Let his law teach us the ways of life and goodness. In this alone will our hearts find their happiness here and now. David also realizes that the happiness we are made for is eternal. He says, “O Israel, hope in the Lord now and FOREVER.” Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.