I’d like to tell you about a book that I read this summer. But before I do, let me tell you a bit how I think about reading and my soul. The bedrock of my soul’s health is reading the Scriptures day by day and through the entire Bible each year. I commend this to all in our church family. I have often said, and now am eager to say again, that perhaps the best thing you can do for your soul is to be reading the Bible.
In addition to Bible reading, I read other books as well. I especially look for books that will feed my soul. Why? Because I don’t take my soul’s health for granted. It doesn’t stay healthy just because I prayed to receive Jesus many years ago. What do I look for in these “soul books?” I look for books that talk about the Bible like a good sermon does. They explain and focus my attention on something in the Scriptures that I’ve read before, but wouldn’t have noticed and thought about as much.
This summer I read Humbled: Welcoming the Uncomfortable Work of God by David Mathis. I trust him to spoon-feed Bible to my soul. Why do we need to hear about this topic? Mathis writes, “To live in this world, fallen as it is, and sinners as we are, is to be humbled. It’s only a matter of time. … It descends, often without warning. We’re caught off guard. It hurts to be humbled. We do not want it. We would pray, like Jesus, for the cup to pass. But it is here, …”
What is humility about? “Humility entails a right view of self, as created by and accountable to God—and this requires a right view of God, as Creator and as authoritative in relation to his creatures. Humility is not, then, preoccupied with oneself and one’s own lowliness, but first mindful and conscious of God and his highness. Humility becomes conscious of self only with respect to God.”
Humility is not our taking the initiative to humble ourselves, but our responding to God’s bringing humbling circumstances to us. When these come, how will we respond? Will we humble ourselves?
Humility begins with hearing God’s word: “Will you begin this day with the sound of God’s voice, the whispers of your own, or the words of someone else?” Prayer is the sound of the humbled: “We most humble ourselves in prayer when we appeal to God for what is plainly beyond our ability to produce.”
Mathis writes about how humility touches fellowship (“you are not that special”) and fasting. “Fasting is an act of self-humbling by declaring our need to God, and by allowing ourselves to see afresh how weak we really are, as we experience the anxiety and irritability that come with an empty stomach.”
The last two chapters are on our cultural tendency to make ourselves look better than we are and on Christ’s humility and what this means for us. On the last page, Mathis writes, “God’s favor for the humble will shine forth. His rescuing grace will arrive. He will not leave his humbled unexalted, if his humbled cling to him.” Those words are solid Bible and they are solid encouragement to keep walking in God’s paths, not my own.
This short book (~100 pages) might be just the nourishment your soul needs to keep looking away from yourself and to keep looking to Jesus for all you need.