Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 5:7-11
Some good friends taught us to play bridge several years ago. We learned things like ruff and sluff, demand bids, jump shifts, and preemptive bids. In a bridge game a preemptive bid effectively shuts out your opponent, preventing them from winning a rubber, or preventing them from putting you into an untenable position, forcing you to bid under duress or preventing you from taking the bid and calling trump.
Peter speaks here of doing something not unlike a preemptive bid. If you’ll permit me, our act of self-humbling preempts God’s harsher love being leveled at us. God’s harsher love is that which comes to us in the form of difficulty, suffering, hardship, or failure. God loves all people at all times. Sometimes, however, his love comes to us disguised as trouble and suffering – designed to turn us from an evil path toward his perfect grace and goodness.
If we are filled with pride, arrogance, and hubris, we not only hurt our neighbor, but we harm our own souls. In His love God may bring difficulty to us so that we seek him and learn the hard lesson not to “kick against the goads” (cf. Acts 9:26).
If we humble ourselves, living in an attitude of humility before God and mercy toward our neighbor such tough love is not required. God promises to exalt those who humble themselves. And when we do suffer – whether or not we need tough love – he directs us to place our anxieties and burdens on him.
Tomorrow we will look more closely at the place of the devil in our suffering and troubles. But for today we embrace an attitude of humility toward God and mercy toward our neighbor. We cannot ever preempt God, but we can certainly refrain from prideful haughtiness that begs for God’s rebuke.