Spiritual Cancer: Pride

Some of the most terrifying dreams I’ve ever had were dreams in which I lost something. You wake up in a cold sweat and it takes a few moments to regain your sense of reality. It’s a great sigh of relief to know that your life, your plans, your kingdom– are still intact. Often, you can go about your day feeling that relief but sometimes, dreams have tended to haunt me. I’m no expert in regards to dreams, but I have been told by a few people that dreams in fact represent some part of your subconscious mind. When I ponder about dreams, I tend to think about one that Nebuchadnezzar had. He was deeply troubled by his dream…

     “I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed,the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me.”  Daniel 4:5-6

The dream depicted a very large tree that was full of fruit and radiated prosperity. The tree was then cut down, it’s branches were cut-off, and it’s fruits were scattered. The tree is personified in the dream as a “him” and it was decreed for the tree to lie down like an animal.

Neb has the prophet Daniel interpret the dream for him:

“My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds— Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth […] Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.” Daniel 4:19-23

Neb felt as if he had it all. He felt that he had no need for God. He knew that he was important. He was entitled to the life that he wanted to live. He was INFECTED with a spiritual cancer called pride. Then, after the interpretation of a dream, his plans were gutted. God sent Neb a “Daniel” to remind him that he isn’t in charge. Just like that, everything Neb thought he earned, was stripped.

“Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.”  Daniel 4:33

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It’s quite the scary picture (and depiction above). To be honest though, this is what it’s like when God “Opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. Our minds turn into clouded machines, we grow into beasts, we lose the sanity we once had, and our thought lives become polluted with lies. Neb came face to face with his worst fear. He lost what he kept so dear to his heart. All the control over things he had before was gone and he couldn’t change it.

I can relate to Neb’s situation. I described this in a some detail in my previous blog but I felt it could use a little more depth. I was king of my kingdom. I didn’t develop a nickname like “King Jordan” for nothing. A year ago, things were going well in my life. At least, that’s how I felt at the time. I was FINALLY going to graduate college, I already locked in a full-time engineering position, I was set to propose to the woman I loved, I bought a new car, I was leading house/cell, etc. I was like a kid in a candy store with unlimited pocket change. I became very contented and felt utterly entitled to have control of every part of my life moving forward. That’s when the branches started to get cut off and the tree (me) started to take axe hits to my foundation.

The things I thought I earned, the things I thought I deserved, were slowly slipping through the holes in the net of my control. My terrible dreams about losing everything that would sometimes frequent me, started to become reality. Not completely, but in some sense. Over the past year, it has become more clear than ever before that the prideful control I thought I had over my life, really wasn’t there. God has started to show me who’s really in control, and that is Him. When you become so accustomed to controlling everything in your life, it is honestly brutal to give it up to God. It is absolutely a daily decision and battle to give it up. Will I let my feelings overwhelm me today? Will I let the temptation to make myself feel good, take over today? Will I seek to establish a false image of myself today? Will I choose to be vulnerable about my feelings or will I hold everything in today? These are questions that I find myself asking daily.

I will say, the days in which I took these questions to the Lord and let him work, have been my best days. I stumble and fumble around, a lot. I get frustrated in moments. I get depressed. Sometimes I feel gross. But, I have found that WITHOUT FAIL, when I take these things to the Lord and say “I trust you with this right now Lord. What is it that you want to show me?”, he answers that prayer. Sometimes he shows me somewhere I can be effective, sometimes he puts an edifying thought in my mind that i can act on, and sometimes he even wants me to be still and reflect on some truths.

There is a really cool hope in this passage. Neb didn’t just become an animal and that was all she wrote. We read in verse 34:

“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.”

Sometimes, we as Christians have to have our tree cut down. God even leaves the roots so we can grow again! However, the spiritual cancer of pride can develop deep strongholds, and God is willing to go to drastic lengths to oppose these strongholds in us because of His unconditional love. He knows that our pride will only lead to spiritual death. When this happens, we must learn to lift our eyes towards heaven like Neb did. God is the only one who can change your situation. When I lift my eyes to heaven, God helps me look at my situation and find things that I can be grateful for. What a gift that is. I have a hard time remembering how much God loves me and how much he has ALREADY blessed me with. A pride killer is gratefulness coming from the heart. Gratefulness produces humility in knowing that everything you have has been given to you. (1 Cor 4:7)

I think there are a few important lessons we can learn from this experience Neb had with pride that I will mention briefly.

  1. God will send you Daniels. Messengers in your life to wake you up and remind you that you aren’t in charge. Don’t reject them. (Proverbs 19:20)
  2. Coined by Tim Keller, pride is a form of “cosmic plagiarism”. It takes what God has created or given you and says, “look what I did!”
  3. A joyous life is that which receives everything as a gift from God.
  4. Pride defaces our humanity. We want to become more than what God created, therefore we become less.
  5. Pride is a joy killer.
  6. We are the works of art created by the greatest mercy of God.

How do you treat the blessings in your life? How do you react to miserable situations in your life? How much of the things in your life are ACTUALLY in your control?

Lastly, here’s some nice music:

Anyways, I’m done.

-Jordan

 

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