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The conceited soul can never be calmed because it is never content with God’s preserving power. Conceited souls never turn to God in life’s troubles, believing His grace is sufficient to help them bear up under their troubles and emerge victorious over them. Instead, conceited souls turn from God in life’s troubles, believing they are being dealt with unfairly by an unjust God.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, God assures the Apostle Paul that His grace will prove sufficient for Paul to bear up under a “thorn in the flesh.” This unspecified physical infirmity remained despite the Apostle’s repeated prayers for God to remove it. God’s reason for refusing to heal Paul was so that He might use this physical weakness to strengthen Paul spiritually. Therefore, the great apostle ceased to pray for deliverance from this physical burden and actually began to praise God for its spiritual benefit.

What Paul practices himself in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 he preaches to us in 1 Corinthians 10:13. According to Paul, if we trust God and turn to Him in life’s trials, God will always provide us with sufficient grace to bear up under them and to eventually emerge victorious over them. On the other hand, Hebrews 12:15-16 teaches us that if we fail to believe in God and turn to Him in the midst of our trials, we will end up bitter toward God and turning away from Him as a result of our trials.

If we “fail” to turn to God for sufficient sustaining grace during times of trial, a “root of bitterness” will spring up in our hearts against God. Being a root, it will not be easily detectable initially. Over time, however, our bitterness over God’s perceived injustice and unfair treatment of us will come to the surface, becoming both obvious and insuppressible. 

Once obvious and insuppressible, our bitterness toward God will result in others being “defiled.” We will lodge a public complaint against God, which will lead others to be convinced by us that an unjust God is undeserving of our devotion. “Why bother to serve God,” we will argue, “when He treats His faithful servants as unfairly as we’ve been treated?”

In the end, the bitter soul will ultimately become as “profane” as Esau, who sold his birthright for a bowl of beans and couldn’t have cared less about the things of God. Like Esau, the bitter soul will become calloused toward the things of God, washing its hands of all things spiritual and confining itself to the secular. 

It is impossible to quiet and calm the bitter soul. Having allowed the sun to go down on its anger against God, it has awakened to a lifetime of resentfulness (Ephesians 4:26). As a result, it has given place to the devil, the tormentor of our souls (Ephesians 4:27). Angry and resentful over its perceived mistreatment by the Almighty, and pompously perched to peer down its nose in judgment of Jehovah, the conceited and bitter soul dooms itself to perpetual purgatory.

To sail the stormy sea of life with a calm soul requires absolute confidence in the sufficiency of God’s sustaining grace in every current or coming tempest.

Don Walton