Humbled Success

by Heather MacFadyen April 19, 2023
“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” Psalm 25:9 (NIV)

I sat in our first apartment, overlooking downtown Wheaton, Illinois. Here I was, alone in a new town.

I wondered if I’d made a mistake by graduating a semester early and moving up our wedding from June to March. And my husband, whom I couldn’t wait to be with, traveled for work three weeks out of the month.

My biology/pre-medicine degree went unused as I lived the unemployed life instead of attending medical school. Without a place to perform or relationships to feed off of, what value did I have? Was this what being humbled felt like? If so, it was for the birds.

One of the Hebrew words for “humble” is ani. It means “circumstantial humility.” It’s used in the Old Testament when someone suffers or has been afflicted. They find themselves in a lowly position physically, materially and socially. While I knew that many people suffered much lower positions than I was experiencing, I found myself in a circumstance lower than my expectation … and that was humbling.

Ani often leads to anav, another Hebrew word, which relates to humble character. Over and over in the Old Testament, God shares how He cares for the humble. He guides the anav, as our key verse says: “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (Psalm 25:9). He crowns the anav with victory. (Psalm 149:4) He encourages the anav. (Psalm 34:2) The reward? The anav inherit the land. (Psalm 37:11)

Pastor Dave Adamson writes, “The Hebrew word ‘avanah’ is translated as ‘humility.’ But an expanded translation would be to occupy our God-given space. Humility is not just avoiding overstepping our boundaries, but it’s also being sure we step into them.”

According to Adamson, an expanded translation of “humility” is “to occupy our God-given space.”

In my situation — being in a new town, with an unused degree, no community and a traveling husband — the imagined space I had drawn up for myself did not match my reality. So I humbly looked at the space God gave me, and I chose to fill it. The first step involved taking a job as a teacher’s assistant in West Chicago. While I was grateful to a friend for sending me the opportunity, it felt like a step backward.

You know what was even more humbling? Despite years of babysitting and working with kids, I didn’t know what I was doing as a teacher’s assistant. But by occupying that God-given space, I met a student named Andrew. The lessons he taught me are forever imprinted on my heart.

Part of my job was to accompany Andrew to his speech-language pathology sessions. Each week, I asked the speech-language pathologist (SLP) more questions about her job. More and more, I realized how perfectly the career aligned with my skills and dreams. Around the same time that I felt a pull to pursue further training to become an SLP, my husband’s job moved us to San Francisco.

This time, based on my experience with the teacher’s assistant job, I decided to consider my space and fill it. Instead of moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I volunteered at the hospital down the street from our apartment.

During orientation, they presented different volunteer positions. Wouldn’t you know there was an opening to volunteer in the speech-language pathology department? And on my first day volunteering, the managing SLP offered me a job as an SLP assistant. Once again, God taught me how what seemed like a step backward was actually a step into the purpose He had planned for me.

By occupying my space, I found that the next space God provided was an amazing experience. I didn’t take one moment for granted. I had seen God’s hand work in my life, and I knew my part in His big story.

When the assigned space feels too large and we feel too small, we are forgetting that the Creator God assigned us there. No space is too large for Him, and no assignment is too hard.

Lord, thank You for reminding me of my role in tending to the space You have assigned to me. Help me to stay humble and look for the opportunities You’ve given me right where I am. Thank You for fighting my battles for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


To gain clarity in identifying your God-given space, instructions on listening for God’s direction, and permission to fully occupy your space, read Heather MacFadyen’s new book, Right Where You Belong. You can purchase it here and read the first chapter here.


Connect with Heather online at and on social media at @DontMomAlone.

Enter to WIN your very own copy of Right Where You Belong by Heather MacFadyen. To celebrate this book, Heather’s publisher will give away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and then notify each one in the comments section by Monday, April 24, 2023.}


Proverbs 16:3, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (NIV)

How are you encouraged by the expanded definition of humility: “to occupy your God-given space”? What’s one step you can take today to consider the space God has assigned to you and fill it?

© 2023 by Heather MacFadyen. All rights reserved.

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