Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

I don’t like being needy.

In the fall of 2012, shortly after arriving home from China with our adopted daughter, I shared a testimony at the Men’s Retreat of my church. I shared that I don’t mind having moments of weakness or need, where I’m exhausted or struggling but then God comes through and I see Him provide all I need, and then I can move on, back to my place of competency or comfortableness. But I don’t like actually being needy–having something in my life which I am powerless to overcome, which has no easy answer despite all my resourcefulness. But it feels like that is where God has put me through this adoption. And now, almost 3 years after that retreat testimony, not much has changed in my situation, so the sense of weakness and neediness has increased.

And so I was challenged by something that David Powlison wrote (in an article titled “God’s Grace and Your Sufferings”):

To be ‘dependent’ on God often implies something warm and comfortable. That is a partial truth. A child on his mother’s lap simply rests in trust (Psalm 131). But often dependency doesn’t feel very good. You need help. You’re helpless in yourself. Psalm 28:1 cries out, “Help. If you won’t listen to me, I will die.” That’s not a comfortable feeling. You feel threatened, battered, vulnerable. You are powerless, with nowhere else to turn. Jesus’ first beatitude says that the ‘poor in spirit’ are the blessed. He turns another bad word upside down. ‘Poor’ means poverty-stricken, destitute, people with nothing, street people. ‘Poor in spirit’ means conscious awareness of dire and pressing need for help that God most freely and generously gives. Insoluble suffering (like insoluble sin) brings you to this foundation of all blessing. God does not turn away from the afflictions of the afflicted. Do not be afraid, little flock, he is giving you the kingdom.

Our discipleship materials often don’t teach us much about this. We learn how to have a quiet time. We discover our spiritual gifts. We study good doctrine. We learn how to study the Bible and memorize Scripture. We don’t necessarily learn how to need help…. God uses significant suffering to teach us to need him.

No amount of seminary training or inductive Bible study or small group accountability or one-one-one discipleship can teach me to BE poor in spirit. Those are all valuable resources that can teach me the necessity or value of dependence on God, but they cannot produce an actual dependence in me. But suffering does. Suffering causes me to actually BE in a place of utter need, to ACT in dependence on God in ways I never would otherwise.

I don’t like being needy. But if neediness and dependence and suffering are the doorway to blessedness, then there’s good reason to endure in this season (and in all that will come after).


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