iscussion at my “Men’s Room” small group has been extra helpful of late. Wednesday evening was no exception. We continued our conversation about “The Beatitudes” (Matthew 5), and several of the guys shared some profound insights.
We are all struggling with the deep paradoxes built into so much of what Jesus said (See “Scripture: Beauty in the Struggle” from August 2). Blessed when we are grieving? Happy when things overwhelm us? Lucky when we’re hungry? Successful when we’re persecuted? What does it mean when we say that we are blessed?
TOUGH QUESTION: So I asked that we all take a moment to think about times in our lives where we were at a low point, beaten up by broken relationships, underwater financially, hit in the gut by loss, overcome by despair or hopelessness…
A room full of men started nodding their heads. We may live in the land of plenty, with a roof over our heads and as many meals a day as we want, but that’s no hedge against despair, or pain, or loneliness, or illness, or alienation, or bankruptcy (and more)….
To a man my friends testified as to how much more readily they were/are receptive to God’s grace during those times of difficulty. For some, that’s where they first considered becoming a part of a community of faith; for others, that’s where they first met God; for all, the heightened awareness of their lack of self-sufficiency opened the door.
HARD STORY: I met a man recently – during my summer travels – who said that he will always be grateful for the grief he experienced when his infant child died just a few weeks after being born. “That’s when – and how – I was introduced to God.” he said. “It was the beginning point of this rich life of faith.”
Fact is, we are all more open to receive the blessing of knowing God – as Jesus pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount – when we are in a place of desperation. It’s not that God favors our desperation so much as that we typically fail to open our eyes to the possibility of God until we’re so badly beaten up that we have nowhere else to turn.
IRRELEVANT IN THIS CULTURE? I read recently that the Christian Church is at risk to the extent that a society/culture fosters – and provides the means to – self-sufficiency. In other words, why bother with God when we can do well-enough without God?
I agree… but the premise turns out to be a huge lie. The fact is we really DON’T do well enough. I believe the current level of systemic mediocrity in The Church is to some extent a result of this lie. Self-sufficiency is (at best) only a small percentage of our potential as fully engaged human-beings. However, even in church we have become comfortable with our own sufficiency, and blind (or closed) to our need. The God-who-is-anxious-to-bless is told to wait until we are desperate.
GOD-SUFFICIENCY: It may take desperation for us to initially hook up with God, but it takes God to move us through the half-life of self-sufficiency and on into fullness (“I came that they may have abundant life, real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of….” – John 10:10). God-sufficiency is the place where we begin to truly live.
If we limit our dependence on God to our low points, then we will never move beyond the sad delusion that self-sufficiency is the apex of the human experience.
LIFE! If it’s the LIFE-CHARGED LIFE that we want, then we must learn from Christ’s Beatitudes, and live with a constant deep hunger for God; even – especially – when our experience tries to convince us that we really don’t need Jesus more than the one day a week.
But, for the Life-Charged Life, we need Jesus like we need the air that we breathe….