Blessed are the needy of spirit, for the healing presence of God is within their grasp.
ALICE was there in our midst, another anonymous figure at a community kitchen event. I hadn’t even noticed her. Then I was called into a room with her and two other people to minister with and pray for her. Alice was experiencing something very familiar to many of us. She was despairingly fearful, bereft of hope, utterly broken of spirit, shaken by grief. Her mother had died recently, her rock, a son was being imprisoned, and her family was imploding around her. She bore these burdens alone it seemed, and though she faced suicidal ideations daily she sat awkwardly poised and unable to act, thankfully because of those very burdens of family she carried.
But, here is the point: she was remarkably receptive and spiritually amenable.
Nobody thanks God for the pain that incises the chest of the soul, leaving the heart bare, but ministers of the Word thank the Holy Spirit for His unction that manifests such eternality of opportunity. Many people are never this vulnerable, ever.
Alice was open. Situations like this create a sense of the fear of the Lord. Openness is vulnerability and vulnerable people are susceptible to exploitation, which is a failure no minister worth their calling wants to make. In that moment, we utter a prayer of protection for them as we breathe a prayer for guidance for ourselves. Courage and awareness is what we need. God supplies at our surrender to be present to serve.
As she shared, she wept. The moment, as we might imagine, was palpable. God is at work in moments where the emotions overflow between strangers. As she wept, I allowed my emotions to match hers. We listened and waited on her. It was obvious her surrender was perfectly anointed because she had nothing left of her own ego to fight. We prayed and counselled her, and when she had regained her poise we tended to her practical needs.
Then she left. For weeks following, as the Lord brought her to mind, I’d pray for Alice.
God showed me something through our interaction with Alice. It coalesces with the quote:
“The gospel is not simply about meeting people’s needs. The gospel is a critique of our needs, an attempt to give us needs worth having.”
— William Willimon
The needs worth having are those desires that are so purified of vision that they see just one source for fulfilment: Jesus. I believe Alice, as we encountered her, exemplified something of a craving that sought Jesus knowing only Jesus could satisfy. Her neediness was a pure kind, unlike the kind of human neediness that craves impure things or pure things through impure means or through poor self-control.
Where there is a genuine spiritual neediness, human neediness becomes redundant.
*Alice is not her real name.
*Some details in Alice’s story have been altered to protect her privacy, but there is no exaggeration.