the poor in spirit/ the thorn in the flesh

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:7b-10

Once again I visit Paul’s thorn in the flesh and couple that with what’s become one of my other favorites, the start of what’s called the Beatitudes in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.

The poor in spirit I think by scholars has been equated with simply the poor. But I think “in spirit” adds something more. What it precisely means might be hard to pinpoint. It likely includes a number of things. Like the wealthy not living high on the hog, and being generous to the poor. For me in general it’s meant something like the sense of a deep, gnawing inward need, a dearth of spirit.

I couple that with the thorn in the flesh passage, something which tormented Paul either outwardly, or I think inwardly. But Paul took that experience and applied it to all that troubled him, and whatever weaknesses he experienced as he followed the way of Christ.

It’s so important to remember all of this, because otherwise we can really be discouraged and give in to despair. And act in ways which are not helpful. We appreciate the times when this seems lifted, and we can simply enjoy. But by and large I find that I mostly live under this cloud. But in that I find God’s help in receiving strength and consolation. And that struggle helps me focus in ways that sadly otherwise I would be slack in. And it certainly helps keep one more humble.

So we need to embrace this, even when it’s hard. Learn to do so just as Paul did. In and through Jesus.