image002 copyDesperation, I suggest, is a tremendously important and vastly under-appreciated spiritual characteristic. We would rather champion commitment or discipline or strict obedience. We would sooner lionize love, joy, peace, patience and all the other spiritual fruit that spiritual people might bear.

But beneath every spiritual blessing lie the gasped pleadings of the spiritually destitute. “Only drowning men could see him” is how the poet puts it. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus says in Matthew. Mark makes the same point differently: Jesus always had a soft spot for people willing to beg.

It is desperation that drives people out of their misery and into the arms of Jesus.

It is desperation that pushes people to hunt him down and flush him out and kneel at his feet to make their unmerited demands.

It is desperation that gives Jesus permission to poke his fingers in people’s ears and spit on their tongues … to hear their confessions and offer absolution.

Desperation leads to begging … and begging leads to compassion … and compassion leads to healing in all its many guises.

The message of Mark’s gospel is not that there is too much desperation in this broken world, but that there is too little!

A drastic increase in the number of desperate people—hungry and hurting and hopeless—would be good for the business of the kingdom of God. It is a lack of desperation that poses the greatest threat to spiritual well-being.

Take the Pharisees, for example. Comfortable, complacent, content. So confident in their own righteousness. So satisfied with themselves and the correctness of their walk before God. So convinced they had it right, did it right, understood it right.

It is satisfaction that blinds us, not desperation. Desperation opens our eyes, sharpens our awareness, and drives us to the mercies of others. Satisfaction persuades us to engage in the kind of navel-gazing idolatry that encourages the folly of believing our own resources are sufficient.

The Pharisees missed Jesus because they lacked desperation. They couldn’t see him because their personal satisfaction blinded them. They had no need of him because they had no need.

What riled the Pharisees to murderous rage was Jesus telling them, “You are desperate, and poor and hungry … you just don’t know it. Your righteousness is filthy rags. Your obedience is a feeble veneer. If you asked, I would heal you. But you will not come to me and, across such a chasm of faithlessness, I cannot come to you.”

The disciples could have used a little more desperation, I think. They could have spent a bit more time with hands outstretched, pleading for Jesus’ mercies.

I know I should spend more time in the posture of the desperate, engaged in the kind of supplication that touches Jesus’ heart and unleashes his boundless blessings. I wish Jesus would put his fingers in my ears and spit on my tongue. Yes, it’s intrusive and embarrassing and much too intimate for my proud heart.

Even so, it would be good for my God-deaf ears to be opened to the music of his purposes once more and my stumbling tongue to be loosed again to sing of heaven’s glory.

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