I am a needy person.
So are you.
I daresay that discussing this topic ranks right up there with listening to nails screecing across a chalkboard. Nobody I know actually wants to admit that they need anything. In our Western mindset, to ask for help or confess a need is tantamount to declaring total defeat. You might as well plop a paper bag over your head and scrawl the word, “LOSER” across it in big, bold letters. We want to be known as independent, competent, together. Not a hair out of place, not a speck in the house, no mistakes at work. Ever smiling perfection, ready to lend a hand to anyone –
– but never able to take one.
Let us examine a very simple passage of Scripture which has enormous implications for our daily lives:
My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)
This post tonight is not about the Problem of Pain. I’m not going to try and sort out why bad things happen, why some people go hungry, why disaster strikes. Frankly, I don’t think that there will ever be an answer that fully satisfies anyone. This is not about what needs are met and what needs are not met. This is about having needs in the first place.
To place this verse in context, Paul is writing to the believing community in Philippi, Greece. He is sitting in prison, traditionally thought to have been his first incarceration in Rome, but I am more convinced by the evidence of those who attest to an Ephesian setting. Either way, he’s locked up. Yet, Philippians is perhaps one of the most joyful and hopeful letters of the New Testament. In it the audience reads that Paul is content to be where he is (1:12), that they should not be frightened by anyone who opposes them (1:28), that their conduct should be such that they may be as stars shining in the heavens (2:15), that they must press forever onward and upward toward Jesus (3:14), and that they can do anything by the strength of Christ (4:13).
My eyes well up at the sight of all that encouragement, and it cannot be said that I am much of a crier. Something stirs within me, though. To think that this man, thrown into a dark hole, hoping that friends might remember to take care of him (Roman prisoners were not fed or clothed by the state), could write such stirring words is a depth of confidence that I have not yet grasped. Add to that the delightful bit of theology contained within the kenosis passage of 2:5-11, and this remarkable letter is signed, sealed and delivered straight to the heart of the reader.
I have to think that Paul had arrived at a place in his life, long before this prison sentence, where he could freely admit that he had needs. Though it is in this very same letter in which he writes that he has learned to be content in every circumstance (4:11), I believe that it would be very wrong for us to link contentment with stoically facing life with a stony face. Such an attitude is nothing more than falsehood. Where is the solution, then? How is it possible to be content and needy all at once?
I think that the key lies in being able to refer to the Lord as “my God.”
Paul was not the first to write about God in such a way. Ample precedent was available to him in the Psalms. The shepherd-turned-king David wrote:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. – Psalm 18:2 (NKJV)
The LORD is my shepherd. – Psalm 23:1 (NKJV)
In you I trust, O my God. – Psalm 25:2 (NKJV)
The LORD is my light and my salvation.- Psalm 27:1 (NKJV)
Think about it. To be able to say that “the LORD is my rock” is admit that you need a rock. To be able to say that He is your deliverer is to admit that you need one. A shepherd? You need guidance. A light? You’re walking in darkness. The depth of need exposed in these and countless other verses is astounding. Do we really understand this? Are we simply mouthing platitudes?
Is the Lord “my God” or is He just God?
There’s a vast difference between the two.
So, we have needs. We wake up with them strapped to our chests and don’t bother to take them off and night. Our needs are an intrinsic part of who we are. This neediness is not a result of our fallen state, though sin certainly magnifies and exacerbates the needs. Even in Heaven, however, when all is peace and light, we will continue to need. That is blatantly obvious.
In Heaven, won’t we continue to need God? Life? Beauty? Joy?
I’m a needy person. I need unconditional acceptance and love. I need personal space and lots of quiet time to think. I need more rest than the average person. I need to eat in a much healthier way then I currently do. I need to be able to say “no”. I need friends. Family. Stimulating conversation. A roof over my head. Romance. Puppies. Laughter. Is it possible to be truly content in the midst of this ocean of need?
Yes. I have come to think that contentedness lies wholly in flinging my broken, bleeding, needing self at the feet of the Father. My God will meet all these needs and more. Perhaps He will intervene in a miraculous way. Perhaps He will work through the hands of another person. Perhaps, in a stamp of divine mystery, He will appear to not meet a need. As I said before, this I cannot explain. All I know is that any “no” always leads to a much grander “yes”. God desires to give! (James 1:17) And give He does, whether in these outward ways or in a quiet, inward manner; the manner of pouring out His own love and strength upon me.
This is all fine and dandy, well and good. If pressed, I think we can admit that we need God. What about each other, though? Can we really admit that it stings to be left out? That it’s draining to be constantly in the position of rescuing others? That we need people in our lives who are wholly safe and who can and will accept us for who we are, as we are, as much as they are able to do so?
I very hesitantly pat that need on the back, stopping short of a full embrace. I need to stop trying to be the Messiah and leave that job up to the One who is far better qualified. I can’t be everything that everyone wants me to be. It’s just not possible. For I, the “together” one, am not together. Not really. On the surface, I can look pretty good. Inside? I need just as much healing and comfort and support as anyone else.
That’s where contentment comes from. It’s not just blithely accepting whatever comes your way. It’s admitting to the need and keeping your eyes open for the answer which comes from on high. It is having confidence that He is taking care of you, even if you can’t fully understand it. Contentment isn’t ignoring things. We are left in bondage to discontentment and masking our neediness in doing that.
I want something different. I want to be free. Free to admit that I need, free to seek out real contentment, free to be a broken, messed-up, hurting, imperfect, desperately-needing-Jesus person. That’s who I really am. Anything else is just a game.
Think about it.
If you can’t admit that you’re needy, then can you really claim that you need Jesus for anything?