“When is a need not a need? When is it something worse? Or when is it an invitation?”
So there I stand (like many of you have before me, I’m sure)… Certain no one else is up at this hour but me and my daughter and the gas station worker up the road. What started as a cute ‘waah’ then morphed into a loud squawk and is currently some infant version of a roar. I have exhausted my small toolbox of baby-soothing-techniques and the tension is creeping up inside me.
Change of scene: I’m the one with an unmet need. At first it was a mild discomfort, but then it morphed into something worse and is currently intense enough to block out most everything else in my heart and mind. I have exhausted my toolbox of coping techniques and the doubt and resentment and despair are creeping up inside me.
Why those negative feelings? The subtle reasonings of my heart go something like this…
- If God loves me, He will meet my needs.
- My needs are not met, therefore…
- Either He doesn’t care or He does care but isn’t able to do anything about it.
But let’s back up… what if my first assumption is wrong? What if I’m wrong about my needs and God’s love?
Reading Matt’s article yesterday reminded me of some scriptures that God has been slowly putting together for me over the last several months. They talk about my felt needs and my real needs.
One is Psalm 23:1. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” This is just one of many verses where God promises to meet the needs of His kids. I was chewing on it a few Sundays ago and realized that I don’t always feel like that is true. If I’m honest, there are times when I feel like God has forgotten me.
But compare that verse with Philippians 4:13… “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Interestingly, the context of that verse is also about needs. Paul is talking about being able to be content, no matter what his circumstances… whether “well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want…”
So finally this thought came to me: God’s promise is not to meet all my felt needs… He actually invites me to let Him define what my needs are, and He calls it ‘contentment.’ In our day, we might call it ‘freedom’… freedom from a desire that is controlling us. Isn’t there something that drives you, that feels like a ‘need’, which you would like to be free from? It may be scary to admit, but it matters. It matters when that family member has pushed your buttons again, because they know just how to manipulate you. It matters when your boss has mistreated you, knowing that he can get away with it. It matters when the loss is great and grief and despair are so bad, “I swear there must be blisters on my heart.”
When I’m free from slavery to felt needs, I’m no longer tempted to slide down that trail of bad logic I numbered above. And it’s easier to see that God is the perfect parent, who both meets my needs and shapes them, and yet is not driven by them.
So fighting for joy in Christ means that sometimes I question my needs, responding to His invitation to trust Him with them… sometimes I hold them up to Him and ask Him what He thinks of them… asking Him to meet them in His time and in His way. As long as He gives me more of Himself, it will be worth it.
Jesus, I am not fully aware of the things I label as “needs” until they go unsatisfied. When that happens I feel so alone, and so forgotten by You. But You have demonstrated Your goodness and love when you gave up Your throne for me. I wonder what it was like when You became human and experienced need for the first time in all eternity. Thanks for doing that… thanks for doing that for me. Please give me faith to trust You with that thing today that feels so important. Please let Your will be done with it. For Your greater glory, our greater joy, and the salvation of the nations, amen.