The gift of being in need
I don’t know about you, but when I first became a Christian, I tried to have it all together so that I would be a good advertisement for the faith. I imagined myself a walking billboard, flashing “Believe in Jesus, and you too can have a perfect life!”
This misconception of what it means to be a disciple left me feeling pressured to do all the giving in relationships. If someone had a need, I tried to fill it. If I had a need, I went to the Lord with it, tried to deal with it on my own, or ignored it.
It took some time for God to get my attention and change my perspective. When I worked at a drop-in centre for people in poverty, I was surrounded by individuals with unimaginable physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. It was the ideal place for a “saviour-in-training” to exhaust her own resources and discover that she needed God’s riches available through others.
At the drop-in, I met a woman in her late 50s who had made a commitment to Christ many years earlier but had not grown much in her faith. Though Verna was old enough to be my mother, I was the one with the answers and the prayers. During many conversations, I just listened; she rarely asked how asked how I was doing. It felt good to be needed.
A shift in relationship
Then one afternoon, I told Verna I was having a tough day and asked her to pray for me. She said, “No one has ever asked me to pray for them.” It was the beginning of a shift in our relationship. Not only did she pray for me that day, she continued to pray for me and my family regularly. It felt good to let someone else care for my needs.
God was doing something in her life as well. Around that time, Verna gained strength as a Christian and began reaching out. Though she still lived in poverty and battled mental illness, she listened to and cared for others at the drop-in centre, especially youth. It was evident she got a revelation of herself as a person with something to give. At her funeral a few years later, several people shared how Verna had impacted their lives. One woman told how she and Verna “adopted” each other as family on holidays and spent time together.
I learned more about mutual relationships when I visited a friend in a psychiatric ward. She has battled bipolar disorder since she was in her 20s. In the sunny courtyard in front of the hospital, I shared my own struggle with depression, and she comforted me. Our relationship changed when we took turns being weak and strong. Our friendship grew deeper and continues to be a reciprocal bond after more than 15 years.
When we are open about our needs, others are allowed to grow and Jesus takes his rightful place as Saviour.
As a young Christian, while I was learning and working at Youth With A Mission, God impressed on me Matthew 9:12–13: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I thought Jesus was talking about other people being sick and needing the Great Physician. I imagined going into dark places to facilitate others’ meeting with Christ. Oh, the glory of it all!
But he meant me. He meant I was sick and in need of a doctor. And he means you too.
As you celebrate Easter, take time to reflect on your own desperate neediness. Christ’s sacrifice will take on new meaning when you get in touch with your inner snot-nosed kid.
It takes courage to be in need; it takes humility to let your weaknesses show. But being vulnerable and in need is the only way you can access the fullness of God’s riches.
When the apostle Paul asked God to take away his “thorn in the flesh,” God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So Paul decided, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Revealing your weakness makes room for Jesus to be sufficient in and through you. Empty, you can be filled with his living water. People around us are thirsty for living water, not the stagnant dregs that you and I can drain from our own rusty buckets.