Sometimes I don’t want to see what’s staring in my face. The obvious is so plainly blatant, I won’t allow my eyes to focus. Fear is too great. Stubborn as a headstrong little girl, I screw my eyes shut and close out the very beauty God has placed in my path, beauty which comes in the form of need.
Recently I had a chat with a friend, catching up for just a bit on the details of one another’s lives. She casually turned the conversation towards questions about our family direction, asking for progress on some of the issues we have been facing. My answer, as usual, was enigmatic.
God is at work. We’re trusting Him by faith. We have a limited scope right now. We’re believing the Father for His plans for our family.
Her response surprised me. Laughing, she stated that our lives seemed to be in a perpetual state of blind faith, a quality which she admired. I chuckled, agreeing with her assessment. But as I walked away, the pain of her conclusion stung. Like a creeping fog the truth began to seep into my heart, reminding me of needs which, earlier in the day, I had longed to hush and tuck away.
Lately, Need seems to be my constant companion. As a child, I had little-to-no acquaintance with that specter, never experiencing the challenge of cultivating relationship with such a formidable guest. However, in His goodness the Father has, over the course of the past fifteen years, presented an introduction time and again.
Embrace her, He gently whispers.
I recoil. Every time.
The relief at her departure is profound, and I fervently hope to never again cross her path. Yet, now, in His mercy, He has summoned her again. I would much rather clench my eyes tight, fiercely pretending that she hasn’t come to visit. Hoping, like that little girl, to ignore her long enough to have her vanish summarily. But The Lord is too wise to allow me to remain in my posture of defiance. His love is too fierce.
A few weeks later, I happen across Philippians 4:11-13. Paul is commending the Philippian church for their financial partnership in his ministry. And then, he makes the most curious statement. It’s certainly a concept which we in the Western church do not enjoy pondering too deeply.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
I back up and read his claim again. And again.
He’s not talking to the Philippians about his need, because he’s learned to be content. Just a bit of study on church history reveals that Paul frequently maintained an intimate acquaintance with desperate need. Constantly traveling, sharing the gospel, he relied on both his own handiwork at tent-making and the generosity of others to provide for his daily sustenance.
His testimony in 1 Corinthians explains the overwhelming challenges he faced:
“To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become,and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”
If anyone experienced need, it was Paul. And yet, he claimed that he had no reason to speak of need, for he had learned to be content in every situation.
Contentment cancels need.
He goes on to say,
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:12-13).”
And then, he blows open the secret, so that it’s a secret no longer. He can do all things through Him who strengthens.
HIM who strengthens.
The One who strengthens Paul is the One who teaches him the mystery of being content. It is through His strength that Paul can hide his heart in a fortress of contentment. It is through choosing contentment that Paul grasps the hand of need and confidently declares, I have no fear of you. You are the handmaiden of The Lord, sent to accomplish His purposes. “My God shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory (Phil. 4:19).”
My need is never greater than my God.
I unscrew my eyes and look. Need is still there. She’s stalwart and formidable, unrelenting. I close my eyes and focus on the One who gives me strength. I reach out and embrace Need, whispering, You’re the handmaiden of The Lord, sent to accomplish His purposes. I will be content, for He shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory. And suddenly, the secret is mine, and she is radiant, beautiful.
Special thanks to Rick Delanty who has granted permission to use his beautiful art in this post.