“God has promised to supply our needs. What we don’t have now we don’t need now.”
–Elisabeth Elliot, The Path of Loneliness, p. 128
I love Elisabeth Elliot. Probably no other author has impacted me as much as she. She’s one of the people I admire more than anyone else. Her faith in God, her perseverance through hardship and testimony of God’s goodness continues to amaze me. When her husband Jim Elliot was murdered by the natives he was trying to reach with the Gospel Elisabeth sought to understand what God was doing. She wrote this:
“My questions were not answered, but I wanted to ‘see’ God, to know Him. So I kept on reading the Book, kept trying to apply it to my life, kept bringing my own thinking and conduct under its authority, seeking God’s meaning in every event that touched me, including Jim’s death and other crises. As God had promised, His Word proved true. He instructed me. He kept me. He held me. He showed me all I needed to know for life and godliness, although He did not unfold all I wanted to know for understanding.” (On Asking God Why p. 140-141, italics hers)
In 2 Peter 1:3 it does indeed say “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness”, and in Phil. 4:19 Paul says “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Yet, sometimes it doesn’t seem like God is keeping this promise.
Our prayers to God are filled with asking Him to supply things we think we need - or else asking Him to change the fact that we need them. In reality however, it may be that we don’t need these things at all! Perhaps what God wants is for us to learn to be content. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul speaks of a “thorn” in his flesh. It was an affliction of some kind and three times he says he pleaded very specifically with God to remove it. I think perhaps he thought that he rather needed it to be taken away. But God’s response was only this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). It was as if God was saying, “Paul, I know this thorn is really troubling you and causing you much affliction. I know you think that it would be better if I took it away, but you see, I allowed that thorn into your life for a purpose. You don’t understand now, but someday you will see things more from My perspective and see that actually what you need is for that thorn to remain. Because you see, through your weakness My strength is going to have an opportunity to shine through your life. You may not understand, but until it one day is taken away, My grace is sufficient.”
Paul accepted this thorny gift from God. While I’m sure he didn’t completely understand, He saw that God’s glory was the most important thing and so he was content. Paul elsewhere writes, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Cor 9:8).
To be perfectly honest, there are times when I don’t feel like I have “an abundance for every good work”. But truth is not tied to our feelings – or to what we can see with our eyes. There are certainly many legitimate needs. A job to pay the bills and provide for your family, wisdom in making an important decision, help for dealing with a difficult relationship, heath and strength to keep at your work. But again, God promises to supply our EVERY need…. So if you don’t have it right now, maybe there’s something else you need more. This isn’t just about physical needs either, but also emotional and spiritual needs. We think we need comfort – did you know you already have it in Christ? You just need to look to Him for it. We think we need strength – yet Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). Of course, this is all much easier said than actually done, but there have been many times in my life that I’ve felt “needy” and instead of turning to Christ to satisfy me I turn to other things. There are various idols we turn to: food (yes chocolate too), entertainment, friends, alcohol, Netflix, you name it. Even exercise can be a way of making ourselves feel better apart from Christ. God’s Word says that He is sufficient for our every need. If you have a need, take it to Him. He promises to fulfill it. And if He doesn’t, than you trust that you don’t really need it. He is enough.