rebelling against low expectations

When God Is Not Enough


“God is all you need.”

Most of us have said or heard a variation of this assurance at some point in our lives, probably more than once.

God is enough. He will fill you. You don’t need anything else.

There is a problem with this thought. The problem isn’t that it isn’t true – it is.

The problem is that it is vague.

It is vague because the word “need” is ambiguous. We can say we “need” Jesus. But we can also say we “need” food, or “need” sleep, or “need” a break, or even “need” to go see a movie.

Of course, most of us know that there’s a difference between needs and wants, and most of us can usually categorize the movie as actually being want. We also, however, realize that we need Jesus in a very different way than we need food or need rest.

The trouble is that the word “need” has to be clarified.

Needs do not exist in a vacuum; they exist because an end is desirable or a consequence is to be avoided. It must be coupled with “or else…” or “so that…”

“I need Jesus SO THAT I will inherit eternal life and be saved from the wrath of God”.”

“I need food OR ELSE I will die.”

“I need sleep SO THAT I can stay sane and efficient.”

“I need a break OR ELSE I will become overwhelmed.”

“I need to go see a movie because I heard it was good.”

The movie is quickly identified as a want. It is a mere desire, an inclination, neutral in the sense that the consequences are neither necessary nor terrible, all things being equal.

The others must be evaluated on the basis of the importance of the consequences.

Being overwhelmed is not good, and we know it is not good because we have a purpose for Christ and being overworked and overtired will keep us from being able to fulfill that purpose.

So if you truly are becoming overwhelmed, you DO in fact need a break. Death is generally to be avoided, so food and drink are in this sense a need, if you are truly starving or becoming dehydrated.

And we truly will go to Hell without Jesus, which is undesirable, to say the least.

It seems simple when broken down like this, but sometimes our perceived needs are not so cut-and-dried. We often feel the need for love, acceptance, rest, hugs, sweets, marriage, fulfillment, and so on and so forth.

Our hearts seem to be need-factories, and we are told that Jesus is the answer for them all.

It’s as though we spend our days carving hollows into our hearts – hollows that are shaped just to fit the objects of our necessities and desires.

We have chocolate-shaped holes, and spouse-shaped holes, and getaway-shaped holes, and praise-shaped holes.

As someone who adores babies, I know myself I often find a gapingly empty children-shaped hole in my heart. We know that “God is enough” so we imagine that He is a sort of liquid that will fill these hollows nicely and neatly.

Experience doesn’t back up this theory.

Oddly enough, knowing that God is all we need doesn’t seem to abate the inner longings for a happy marriage, a time of rest, fellowship, or more money. The holes still feel empty.

And their emptiness seems to weigh us down.

I can sometimes get angry with God when this emptiness is particularly heavy – then of course I feel guilty for my anger. After all, God is all I need! Then a half-realized panic starts to creep in.

IS God really enough?

The problem is, God isn’t liquid.

He doesn’t exist to fill the holes we manufacture in our hearts. He’s a solid – He is His own shape, rather than taking on the shape of that which He inhabits.

He isn’t in the business of filling our own personal molds- He’s in the business of smashing them.

In Ezekiel, He tells us that He will remove the heart of stone from us and replace it with a heart of flesh. Our hearts aren’t meant to be hard, hollow receptacles for God to fit Himself into.

They are meant to be living, breathing expressions of His Spirit, a spirit much too big to fit any mold we could ever make.

It’s not about Him being enough to fill our needs anymore; it’s about Him being MORE than enough, filling us in ways we didn’t expect or know that we needed.

And when that happens, His love is free to overflow onto those around us, instead of being confined to ourselves and our personal expectations.

In the words of John the Baptist, He must increase, and we must decrease.

The joyful truth is, however, when we are decreased, His increase fills us fuller than we could ever have hoped or desired.

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Photo courtesy of Sjoerd Lammers and Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the author

J. Grace Pennington

is an author and medical transcriptionist living in the great state of Texas. When she's not writing her next novel, she enjoys taking walks, hanging out with family and friends, playing movie soundtracks on the piano, and looking up at the stars.


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rebelling against low expectations

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