It’s shoe box time around our household – Operation Christmas Child is underway. I love this opportunity for our family to help a child who is experiencing the needs of basic survival. I’m so thankful for organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, which seek to reach the world for Christ by also meeting very basic needs of survival.
But, as much good as this organization and many others like it do, humanity will continue in a state of need. We may not experience the need for a meal like the poverty stricken. But there are profound needs that all of humanity has in common, no matter their income.
We all need love. We all need relationship. We all need peace. We all need a Savior.
I had one of those broken yet enlightening moments a few months ago. I was wrestling with clean sheets and mattresses, putting fresh sheets onto my kids’ bunk-beds (no easy task mind you!). The physical struggle I was facing in the midst of this task triggered the recognition of an internal struggle as well. The truth and emotions of that recognition trickled down through my mind and into my soul.
I have needs that rarely get met, especially in this season of life.
God designed me to be more introverted; I need time alone for reflection and contemplation. But in our large family and ministry lifestyle, it is rare for me to get those moments. God also made me to appreciate order and structure. But again, because of the nature of our family life, chaos reigns more than order, no matter how hard I try. God also gave me an active mind; I love to learn and study and grow in knowledge and understanding. But since most of my days are spent with my children, “The Cat In The Hat” is my poetry, the alphabet my literature, and counting to ten my higher reasoning.
Just as I was brought to tears by this recognition, God began to direct my mind. He challenged my resolve for obedience, even when my needs go unmet.
He challenged my perspective of my needs: are they truly needs? do my needs trump others’ needs? can I still serve Him from a place of personal emptiness?
He challenged me to completely trust Him and His power to help me meet the needs of others, even when I feel my needs are unmet.
Here’s the thing – if we all waited to act in the interest of others until our needs were met, then no one could be used by God to meet the needs of another. No one would ever have a need met.
Paul had something similar to say to the Corinthian church:
“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by and equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack.” 2 Corinthians 8:13-14
We all have needs, but are also (because of Christ’s work in our lives) capable of meeting others’ needs. Because of all He has given to us, we have something to give to others. And it’s going to look different for particular people and particular circumstances.
Here lies another paradox of Christian living: the intensity of our own felt needs wanes when we are more concerned about the needs of others.
Pastor Matthew Barnett, founder of the Dream Center in L.A., has spent decades ministering to some of the most needy people in our society. He has found that one of the most powerful steps toward their recovery is serving others. He encourages them to serve out of their pain – that a key component of transformation is getting out of ‘self’ and giving to others.
In Pastor Barnett’s words:
Everywhere that you look there’s a need. Find a need and fill it. Find a hurt and heal it. Look around for a lack in any situation and be the person that fills that gap.
Just as Christ’s pain was our gain, so our struggle can be used for the gain of the body (of Christ).
So, here’s the heart of what I have been attempting to communicate:
We all have needs, but they must not define us. It’s okay, and necessary, for us to communicate our needs to others – to the body of Christ – so that they might help meet those needs in our lives. However, we can not use our own unmet needs as an excuse to ignore the needs of others. Just as Paul exhorted the believers in Corinth, we must give and receive in turn. It’s the symbiosis of being part of the Body of Christ.
I think adopting this attitude is what separates a ‘person with needs’ from ‘a needy person.’
Whose need occupies most of our concern?
Children, as you have most likely observed, do a great job of communicating their personal need. It’s in their nature to be selfishly focused most of the time. But that is not the maturity that our Heavenly Father desires for them or us. (Colossians 1:28)
That’s one of the reasons I love to pack shoe boxes with my kids. It’s a tangible way to get them thinking about others; to broaden their perspective of the world and what ‘need’ really means.
It’s not too late for you to pack a shoe box too! There are a few days left. Click on the Operation Christmas Child picture above to find out more.
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19