What happens when you come to the end of yourself? What happens when you’re forced to confront the limitations of your body, of your patience, of your ability to get up and to do the thing you want so very badly to do?
If you’re like me, you’ve had plenty of chances in recent months to witness your response. As the coronavirus swept the globe earlier this year, it not only stole lives but also any lingering notion of autonomy or immortality. It turns out, we are in control of very little. We always have been. But these rediscovered boundary lines can actually be our arrows back to a God who is unlimited by all that limits us. He is self-sufficient — and this is very good news for us who are not.
We are utterly needy. God is needful of nothing. Instead, he is the source of all that his creation and created beings require. From his abundant supply, he provides all that is essential for life and godliness. (2 Pet. 1:3) Therefore, we do not need to be sufficient without him, only reliant upon him.
God does not need anything.
This integral aspect of God’s character is part of the good news Paul wanted to get across to the men in Athens, who were worshipping an “unknown” god rather than the Creator of all. So, Paul tells them: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything.” Rather, Paul continues, “he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)
Our three-in-one God does not need us to build temples — or ministries or platforms — for him. He does not need our companionship or worship. If he did, he would not be self-satisfied. Worse, he would be a god that we could manipulate.
Yet how often do our prayers, our worship and our service imply otherwise? We pray with just enough fervor to think God might owe us an answer. We scurry madly from one ministry to another as though it were up to our two hands to uphold the very glory of God. But Colossians 1:17 says that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who holds all things together, not us.
“Were there another from whom God could receive the gift of life, or indeed any gift whatever, that other would be God,” writes A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy. God is “the one who contains all, who gives all that is given, but who Himself can receive nothing that He has not first given.”
There was no me-shaped hole in the heart of God, writes Jen Wilkin in None Like Him. Jesus did not put on flesh because he had a compelling desire for our company. No, our God has been fully self-satisfied since eternity past and into eternity future with the fellowship inherent in the Trinity. The love that flows to us — and even that which flows back to God from us — is His.
We cannot make more complete the one who is complete in himself.
God provides all we need.
Oh, how we long to be self-sufficient like God. How we wish to throw off our incessant needs — for food, for rest, for one another — which often seem to keep us from doing the good work we desire to do, even for God.
We try to outwit these limits, out-caffeinate them, outrun them. Often, we assume that our limitations are merely the result of sin. If we miss a deadline, we are more likely to blame procrastination than the pride that led us to take on more than we could accomplish in the first place. We are more likely to despise our boundary lines than to rest within them.
But the neediness of humanity is not in itself a result of the fall; Adam and Eve required food even before they plucked it from the wrong tree. Their needs and God’s constant provision for them, their lack and his supply, were gracious reminders that they were the created, not the Creator. And that is true for us, too.
The good news about our human limitations is what we find when we come to the end of ourselves: A God who never ends. His lack of limits, his abundance, is a great comfort to those of us who almost always come up short.
When it comes to God’s incommunicable attributes — the ones we do not share — such as self-sufficiency, the process of becoming more like him takes an unexpected form. As we meditate on God’s perfect self-sufficiency, we see that the only wise choice is for us to become less self-sufficient. Our only hope is in becoming dependent, instead, on the one who owns the Earth, “and the fullness thereof.” (1 Cor. 10:26)
There, we find that even our limitations can be redeemed. The Son who willingly put on the confines of our flesh did so to meet, once and for all, our greatest need. His provision allows us to be made right with a perfect God, who, from his fullness, becomes, our “very present help” (Ps. 46:1).