My parents and I had a huge fight the night before my sixteenth birthday when they told me that they couldn’t get me to the DMV the next day to take my permit test. Looking back now, this feels ridiculous and spoiled, but at the time it felt like the end of the world. I couldn’t wait to have my driver’s license, because having it meant that I could get myself wherever I needed to go without any help from anyone else.
When I eventually did get my license, life was great. I had all the independence that came with a set of car keys (and a curfew). But when I went to college, I left those keys at home, and suddenly, I found myself constantly needing rides to church, the grocery store, and the pharmacy. It was so humbling. Don’t get me wrong: I loved that my life was so full of people who wanted to help me, but I hated that I needed help at all.
My fierce independence extends far beyond the steering wheel. I’d rather pay the bill and carry both of my suitcases up the stairs than ask for help. I do not like admitting that I need.
Our culture glorifies people who come across as strong and independent and dismisses people who ask for help. We feel like burdens when we admit our need, worrying that when we do muster up the courage, our friends will roll their eyes and complain behind our backs. So, we hold back our questions and fears and problems until they build up so much that when they come pouring out they are ten times stronger than before.
This attitude toward need is not only damaging to our relationships. It also sets us up to misunderstand grace.
Needing other people is part of the creation order. Before the fall, God saw that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18 ESV). It’s not a sign that something is wrong. Instead, it is part of being human as God intended.
I think sometimes we get in our heads and think that asking for help, whether with opening the pickle jar or quenching our mounting anxiety, is somehow a sign of weakness. First of all, asking for help takes a tremendous amount of strength. It requires you to be vulnerable in front of someone else, risking disappointment and heartache. That sounds like strength to me. Second, let’s do a quick thought experiment. What if asking for help was weak? What if it meant the world saw you as someone who couldn’t hack it on your own? Doesn’t God use the weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27 ESV)?
Not only is it more than okay to need others, but it is also crucial to admit that we need God.
In fact, if we don’t need God, Jesus’s coming is not good news. In one of the most-quoted verses in the Bible, John writes: “For God so loves the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). It’s implicit in John’s statement that we need God’s Son in order to have eternal life. More than that, we need God to come down to us, because we can’t ascend to Him. This is the gospel in its simplest terms: We needed. He met our need.
That need goes deeper than needing to be “a better person” or to get a little push over the hump of “good enough.” We need a new heart, not a change of clothes. We need resurrection, not a flu shot. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:12-13 ESV), and it is only when we admit the depth of our need (see Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV) that we can appreciate the depth of God’s love and the abundance of his grace.
While we’re here on earth, admitting our earthly needs and asking others for help with them gives us a glimpse of what it means for Jesus to perfectly meet our eternal needs. When we say “I need”, we practice humility and allow those we ask for help to live out part of their calling within the church (Romans 12:13 ESV, Galatians 6:2 ESV).
I need. We need. And, fiercely independent or not, God knows our hearts, our desires, and our needs. He has already met our most eternal and deepest need in His Son, and, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 ESV). God knows your needs and is willing to meet them. Will you let him?