By Leah Fuller
I hovered in the rain praying while a woman stood but a few feet from me, speaking with great determination to my co-instructor. She was tense, obviously afraid, and she believed that her body could not physically continue on this expedition that she had begun a few days earlier. She wanted to leave, to quit right then. Moments like this one are hard for a couple reasons: 1) They typically occur at a critical point in the expedition when things are really challenging and the person or persons simply can’t see beyond their own struggle. 2) Physical challenges often mask real, deep, vulnerable spaces of the heart that God is pushing on, and most people are unaware of anything but what they can physically see and feel.
My co-leader asked a few questions and then encouraged this woman to spend some time praying about what it was that she really needed. Perhaps she needed to share her struggle with the group? Perhaps there was something deeper? She agreed to pray, and the rest of the group spread out to do the same. Finding a place to settle on the side of the rocky mountain, I wondered what God wanted to do in the life of this woman and in the lives of the other group members. I continued to pray.
As the hikers regrouped, my co-instructor approached the woman and exchanged a few words. She slowly turned to the group with tears streaming down her face and began to explain her deep fears—fear of the unknown…fear of losing control…fear and worry over what might happen to her if she continued. And, as she wept before these people, most of whom she had only known a few days, a beautiful scene unfolded. One by one, her group members gathered around her, laid hands on her, and began praying over her. They saw her need, and they knew that in and of themselves, they could not meet it, so they turned to the One who could.
I find it intriguing how often this scene unfolds in the lives of Christ’s followers--particularly ones who have answered a call to vocational ministry in churches or para-church organizations or a call to being missionaries--people called by God to shepherd and help those who are in need. It’s what God set before us to do…to “share with God’s people who are in need” (Romans 12:13). I love meeting people’s needs. I find a great deal of satisfaction, fulfillment, and value when I have sacrificed hours of my time to sit with a grieving friend or to serve a struggling family. When a participant on a trip struggles with the weight of their pack, it feels good to help carry a few of their items, quite literally shouldering their burden.
And yet…when it comes to communicating my own need or even acknowledging my need, I absolutely do not want to be that transparent. It feels too vulnerable to let other people know I’m struggling. Instead, I would rather flee, hide, isolate, or believe the lie that I am alone. Shouldn’t I meet my own needs just as our western culture has taught me? Independence is easier than interdependence because it involves only one…me. Then, too, I get so focused on others that I fail to see my own need until it is too late, and I am exhausted. Not only do I hesitate to let other people see my struggle, but I avoid telling God about it. I know it sounds silly because God knows everything--even what I try to hide, but it’s true.
When I think about the way that Jesus sent out the twelve disciples as they started their ministry, I become aware of the truth of trusting others. He sent them out two by two and told them to “take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals, but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town” (Mark 6:8-10). Jesus literally told them to go out to minister with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Essentially, the disciples would have to depend on the people they were going to minister to just as much as they would be meeting the people’s spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. He was asking them to shed the protective barrier of independence and step into a place where they legitimately could not provide for themselves.
Admitting our need makes us vulnerable. It means that we can’t do this on our own. It requires us to surrender our independence in order to receive God’s gift of miraculously providing, not just for our physical needs, but the deeper longings of our heart for intimacy, belonging, love, and value, which He gives us through Himself and the community around us. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” God is able to meet all of our needs, and that requires us to wade into the deeper fears that ultimately lead us to protect our hearts, to choose to trust Him, and to believe that even when we cannot see beyond our current suffering, He is with us.
Will you let God take you to the deeper places of your need? You can trust that He knows and loves you and that He will be faithful to meet you in the midst of your deepest longing and desire. Let go, and trust that He is able.
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.