God Needs You

By David Mills Published on July 25, 2019

God needs you. You who enjoy wealth beyond imagining and you who can’t find work. You who teach in an elite university and you who cleans his office at night, and you who ace his tests and you who fail them.

Or you, unable to move from the couch because you think you’ve wrecked your life. Or because other people wrecked it for you. And you brooding bitterly over those you hurt. God needs you. And you suffering because your miswired brain tells you your life sucks and you suck with it. You too. He needs you as much as he needs the rich man and the scholar. Maybe more.

The world praises those who succeed on its terms and condemns or ignores those who fail. As the Apostle Peter tells us, God doesn’t rank us that way. And the coolest thing is that He not only loves you, He needs you.

God Needs You

Yes, God’s complete in Himself. He doesn’t need you the way we need other people. God means being complete in Himself. He doesn’t need friends. He doesn’t need helpers.

Except that for reasons of His own He created a world in which He does need us to get done what He wants to get done. He set the rules, and by those rules He needs people. Not just people. Every single person.

Thou Art Wiser Than I

O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I. Thou art more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfil Thy high purposes in me whatever they be. Work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see. I ask not to know. I ask simply to be used.

— The prayer Newman wrote to follow his meditation (“Sapientia” means Wisdom.)

One pastor and teacher saw this well. You may have seen the news that the English writer John Henry Newman will be named a saint on October 13th. He lived from 1801 to 1890 and was, I think, the greatest theologian ever to write in English. Here, if you’re interested, is a collection of his wise sayings I put together for The Stream and here are his insights on dying and death from the Hour of Our Death site I edit. And here is a great source for more information about him.

He left a vast number of writings. Among his books is a collection called Meditations and Devotions. (Here is a scan of the book, if you like reading it that way.) His secretary put it together a couple years after he died. It includes his “Meditations on Christian Doctrine.” The things he says at the beginning really encourage me, and may encourage you.

He Needs Us

Newman notes that the God who is All in All chose to need us. “It has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created,” he writes. He set His own rules. He chose to make us and use us. Strange but true.

And not just us in general. You and me in particular. Newman goes on: “I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created. I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has.”

And then he offers this great truth: “Whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.” He knows you. You. He calls you by your name.

You’re unique, special. And God wants you happy. Newman explains: “God has created all things for good; all things for their greatest good; everything for its own good. … God has determined, unless I interfere with His plan, that I should reach that which will be my greatest happiness. He looks on me individually, He calls me by my name, He knows what I can do, what I can best be, what is my greatest happiness, and He means to give it me.”

God Calls You

Newman explains this in a very rich and almost poetic passage. I’ll quote the whole thing. “God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission — I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next,” he writes.

Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his. If, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

This truth should comfort us. It tells us that God always wants us, looks out for us, uses us for His purposes. And again, not “us” as a whole, but each one of us. He doesn’t use us as a general disposes of his troops, a faceless battalion here, a faceless company there, when he doesn’t care if Smith goes into battle while Jones stays safely behind the lines. He uses us as a mother cares for each of her children, when she cares that Jimmy and Jenny and little Argyle get everything they each need. And do everything they should do.

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“Therefore,” Newman continues, “I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us.”

God Knows

Our Father knows what He is doing. He knew what He was doing when He created you and knows at every second he holds you in existence. Newman concludes his short meditation: “He does nothing in vain. He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me — still He knows what He is about.”

Life can be really hard. You suffer. You can make others suffer. You can find yourself hated or find yourself hateful. You can sink into the blackest depression or care for someone who doesn’t want to live. Jesus never promised we’d always feel happy or contented.

This makes Newman’s insight so important. God loves you, of course. But he also needs you. You. Whoever you are. However you feel. Whatever you’ve done. He knows you and calls you by your name. He thinks so much of you that He calls you to help.

 

I’ve revised the quotes and the prayer a bit. Newman was a bit too fond of semi-colons and dashes, at least for readers of our day.

 

David Mills is a senior editor of The Stream. After teaching writing in a seminary, he has been editor of Touchstone and the executive editor of First Things. He edits the site Hour of Our Death.

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