I was one of those people who got a bike a few months into the pandemic. My first ride out and away from a full house, I pedaled to a large, open field. I hadn’t been that far away from another human being for months, possibly years. Alone, I dismounted to take in the last light of the day, and a prayer came out like a long, unconsciously let-out sigh.
God, you don’t need anything from me.
It was as if my soul exhaled.
Maybe it’s because of my personality, Chinese culture, or family of origin. Or maybe it’s my firstborn-daughter status combined with intense ministry training and being a mom. At church events, standing in line at Panera, on elevator rides with strangers, reading an email, as long as another person is in my physical or mental space, I’m “on.” Unless I’m completely alone, and sometimes even when I am, I can’t help being vigilant for needs I may be called on to meet, sensitive to what demands my presence may similarly impose on others.
It’s not inherently good or bad, just a virtue of who I am which can be alternatively helpful and used for service, or unnecessarily burdensome and a source of anxiety. Knowing this about myself though, I’ve come to realize that the simple truth that God needs nothing from me is sometimes the welcome into his presence that I need.
Though there are things God requires of me, there is nothing he needs from me. This distinction is important. The psalmist, rebuking those who offered sacrifices while continuing to sin, declared that what they thought they supplied God— the cattle on a thousand hills, the beasts of the fields— were already his (Ps. 50). In fact, the world and its fullness are his. So what God required from his people in sacrifices was not food or fuel as if he needed anything. But what he desired, and still desires, is a sacrifice of thanksgiving. That they would call to him in their trouble, and in response to his deliverance, glorify him.
To call on God and give him praise is right and good— it is required of me. The Christian is called out of darkness into light in order to proclaim his deeds. But God’s wellbeing and work, these are not dependent upon me— he needs nothing from me.
This is a tender, holy, freeing truth. That he who made all things, owns all things, and doesn’t use his creation to supply his needs. Rather, he is ever the gracious Giver, ever the joyful Benefactor in our relationship, the Source of life itself.
God, you need nothing from me. I breathe out, and the knots in my stomach loosen a bit. He is solid and steady and not flustered by my presence.
If he needs nothing from me, I can pray— really pray, not worrying about my anxiety or anger or foolishness swaying his judgment or burdening his mind. I don’t need to hedge my request in polite, calculated consideration of his limited supply of patience and help.
Neither is he vying for my resources, wit, compassion, godliness, or strength. He is not looking for me to give him something he lacks. So I can heed his welcome as true and in good faith, receive and believe it is wholly for me.
The Scriptures are punctuated with this welcome: come to me, come to the waters, come eat, taste and see. There is more that I’ve been mulling over regarding God’s self-sufficiency, implications for what this means about his pleasure in what we do offer him, how graciously he receives from our hands what he doesn’t need. But for now, I want to sit on this, the way burnt out laborers, haggard moms and dads and sons and daughters, and all the weary and wary souls who come to him, will find that he gives and gives and gives, grace upon grace.
With our God is the fountain of life, and we are invited to approach it with all our neediness hanging out and spilling over. There, we the poor, thirsty, hungry, tired, sinful, and lonely, will be received with gladness— because he who needs nothing from us freely gives to all who come.