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You say we need to be fully satisfied with God alone, yet even Adam in a perfect world, who had an ideal relationship with the Creator, received a helper because it was not good for him to be alone. Jesus had Peter, James, and John. He also had Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, yet you tell me I must find satisfaction with God alone? Could you help me understand this? –Supporting Member
Our Supporter is referring to an article where I said,
The thing you believe you need will control you, and you’ll know what controls you by how you respond to life’s situations or, more specifically, to the difficult people in your life. When I sin against my wife, I need whatever I’m mad about, e.g., desires for love, appreciation, respect, or approval. If those things are where I focus my heart, then not getting those things will cause me to respond sinfully. However, with a mind oriented toward God and fully satisfied in Him alone, her behavior—good or bad—would have no control. If anyone other than God controls you, then you’re stuck in idolatry. Ironically, that person you need, at least for now, God is using to reveal your idolatry. Yes, God can “use sin sinlessly.” If you sin due to unmet expectations in another person, be sure to know Sovereign God is working for you, calling you to repentance.
Our member also has a point. It’s not unusual for two things to be accurate simultaneously. It’s our presupposition that determines which way we interpret something. For example, reading what I wrote would be difficult if you struggled with loneliness. You may upload a fear of loneliness into my narrow point of view about how relationships can become idols. The things we care about the most (i.e., fear of loneliness) can so dominate our thoughts that it’s virtually impossible to think outside of that mental framework. You’ll see the member’s presupposition by her use of the word “alone.” She said it three times. You could become frustrated if you read my quote through her lens of a lonely presupposition. Mercifully, she responded by asking for clarification. I will provide that now.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).
She uses the word alone differently than what I meant. She is coming from a social perspective. “It’s not good for Adam to be alone” (socially). Or, “Jesus was not socially alone because He had friends.” Socially alone in a fallen world is a problem. Of course, Adam did not live in a fallen world but a perfect one without sin. He was not dissatisfied with God. You could say that God was enough for him. For the record, Adam never said he needed anything. The Lord did not create Eve because Adam was complaining about being alone. God determined how things should be, and Adam was rolling along with His creative work.
To assume Adam was dissatisfied without companionship is reading into the text, which could prematurely bring sin into the Genesis narrative (Genesis 3:6). The Lord did not say that He was not enough for Adam, so he must have someone else. God was satisfied with Adam alone, and Adam was content with God alone. Adam could have lived forever with God alone because he was fully satisfied with the Lord. God does have a way of satisfying us. If I had been spiritually satisfied with God alone, I would not have messed up my social relationship with my wife. If I had found the spiritual fulfillment of my desires in God alone, I would not have been so demanding of my wife in our covenantal construct.
In the moment of my anger, I was not satisfied spiritually with God alone. My sin was revealing momentary brokenness in my relationship with God. I needed something from my wife to keep me happy. I was saying that “If you love me rightly, I will not sin.” Do you see the spiritual problem my attitude implied? “To keep from sinning, I need you to love me,” which is heresy. All I should need is God alone to keep me from sinning. I don’t need God and my wife. That perspective is like the crack addict saying, “I need God and my drug fix. If I have both, I will be okay.” No, all you need is God alone, and you will be okay. One way to discover the strength of a person’s relationship with God and satisfaction in Him alone is by how much grumbling or demanding they do.
Our supporter brings up a point, though, and I must not dismiss it. There is a difference between spiritual and social satisfaction. Though Jesus was satisfied spiritually with His Father, there was a social component to His life, making how you think about your social relationships vital. Out of the overflow of your spiritual contentment with God comes a divine purpose for your social connections. Though Adam was not lonely, God knew that giving Him a social mate was good. There were many reasons for this creative act. For example, marriage, a complementary mate, the ability to accomplish things, reproduction, friendship, and modeling “Christ and the church” are all good reasons to socialize. You can’t do any of these things without someone.
Because the Lord made us in His image, reflecting Him well is impossible if we’re not in social contexts. God is a community—Father, Son, and Spirit, and we need a community to benefit from the full measure of what it means to image our Creator. To desire social constructs is to live out the practical realities of how God made you. Adam was spiritually full, but God created a woman that opened his eyes to never previously considered social possibilities. Every human after Adam intuitively knows that friendship and companionship are God-ordained desires. The young man or woman who longs to marry is acting out typical, expected, and sound desires. Conversely, it would be problematic for a person to crave to be alone. We say he is anti-social, an aspect of fallenness, not God-intended design.
But we run afoul when we take these desires for companionship and turn them into needs that control us, like what I was doing to my wife. Though it is possible to live without social relationships, it’s not something we should desire, but if you flip that excellent desire for companionship into a need, you’re placing yourself in a position where that need will control you—if you don’t get it. It can become an idol—something we want to examine to see if our desires have that kind of power over us. The best test to discern between needs and desires is how you respond when you don’t get what you want. Of course, there will be seasons when you do not receive what you want, but the person spiritually satisfied in God alone will persevere through those times of unmet social longings. The assumption is they won’t stay in that condition forever.
Some believers will hammer the “need versus desire nail” into obliteration in their elementary understanding and penchant for making hyperbolic points. This overreach to bang home a point is dangerous. Perhaps you will hear them say, “God is all you need.” Of course, these are folks who have socially satisfying relationships. If their spouses were to leave them or they lost their children, they would sing another tune. I have lived in abysmal loneliness, and it did not image our Trinitarian God. It was not good for my sad, socially-longing soul. My point is that we must not let any situation control us, but that does not mean flagellation, vows of poverty, and the monastic lifestyle are our highest aims.
Though we should find Christ’s satisfying strength in any situation, we also want a robust theology of social relationships. Christ can power us through seasons of absence, despair, and relational discontentment, knowing it’s not best to stay there. God has a higher calling on our lives that we won’t fulfill without other people in our lives. So, while we must not come under the controlling power of any circumstance, per Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:11-13, it is human to crave a better relationship status. I mentioned a few reasons to desire companionship. I talked about marriage, procreation, imaging the Trinity, and modeling Christ and the church. We cannot do any of these things without others.
Thus, the first purpose of desiring a relationship is accomplishing something we cannot do alone. The key to relationships is to make sure we understand this presupposition. Jesus did not need people to fill some spiritual void in His life. Neither did Adam. Jesus and Adam “needed relationships” because of what they could accomplish with them. Do you see the essential purpose and direction of companionship? The pursuit of friendship is not to meet a desperate need in us. We want friends so we can adequately glorify God in His world—to love God and others well. If our aim for marriage or friendship is to fill our cups, we will use people while becoming relational addicts. But suppose we see people as an opportunity to love God and others more effectively. In that case, we will expand God’s relational purposes while passively benefiting from our others-centered initiatives (Ephesians 5:27).
The gospel demands that we have friends for the right reasons. The gospel is about going to others and being Jesus to them. Many “one another” passages in the New Testament support this claim. The Bible is a friendship book for friendly people. We should have friends because God is a friendly God. I hope you always crave friendships and pursue them for the right reasons. I trust your friends see you as an example of someone who knows what a biblical relationship should be, and they follow your lead. Too many people in our world use others for narcissistic reasons.
May the gospel constantly fuel you in others-centered activities. If you do these things well, you will also be a beneficiary. Please do not miss this point. It’s inaccurate to say, “You should love others with no expectation of anything in return.” There are specific, personal, and social benefits if you love people well. Everyone won’t love you back, but most folks will. Though your first goal is not to get something from them, you should expect the good Lord to honor your gospel-motivated endeavors by filling you up with friends and memories that will always keep a smile on your face. The cure for loneliness is to go and make friends with others for God’s fame and their benefit. Oh, and guess what? You won’t be lonely.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).