Freedom from Felt Needs

Freedom from Felt Needs

“Jesus smashes the empty cup of your felt needs”, but it is freedom! Freedom from constantly needing God and other people to satisfying every desire you have. Freedom from feeling angry or depressed when your felt needs aren’t met. And freedom to prioritize God over self and others over self, as Jesus laid out clearly when asked what the two greatest commandments were.

What do you need? Such a broad question has a number of answers. You might think “I need food to live.” Or perhaps you need respect from your spouse. Biblically, you need the Lord’s forgiveness in Christ. While some “needs” are legitimate biological needs (like food and water) or biblically-defined spiritual needs (like peace with God), a lot of “needs” you and I have on a given day could be put into a category of “felt needs.” They aren’t needs that come from explicit Scripture and they aren’t literally needed to keep us breathing.

How you and I think about felt needs has vast theological implications. It is very easy to assume that when the Bible talks about joy and satisfaction in Christ it means Jesus will provide for all of our felt needs. For example, perhaps you have a felt need of a romantic relationship. Did Jesus promise to satisfy that desire? When does that desire, even if it isn’t inherently sinful, become a sinful lust? I am currently reading through “When People are Big and God is Small” and a quote from the book helped me immensely when thinking through these questions.

“If I stand before (Jesus) as a cup waiting to be filled with psychological satisfaction, I will never feel quite full. Why? First, because my lusts are boundless; by their very nature they can’t be filled.

Second, because Jesus does not intend to satisfy my selfish desires. Instead, he intends to break the cup of psychological need (lusts), and not fill it.

When People Are Big and God is Small” by Edward Welch

Most of our “needs” are really lusts in disguise.

This quote comes from an entire chapter where Welch seeks to distinguish between different types of “needs”. According to Welch, there are biological needs, spiritual needs, and what he calls “psychological needs”. The first two are self-explanatory but Welch spends a significant amount of time discussing psychological needs. Essentially, Welch makes the case that the prevailing view of humanity in the modern day it that we are empty cups that need to be filled. Humans have extensive longings that can either be fulfilled by sin or by God.

The problem with this model, according to Welch, is that oftentimes “longings” or “needs” are really just sinful lusts in disguise. They become idolatrous desires that you and I expect God to meet. You and I can desire even good things more than we desire God’s glory. Or you can desire the right thing for sinful reasons. For example, I was reflecting after reading this chapter that a “psychological need” I find within my own heart is a need to be respected by others. When people give me the respect I feel I need, I end up feeling pretty good about myself.

But what happens when my felt needs of respect and approval from others are not met? I end up either angry or depressed. Now, at this point I could address these felt needs by saying to myself “God has given me all the approval and acceptance I need in Christ.”

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