Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Needed Neediness

We're almost to 2009!

As we turn the page on the calendar, I'm sure that life in the coming year will be at least somewhat like life in the previous; you and I will need God. In fact, not only are we wired to need Him, our days are set up for us to know and feel Him, even to be dazzled by Him. Truly, it's the highest hope I have for 2009. Fortunately, He planned long ago for you and me to know Him and feel Him and grow confident in Him as one of the great ways in which He will be glorified by us, too.

#2 in our count down of the Top 10 LifeNotes of 2008 is "A Needed Neediness." This one found a deep place in our LifeNote subscribers, probably because it explains and makes relevant the strange and sometimes bothersome way by which neediness comes to us all.

He's in it.

I hope He turns neediness into stunning joy and delight for you in 2009.


On this, our nation’s Independence Day, I am feeling anything but. And I’m not exactly sure if I like it or not.

I mean, so much of the American dream is to be self-sufficient and self-reliant—to stand independently upon one’s own feet. To have a life that has everything except need. We educate for it, we work for it, we strive for it, and we estimate others and ourselves against the standard of responsible independence.

I wonder how surprised we would be if, after asking someone the question, “How are you?” the smiling-faced answer was a very incorrect, “I’m really needy.” Isn’t it a little bit weird to put “smiling-faced” and “I’m really needy” together? I wonder how many of us would quickly respond in a manner that sought to help correct neediness. “Oh, I’m sorry. How can I help you get over that?”

Neediness is not a desired character trait. It’s not found on anyone’s resume.

But what if, after hearing that someone is needy we asked the question, “Is that good or bad?” or “What are you discovering in your neediness?” That’s the kind of question that might really help someone—help them find what their neediness is leading them to discover.

I have nearly always found that God works and is most obvious when our neediness overflows. When we can’t contain it. When we’re too tired to cover it up. It’s then that we’re relieved of the effort to project independence, an effort that has kept us from the incredible power of God Himself, now in us. We miss Him because the flesh induces us to work hard to be independent.

The apostle Paul knew all about it.

Because he hadn’t yet realized just how different the Christian life is from the non-Christian, Paul pleaded with God for a little deliverance. You know, a little bit of, “God, please make the circumstances better so I can do better for you.” Was that too much to ask? There he was, on assignment for God, and God wasn’t making the right moves. Paul believed that God was missing out on how to do things best, so he asked three times for a better way forward.

But God said simply, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9) Whenever it seems that God is saying that to me, there are two things I know: God’s doing something beyond what I realize, and my situation won’t be changing as soon as I would like.

The apostle Paul, my hero, went on to embrace a life of navigated weakness, which I equate with dependence upon God. He wrote, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9b,10)

Paul got it, but I’m still getting it.

Through the sudden passing of my mother a week and a half ago, I have been ushered into a new way of believing in and experiencing God. I’m needy in an unfamiliar way. I assume that, in the rich soil of sorrow, He thinks I’m growing. However, I often think I’m just going through the motions, just getting stuff done, and sort of banging around in the darkness. Far from home, I’m in California and separated from my family because I’m working to help my health-challenged and trial-plagued dad prepare for the rest of his life. There’s not much about living that he likes. Can you blame him if he believes living ought to go better than it does?

He’s needy, too. How strange that we’re together, just the two of us.

We’re better off than we think.


  1. Anonymous3:41 PM

    Lord Jesus,

    I ask you to hold Ralph close to you in his time of need. Lord, give him a drink of water, something to eat both physically and spiritually. Lord pour out you peace on him as he attempts to meet the needs of and minister to his dad. Father comfort Ralph's dad in his need and loneliness.

    Thank you Lord for the mom, wife and person, Ralph's mom was. I praise you that she is worshipping You in a glorified state as I write. For this reality we all rejoice!

    Thank you Lord that You are here.

    I love you, Ralph.


  2. Anonymous4:20 PM


    I am sorry for your loss but know your Mother is rejoicing with the Father in Heaven.

    In Christ,


  3. Anonymous9:57 AM

    Hi bro:

    I can't tell you how much this post has touched many of my friends and family that I sent it to. See below a couple of those responses:

    "What Ralph said about Paul being a hero and acknowledging his own weaknesses as an opportunity to see God's power is so amazingly true! " From my little long time Baptist friend that I've know 28 years.

    "This was wonderful. Ralph is so anointed! I had goose bumps the entire time I was reading. I could feel God's presence in Ralph's words. Did you send this to Todd? I'm sure he would be interested in reading this wonderful look at neediness. Ralph is an eloquent writer. You must miss that type of teaching. I know I do." From my stepmother who's heard you many times. . .

    Thank you again for sending this. I believe many are praying for you brother. I love you!


  4. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Oh, how my heart aches for you and your family. I just sat there staring at my computer in disbelief. It's so hard to put words to the place you are, yet we boldly proclaim God's goodness and kindness.

    I read much about your beloved mom. She was quite a woman. I cannot imagine the void of her earthly life and how is it that one puts life back together though never the same.

    As I read your words, I was comforted in knowing that you are letting yourself experience this season as it were fully with your Savior. It's in times like these that the light of Christ is seen anew in the darkness of grief and pain.

    I am remembering you as you are with your dad. I pray that you both are comforted by the love of the Father given through His
    Holy Spirit.

    Love, Susan

    P.S. I get the neediness and yes, it is quite foreign to many of us even as followers of Christ. But when you surrender it all, or at least are beginning to learn of that journey, he uses many trials and our circumstances to display our need of Him and his best for us.

  5. Anonymous12:25 PM

    I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am for you. There is nothing worse than losing your mother. And she sounds like a wonderful (and beautiful) woman.
    Please know
    that I'm praying for your comfort and sanity during this terrible time. My life has never been more painful so I can feel for you more than ever. God bless you and the family through this terrible ordeal and I hope your father can try to learn to live again without her beautiful presence in his life.


  6. Anonymous12:26 PM

    Our hearts go out to you at this time along with our prayers. We are deeply saddened with the passing of your Mom. We just lost Linda's Dad & My Mom recently. We are praying for you and know that your Mom is enjoying herself in heaven along with our folks.

    I took care of my Mom for many years after she suffered a stroke that left her speechless It's like we're all going thought the same trials with our parents at the same time in this life. Thank God this is not the end and our real home is heaven.

    Love & Respect,

    Barry & Linda Felis

  7. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Thanks, Ralph,

    You've been honest and open with us all in sharing about the home-going of your mother, and the health situation of your Dad. Your own insecurity at this time helps us all by seeing that "we are not in control, but God is."

    We shall pray for you in this time of sorrow and loss. May you have grace to minister to your father when he is hurting and confused. It is easier to comfort mothers at the home-going of their husbands than the contrary situation.

    My God shall supply all your needs in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Thanks for all that you do, in your far-reaching teaching efforts. Holler if you think there is anything we could do for Sarah & the kids while you are helping your Father.


  8. Anonymous12:46 PM

    Hi Ralph,

    I was so sorry to hear about your Mother's death and that your Father is taking it so hard. They made such an attractive couple. You and your Father are in my prayers.

    God bless you both,

    p.s.- Thank you for all of your teachings. I really enjoy and need them!

  9. Anonymous7:05 PM

    Great! Got me by the heart strings.

  10. Anonymous7:07 PM

    How my heart feels you just now and the pain. Being with someone at death is now a familiar place for me but each time as each person is distinctly different. Ministering to the living when you are in the midst of personal pain of loss is ONLY something being taken over by His Spirit can manage. You are in my heart and on my lips, my dear friend! I love YOU

  11. Anonymous11:06 PM

    Thanks Ralph,

    For sharing from your heart honestly.

    The last few posts are being shared
    and I'm sending them to my mother, who is struggling with spine pushing on sciatic
    nerve issues. No relief now for
    about 5 weeks. Tremendous pain,
    no relief. Exhausted with it all, and not seeing any hope. Epidurals next attempt.

    Questioning God, herself, etc. 87 yrs. old.

    Being needy, she doesn't care for that; pride etc.

    I'm the only child, here in Colorado and her in Ohio. Your explanations help me, encourage me, break my heart.

    So to Him we continue to go.

    Needy and glad we have a Savior, deliveror, healer, Lord.

    Praying !


  12. Anonymous12:51 AM

    So good.

    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers continually.

    I love you.