Is God Enough?

In Loving People, John Townsend criticizes those who religiously justify their disconnection from people. For Townsend, God created us for love. He wants us to love and to be loved within the context of a community. But many people assume that they don’t need others, since they have God, who can fill their every need. As far as Townsend is concerned, that doesn’t work, for the whole assumption is flawed.

I’ve heard Townsend’s community spiel before, only from other people. “God does not want you to be alone,” I heard one preacher say. “He wants you in a community.” And Tim Keller often emphasized the communal nature of Christianity.

My feelings on this are mixed, on both a personal and also a Scriptural level. Usually, I receive this spiel as a put-down, which makes me feel as if I’m displeasing to God because I have trouble fitting in, or social anxiety, or introversion, or anything else that hinders socialization. It’s like I should feel guilty about being alone. And such a message rests my spiritual assurance on whether or not other people accept me, which is not all that stable.

But there are some preachers and Christian teachers who say that loneliness is not something to fear. It gives us time to spend with God, who is always with us, whether others accept us or not. Christian radio personality Nancy DeMoss emphasizes the importance of relationships, but she also affirms the value of spending time alone with God. When we do so, we find our sufficiency in Christ. And because our security is in him, it’s not in the way that others treat us. As a result, we can be givers in relationships and not be hurt when others disappoint us.

When I lived in New York, I once called into Wayne Monbleau’s Christian radio program, “Let’s Talk About Jesus.” A lot of my rants to him are familiar to readers of James’ Thoughts and Musings: I’m a shy person, and I’m sick of Christians trying to make me something I’m not: a happy, happy extrovert. Even though he got a little impatient with me, Wayne offered some helpful feedback. He said that I don’t have to view being alone as a liability, since it can give me more time to spend with God. The desert fathers enjoyed their solitude, after all. Wayne also said that there are no cookie-cutter Christians, and that he himself is rather shy. But that doesn’t limit God. Wayne may be shy, but he speaks to audiences in large gatherings and on the radio. So he advised me not to place limits on how God can use me.

Scripturally, we can see both sides. On one hand, God said that it was not good for Adam to be alone (Genesis 2:18). But didn’t Adam have God? Wasn’t God sufficient to meet his every emotional need? It doesn’t seem so. Adam needed to be around someone like him.

On the other hand, there are people in the Bible who are alone, yet God comforts them. Jeremiah’s own family tried to kill him, prompting Jeremiah to almost leave his prophetic commission. But God reassured him with his divine presence.

In II Timothy 4:16-17, we read, “At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (NRSV).

When Paul was alone, God gave him strength. But was Paul a loner? Not exactly. In Acts 28:15, we read, “The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.”

Paul actually felt encouraged when fellow believers came to spend time with him. Of course, Paul didn’t have to worry about not fitting in, since they were coming to him. But the point is that he enjoyed fellowship with God’s people.

Is God enough for me? Being loved by a being I cannot see and hear is not the same as being affirmed by a flesh-and-blood human being. I can’t pretend that it is. Others may believe that they can find all of their sufficiency in Christ, but I can’t.

At the same time, I can’t find all of my sufficiency in people either, since they can let me down, or perhaps not accept me. And so I try to make-do with my loneliness most of the time. And, although community is a big theme in Scripture, I must trust that God loves me, whether I fit into communities or not.

But that’s just my 2 cents!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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4 Responses to Is God Enough?

  1. Izgad says:

    Are you familiar with Lonely Man of Faith by Rabbi Joseph Solovietchik? It is an analysis of the two accounts of man in creation, Adam 1, the physical man and Adam 2, the spiritual man. One of the main ideas running through this book is that the spiritual life is one that is, by definition, lonely. Not that one is required to go off by oneself. This is an existential loneliness. A spiritual person by his very nature is distinct from this world and will come to clash with it. Being amongst people serves to simply highlight this fact and make one all the more “lonely.”

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  2. James Pate says:

    Hi, Izgad! No, I’ve not read that work, though I read some of him for a class on interpretations of Job.

    It’s interesting that he sees Adam 2 as spiritual man, since Adam 1 was made in the image of God.

    I’d also be curious on how he thinks the spiritual man clashes with the world. I know that Christians would say we do so because the world is corrupt. Gnostics would say that we’re away from our spiritual world, so there’s a sense of alienation right now. Greco-Roman philosophy would say that the flesh pulls us down and hinders our spiritual aspirations. I wonder what an orthodox Jew like Solovietchik would say.

    Sounds like an interesting book to check out!

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  3. Izgad says:

    While Adam 1 might be made in the image of God Adam 2 is created through the act of God breathing into his mouth the “spirit of life.” (Genesis 2:7) It is not the matter of the physical world being bad or corrupt or that there is anything wrong with Adam 1. It is not even that Adam 1 denies God it is simply a matter of him lacking a relationship with him. I am sure in your life you have met many truly decent people, people who might even be “religious” but who lack much of any spiritual qualities to them.
    Because Judaism does not have much in the way of a theology of Original Sin there is much less of a spiritual/physical, mind/body conflict. The emphasis is more on how does one go about doing God’s will. Judaism operates on the line of: God created you as something holy; if you have become spiritually corrupt it is your fault. Since man is holy he has no excuse not fulfill God’s will. Now that we recognize that we being held to such a high standard we better go get our act together.

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  4. James Pate says:

    Yeah, I once heard something on Christian radio that your comment brought to mind. Lee Strobel was on the Bible Answer Man, and he and his wife wrote a book on their marriage. They said that their marriage wasn’t that bad before they became Christians, but it was like a black-and-white program, whereas now it’s in color. Your statement about decent people who lack spiritual qualities reminds me of that.

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