“All I need is God.”
The words were becoming increasingly familiar in his new Christian vocabulary. He sang them in verses and choruses on Sunday morning. He heard them in sermons and testimonies. And, of course, he read some variation of them all throughout his Bible. “All we have, all we need, all we want is God.”
The words often felt false on his lips. He thought of how many things he treasured after God. Big things like his parents, his girlfriend, and his nephews. Small things like his bike, his books, and the river by his house. He knew he wanted these things. At times he felt like he even needed them — they energized him, delighted him, comforted him.
He wondered, Can I really say I need God alone?
What a Quiet Time Can’t Do
The phrase “all I need is God” captures the cornerstone of Christian hope, but it is not the only word God himself speaks over the Christian life. To be sure, God alone in Jesus Christ is our greatest and final need. He is the one we need to be born again, justified, forgiven, adopted, and placed on the road to glory. God is also the only one in this world that we cannot truly live without. But when the Bible talks about how Christians fulfill their mission, or find strength in depression, or feel comfort in sorrow, or mature overall, it has more to say than simply God alone.
As we keep repeating, “All I need is God,” over time the phrase may elbow out other biblical ways God gives himself to us. We may subtly give the impression that the Christian who is always alone with his Bible, away from the world, will be first in the kingdom. And we may foster a false sense of guilt for brothers and sisters who, try as they might, need more than prayer and Bible reading to cope with trials and temptations.
Throughout Scripture, God’s people often need more than God alone — they need God through the things he has made. They need not only the grace of God in the gospel, but also the gifts of God in creation.
Consider the stories of three biblical characters: Adam, Elijah, and Paul.
Flesh and Bones in the Garden
As Adam walks through Eden, a sinless man in a perfect garden, with the trees and rivers clapping their hands, and the shalom of God pulsing through the air, two words smack against the sky like a bird hitting a window: “not good.”
“It is not good,” God says, “that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). In order to fulfill his mission to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28), Adam needed more than God alone. He needed “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). He needed Eve.
And then, even together, Adam and Eve needed more than God alone. If God had wanted to, he could have created Adam and Eve as pure spirit — two angels alongside Michael and Gabriel and the rest of heaven’s hosts. Instead, God made a man and a woman, spirits fastened to flesh and bone. And then he placed them in a world teeming with more than God alone: stars and moons, tulips and oaks, dolphins and rabbits, and a few billion other plants, animals, and minerals.
In God’s very good world, Adam and Eve needed the rain to grow their food, and wine to gladden their hearts, and oil to make their faces shine, and bread to strengthen their bones, and lights to mark the seasons (Psalm 104:13–15, 19).
Adam and Eve needed more than God alone in order to fulfill their mission. They needed God’s help through each other and every other good thing.
Eat, Sleep, Repeat
Jump forward a few thousand years. The prophet Elijah stumbles through the wilderness outside Beersheba, running from a queen who wants his head. “If a sword is not thrust through that prophet by this time tomorrow,” Jezebel had said, “so may the gods do to me and more also” (see 1 Kings 19:1–2). A hundred miles later, Elijah collapses beneath a broom tree, exhausted, depressed, and ready to die (1 Kings 19:4).
Elijah needs God to revive his faith. He needs God to speak to him. He needs God to show himself. But first, he needs to sleep and eat.
And God knows. After letting his prophet rest, God sends his angel with these most practical of words: “Arise and eat” (1 Kings 19:5). So Elijah eats, and then he sleeps again. The angel comes back: “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you” (1 Kings 19:7). Man shall not live by bread alone — true. But man should not try to live without bread.
Elijah needed more than God alone to find strength in his depression. He needed God’s help through food and sleep.
God of All Friends
What about Paul, the single apostle and frontier missionary? Didn’t he find all his help in God alone?
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul calls God “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is a God of comfort — a God who tracks us down in the wasteland of our fears and anxieties, wraps his arm around us, and leads us back home.
But how does God deliver his comfort? Sometimes, God comforts us directly through his word. When Paul felt the thorn pierce his side, and when he pleaded for relief, Jesus met him with a word: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Other times, God comforts us through his people. When Paul came into Macedonia, and was “afflicted at every turn,” God wrapped his comfort in a person: “God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2 Corinthians 7:5–6).
Often, God sends comfort to his people by sending them a friend. He sees us in our affliction, taps one of his image bearers on the shoulder, and says, “Go and show him what I’m like.” So we get a knock on our door, or a conversation after church, or friends who ask how they can pray for us. And through them we feel our Father’s comfort.
Paul needed more than God alone to feel comfort in his sorrow. He needed God’s help through a good friend.
From Whom All Blessings Flow
“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God,” C.S. Lewis writes. “The world is crowded with him. He walks everywhere incognito” (Letters to Malcolm, 75).
Throughout Scripture, and throughout our lives, God often ministers to us incognito. He wraps the world he has made like a cloak around him, he masks himself with his creation, and he walks about the earth on a mission to bless his people.
So when we find help from more than God alone, we should not be surprised. All of God’s created gifts are medicine from our Physician, green grass from our Shepherd, flowers from our Bridegroom. And therefore, they are avenues for adoring him.
We may need more than God alone, but he alone is the fountain from whom all blessings flow, the giver of every good gift (James 1:17). So he alone deserves the glory for all the strength and hope and comfort we find — wherever we may find it.