When I Don’t Get What I Need

I’ve always known I was an introvert, preferring small groups (or, better yet, home!) to big crowds, having a few close friends rather than being the social butterfly, needing time alone to process and think. Reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking helped me understand myself better and understand that these issues aren’t just preferences, that introverts’ and extroverts’ brains are wired differently. When she pointed out that introverts are drained by social interaction and need solitude to recharge whereas extroverts thrive on social interaction, the proverbial light bulb went off in my mind. “That’s it!” I thought. I had never heard it put that way before, but it just fit my experience so perfectly. I don’t want to be a hermit; I do value social interaction, but it does drain me and I function better overall with some degree of time to myself.

When my kids were in school, I had about seven hours a day to myself. Oh, that wasn’t all spent curled up reading a book or thinking: housekeeping, grocery shopping, errands, and different ministry responsibilities kept me busy. But I did have a good bit of quiet time. I thought once my kids grew up and left home, that time would naturally increase. I’d miss them intensely, but I had plenty of things I looked forward to accomplishing when that time came.

Instead, I have less solitude than ever. One child is still home but working and taking classes online at home. We’re taking care of my mother-in-law in our home, and we have a lady who stays with her in the mornings plus hospice people coming in and out throughout the week. My husband’s job has him working from home a few days a week now. I am not complaining about any of that: this is the home of all of us, not just me, and of course they all have a right to be here. But some days quiet moments are hard to come by except for early morning and late evening.

I imagine some extroverts have the opposite problem: an intense need for companionship and struggles with too much alone time.

So what do we do in such cases? Allow ourselves to get cranky because our needs aren’t getting met? Whine and complain to God about it? I’m afraid I have done both of those.

Recently, though, I was arrested by Philippians 4:11-13: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Paul mentions hunger there. He didn’t thrash around before God and say, “You made me to need food. So why don’t I have it? What are you doing?” He trusted that God would help him in any circumstance. He would either meet his need for food or take him to where there is no more hunger and thirst. He will sustain us until the time that He provides. Paul says he learned this contentment, which encourages me that it’s first of all a process, and secondly, that it can be learned.

But why would God create us to need certain things and then not provide them for a time? Just to teach us contentment? Well, one other time that God allowed His people to hunger comes to mind:

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:2-3.

A few reasons are mentioned there:

  1. To humble us.
  2. To test us (the KJV says to “prove” us). He knows what’s in our hearts, but sometimes our reactions to unmet needs are a revelation to us of just how sinfully self-centered we are. This also tests the depths of our love and commitment: that was one of Satan’s challenges to God about Job: “He only serves you because You bless him. Take away some of those blessings, and You’ll see how fast he turns away from You.” Do we only serve God with a right heart when all of our perceived needs are being met?
  3. To teach us dependence on Him to meet our needs.
  4. To remind us of what’s most important.

These are not meant to be explanations for famine: that would be a completely different study. And God may have other reasons for not answering prayers. And this doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t take means sometimes meet our needs, but sometimes those needs surface despite our best efforts. Back to the need for solitude, Jesus many times went away from the crowds and His own disciples to be alone to pray – and He also had the experience of people seeking Him out during those times and interrupting His time alone, another way in which He was tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin.

But God has been working with me for a while on changing my attitude from one of demanding what I think I need or lamenting the lack of it to trusting that He knows what I need and will provide it. And He has, many times over, in unexpected ways. Plus that restful, trustful demeanor helps me not only inwardly but outwardly. Not only is my spirit at peace, but instead of focusing on myself, I can turn my attention to others and try to minister to them for whatever purpose God brought them into my life. I confess I have failed in that more often than I like to admit, but I am trusting His grace to change.

So whatever our need, whether for solitude or companionship, affirmation or humbling, inward or outward, we can trust that God has a reason for allowing it, will give us grace while it is unmet, and will meet it in His own time and way.

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:32b-33

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  2 Corinthians 9:8

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Writer Wednesday, Coffee For Your Heart, Porch Stories, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

19 thoughts on “When I Don’t Get What I Need

  1. Barbara, as a fellow introvert who needs times of quiet, peace and solitude to recharge, I can definitely relate to this post. And these words also bring me up short: “trusting that He knows what I need and will provide it.” because they remind me that God knows what we need better than we do ourselves. I so often confuse need with desire and that causes problems until I wake up to what is really going on! Thank you for this balanced, helpful article. I’m blessed to be your neighbour at the #glimpsesofhisbeauty link up! 🙂

  2. Ouch! In a good way, ;). I needed to hear this this morning. I struggle with my extrovert needs and boundaries and end up making other people feel shut out (those other people being extroverts). Thank you for verses to ponder and pray over.

  3. What a wonderfully written post, Barbara. I’m also an introvert, which is probably why I blog. I do so much better in a small group or better yet a one on one situation. I needed to read this today with the Scripture verses to contemplate and how God wants to use them in my life. Thank you for sharing your heart here. xx

  4. Thank you for these beautiful words today. I am blessed to be your “2nd-door neighbor” over LMMLinkup today. I’ve watched God bring such beautiful teaching to me on contentment through the years in so many different areas, but this current season seems to be a daily learning for me. Your words brought tears to my eyes, and then at the end of your post was my #oneword for this year: sufficient. HE is so good.

  5. How helpful, Barbara! I agree that as a fellow introvert, the “Quiet” book was a revelation. I’d always known I wasn’t really shy … but preferred time alone. The whole introvert thing just made so much sense, and it was a relief to know that my personality wasn’t a failing of some type. I love your point about “learning” to be content wherever we are. I’m going to try to keep a mental note of that. It’s something I need to work on for sure.

  6. Whatever our “need” is, this post is good for it, Barbara. We each want to find our contentment in the place God puts us in, but it’s not always easy. I do gravitate to your particular issue, though, since I’m also an introvert who likes my alone time. Thankfully, I’m in a season of balance between being around people and getting to be alone. I know that will change when Jeff retires (not for a few years yet). 🙂 But God will provide then too. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Such an accurate reminder that not having all we need is often God-ordained…and can always be used by Him for our good. Sometimes the need is as easy to see as food – and sometimes it is as elusive as solitude (said one introvert to the another!)! But God is molding us whatever the need. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Enjoyed this post, Barbara. The book sounds so interesting. I discussed introverts and extroverts with family members recently. My son said the same thing, introverts need time alone to recharge in order to be around others. I’m a extrovert, social bug, yet I enjoy time alone. Unless I get off by myself and alone with Jesus, I don’t really have much to offer people. As a pastor’s wife, women’s ministry leader, and writer, it drains me to pour into others if my cup is empty. It’s a lesson the Lord has taught me over the last few years, He must first pour into me before I pour into others. We see it in Jesus’ life with the disciples. always seen trying to spend time with the Father because of the pressing crowds. Thanks for this thought-provoking article.

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  12. This is so good, Barbara! I understand totally. When my last child was small, I was eagerly awaiting the time when they’d all be in school and I’d have hours each day to myself to recharge my spirit. Guess what? The timing of my husband’s illness and subsequent disability worked out that I did not even get ONE day to myself before I was working full time. I’ve tried to not be bitter about that!

    Seriously, I know He knows best. I probably would have frittered that time away …

  13. Barbara, this is so full of wisdom. I really appreciate what you shared about the book and its insights about introverts/extroverts. You discussion about contentment had some reminders for me today. This was an excellent article, full of wisdom! Thank you!

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