With the rise of the belief that we are morally good and the belief that truth is feelings came the belief in psychological needs. We are people who have psychological needs that must be filled or we are unhappy. We are leaky love-cups who must constantly be replenished. The Christian community has changed this slightly: we are leaky love-cups who must get our love from God. However, this view is not biblical: Welch examines Scripture to see if he can find support for psychological needs, but cannot find them.
Welch does find that we have some needs. We have the biological need for food and shelter, and we have a spiritual need for forgiveness, but the Bible mentions no psychological needs. There are some fairly universal desires, but our psychological “needs” are usually more properly termed “lusts”, and God does not intend to fill them. In fact, He cannot, because they are unfillable by their very nature. Instead, He intends to destroy them. Our needs are really the “I wants” that started with Adam’s sin.
We need to be growing in our fear of the Lord. We need to see the glory of God and be in awe of his greatness. We need to see his holiness, and be in fear of His wrath. We need to be saved from His wrath through the death of Jesus for our sins. We need to see God’s love in providing for our greatest need (our sin) at the expense of His son. God’s love is costly; ours must be like it. Welch ends with several chapters of examples in growing in the fear of the Lord and growing in love for each other.
Instead of psychological needs to be filled, Welch identifies that we have a need to love others. We we created in the image of God, who is always outward focused, and our task as Christians is to image God. In some sense, we need others to accomplish this task, because it is too big for one person. And we do have a need to know God’s love (not to be filled by it, although that will happen). But primarily we need to love others more and need to be loved less. We are not leaky-cups; we are pitchers that are overflowing with God’s love and blessing others.
This book collects all the things I have been learning about God over the past few years. Unfortunately, that meant that is was not all that life-changing when I read it. However, I did come from the leaky-cup philosophy, and it has been challenging to think of my deeply held desires not as needs, but as lusts. Welch notes that Larry Crabb, a well-known Christian author and counselor, subscribes to the leaky-cup philosophy, which might explain why I felt that Finding God did not have any answers—the answer is that our desire to be filled is the desire of our lusts and that our duty to God is to love others the way He has loved us. Certainly When People are Big and God is Small provides answers; unfortunately, the answer isn’t one we necessarily want to hear. I’d rather blame God for not filling my needs (although, empirically, that isn’t a helpful approach). But as much as I’d rather not have to put to death my deep desires and seek God alone, it does correspond with what the Bible says. Welch’s approach of putting our lusts to death, needing to be loved less and to love more, of being outward focused is eminently biblical, practical, and helpful.
- “The most radical treatment for the fear of man is the fear of the Lord. God must be bigger to you than people are.” (p. 19)
- “[We worship people] because we perceive that they have power to give us something. We think they can bless us.” (p. 45)
- Marriage is not about filling each others needs. (If it is, we will feel really devastated when the other doesn’t meet our needs)
- “To elevate our desire for love, impact, and other pleasures to the point where they become needs or longings is to sinfully exalt desire so that it becomes a delirium of desire. ... This explains why Christ is sometimes not enough for us. If I stand before him as a cup waiting to be filled with psychological satisfactions, I will never feel quite full. Why? First because my lusts are boundless; by their very nature, they can’t be filled. Second, because he intends to break the cup of psychological need (lusts), not fill it.” (p. 149)
- “In need psychology, the natural reason to praise God is for what he has done for me. This is okay, but it doesn’t go far enough. From the Bible’s perspective, God deserves praise simply because he is God.” (p. 154)
- “This means that the essence of imaging God is to rejoice in God’s presence, to love him above all else, and to live for his glory, not our own. The most basic question of human existence becomes ‘How can I bring glory to God?'—not ‘How will God meet my psychological longings?’ These differences create very different tugs on our hearts: one constantly pulls us outward toward God, the other first pulls inwards toward ourselves. ... It suggests that our hearts are always active, either in bringing glory to God or to self. In this sense, the image of God in man is a verb. It is not just who we are; it is what we do.” (p. 158)
- Imaging God is to big for one individual; we can only properly image God together.
- Some pictures of God’s people are priests, children, slaves, friends, fellow workers, brides, warriors, living stones, evangelists, prophets, pastors, teachers, husbands.
- “According to [Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3], what do we really need? We need to be a corporate body, smitten with the glory of God, committed to the unity of the church, deluged by his love, and faithful as we walk together in obedience to him, even in our suffering.” (p. 167)
- We need to love others more and to be loved less
- Three questions that are the same thing: “What do you need?” “Who or what controls you?” “What do you trust?”
This is an excellent book. It is a thorough treatment of the topic in a way that is also accessible. The wisdom and concise thoroughness makes it a 100-year worthy book. It is not a treatise; not all intellectual avenues are pursued, only the most important ones. However, the important ideas are present, the important objections countered, and practical recommendations given.