One of the most humbling realities that human beings experience is their state of utter dependence. As much as we’d love to be ultimately self-existent, self-sufficient, and self-satisfied, we just aren’t. The biblical God is the only true “I AM” ( Ex. 3:14 ). All of humanity—all of creation—flows out of the I AM.
Perhaps in a culture closely related to ours in the West, ancient Athenians spent their time in “nothing except telling or hearing something new” ( Acts. 17:21 ). It was in this idea-greedy culture that Paul, the great missionary of the First Century, spoke the rock-solid truth about God:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything ( Acts 17:24-25 ).
Everyone—even the raging anti-Christian—is continually given life, breath, and everything by God Himself.
Recognizing that the West today not only is idea-greedy but also believes that they are truly autonomous (independently self-governing), Paul’s words come across quite strikingly. Consider that last phrase Paul says, that God Himself gives to all humanity life, breath, and everything. Paul is careful not to say that God has “given,” as if it was in the past that God gave life, breath, and everything to the world. Paul wrote, rather, “gives” in the present tense, describing God’s active role in continually giving life, breath, and everything to the world. This leaves no room for anyone to claim a self-sufficient power in and of themselves. Everyone—even the raging anti-Christian—is continually given life, breath, and everything by God Himself.
So, where do we go from here? With this truth (God’s ultimate dependence and humanity’s ultimate dependence on God) as a starting place, there are a million directions to go. But let’s hone in on just one—the struggle many of us have with belonging. What’s meant by the need to belong is simply the need to have meaningful relationships where one is cared for, respected, and enjoyed. And let’s all just agree now that no one is fully immune from the need to belong. No one can claim a detachment from this need because God Himself is, in one sense, a caring, respecting, and enjoying relationship within Himself—being three Persons in One. And the reality is that every human being has been made in His image and likeness ( Gen. 1:26-27 ). Therefore, built within us is an innate design to have meaningful relationships—to belong.
Now, how does the previously mentioned truth of God’s ultimate independence and our ultimate dependence on Him relate to our need to belong? Before we answer this, let’s describe one of the greatest ways in which our need to belong has become a struggle.
Too many of us embark on this seemingly endless pursuit of “belonging,” and find that our journey feels like a hamster in a wheel—we run from here to there, from this person to that person, to this group to that group, aching for meaningful relationships yet never truly experiencing fulfillment. Like the hamster, we go through a lot of effort for minimal reward. But why? Because we’re seeking “belonging” apart from God. We seek meaningful relationships that are marked by care, respect, and joy apart from the One who designed us for Himself. We’re deceived into thinking that meaningful “belonging” can be ultimately achieved on our own. This is one of Satan’s best lies that, when believed, blind the minds of many from seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” ( 2 Cor. 4:4 ). Think about it: if we truly believed that meaningful and fulfilling relationships can exist apart from God, then where would be our sense of need for reconciliation with God? In other words, the more we believe the lie that true “belonging” can be achieved apart from God, the more we blind ourselves from the gospel—which is the key to ultimate, fulfilling, and eternal “belonging.”
This now leads us into the relation between God’s independence and our dependence on Him, and our need for “belonging.” If what Paul said 2,000 years ago in AD 49 in Athens is true, that the self-sufficient God presently and actively gives life, breath, and everything to dependent humanity, then wouldn’t this compel us to look to Him for all we need—including “belonging”? Shouldn’t our Maker who we’re entirely dependent on day-to-day be our source of everything we need in relation to our longing for meaningful relationships? Yes.
In other words, the more we believe the lie that true “belonging” can be achieved apart from God, the more we blind ourselves from the gospel—which is the key to ultimate, fulfilling, and eternal “belonging.”
Friend, you have no good apart from God ( Ps. 16:2 ), and apart from Him you can do no good thing ( Jn. 15:5 ). If you believe these biblical realities, then they will shape your pursuit for “belonging” for the better. No longer will you be like a hamster in a wheel, tirelessly running from relationship to relationship but finding nothing fulfilling, but a confident child in the arms of their loving Father.
So, here’s the application for us all: stop pursuing “belonging” apart from God. You must leave your belief that you, apart from God, can gain fulfilling meaningful relationships. Ironically, it takes a hard betrayal to experience true belonging—that is, a betrayal of your independent efforts to belong.
The amazing reality is that the God who gives life, breath, and everything to humanity has even given us the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. This gift of His Son enables any needy human to experience full “belonging,” as it brings that person to their Maker who loves them. In this new state of meaningful relationship with God, Christians can then pursue “belonging” on earth in a healthy manner—in a way that is life-giving and free from the fear of judgment, rejection, and humiliation (which inevitably comes in a sin-infested world). Strip the Christian from everything he or she belongs to on earth, but they will still have their soul held by their Shepherd.
So, let us stop pursuing “belonging” apart from God and begin today to nurture our ultimate “belonging” with God through Jesus. Not only will this satisfy our needy souls, but it will begin to shape our earthly pursuit of meaningful relationships from being worthless and tiring to worthwhile and life-giving.