When Jesus Isn’t Enough

When I sat in his closet-sized home in the middle of Africa, I couldn’t take my eyes off the pathetic interior or ignore the dripping rain on my head.

I tried not to imagine the “community toilet” he shared with neighbors adjoined by paper-thin walls or how far he walked each way to school everyday, in the dark, both ways.

The peace on his face was undeniable and the light that radiated from his eyes filled the dark room of his orphan-led home.

I didn’t understand how he could be so content with so little. And I couldn’t stop the question, “Why are you so happy? Why aren’t you afraid?”

He looked at me as if I’d missed it entirely and said, “Because I have Jesus.”

He didn’t say anything else. It was a heavy statement. It was enough.

He was right, I had missed it. Entirely.

I equate Jesus to comfort and blessings. And when I sat in a hovel, a young boy called home, void of every comfort, I was envious of his contentment.

I returned to a lifestyle with every blessing, only wanting more.

I add Jesus like salt and pepper to a tasteless dish.

He isn’t the main course, just an extra on the side.

Jesus isn’t enough for me.

I think about my happiness that is clouded with every storm that blows into my life. I think about my happiness that is contingent upon what I have versus what I want. I think about my happiness and the strings I attach to it.

I think about a young boy who taught me more about Jesus and myself in a single sentence than my entire Bible College degree and 37 years of living.

One of the great lessons I learned in Africa: When Jesus isn’t enough, something is wrong.

I’m on a quest to make it all about Jesus. It’s easy surrounded by the comforts of my American life to melt back into the The American Way-bigger is better, more is what matters.

This is a painful journey, but more than anything, I want Him to be enough for me.

Is Jesus enough for you? If your happiness, like mine, is determined by how much or how little you have or the next exciting thing in your life, can I gently remind you to return to Him? He is waiting to be enough.

Comments

  1. 3

    says

    This is something I have been realizing lately too….I want and want and want. And then I desire to be content…I need to change my heart attitude and focus it back on Christ. The only One that can truly satisfy.

  2. 4

    says

    Great post. I recently had one of my cousins die, young, full of life, always smiling. He was a really special person. It has made me reevaluate everything I do. We are here for a purpose and if we go through life just skating through on our blessings we are missing the point. How can I not live with my light shining through daily, is somethine else more important? I love that you are so open and honest as well. God bless, I will definitely keep reading along.

    http://loveourcrazylife.blogspot.com/2010/06/tyson-lane-larson-1982-2010.html

  3. 9

    says

    Wow. Thank you so much for sharing what God is doing in your life. He is at work, doing His work in His people. I am pondering these same thoughts and how God would have me respond. I know others who are too. I needed to hear this. Thank you so much for sharing and being a part of what God is doing. Be faithful. Finish strong!

  4. 10

    says

    I teach my children Matthew 6:33,34 everyday. We pray together every day about it. There is nothing more important than keeping God first. Every thought or decision should be based on what God approved of. We were just reading last night about how he gave us Jesus as a perfect example to follow. We stirve to follow him every day!

  5. 11

    says

    Thank you for sharing this. I just got back from a trip to Haiti, and I feel the same way. Sitting in a church building full of people who have almost nothing materially and hearing them sing joyful hymns with all of their hearts is a stinging reminder of what brings us “joy” and how we find it.

    I’ve been blogging about it, if anyone would like to read more:
    http://bethwittenbach.blogspot.com

  6. 14

    says

    As I’ve pondered the disconnect over the past few years, I have truly come to believe that it’s harder for us in America to be content with Jesus than it is for an orphan in Africa. Because we have so many distractions and such huge expectations for our life. We have great difficulty letting that go, especially since we are bombarded with it every day. It’s a huge, pitiful struggle that should force us to our knees and pray for deliverance from the god of self.

    Jesus, come and be our all. Thank you for the added blessings. We don’t want to scorn family, food, shelter and safety. But you are God. Nothing else is. Without you, everything is nothing.

  7. 15

    Theresa says

    Wonderful post. Let me tell you a quick story. In highschool there was a lady who had escaped a “prison”in Uganda under Idi Amin. Her husband had been murdered. She dressed as a soldier and managed to escape. She had endured torture and yet this woman was the happiest person. She came to Canada with her children who also were wonderful spirit filled christians. They had endured unspeakable horrors and poverty. Within 2 years of coming to Canada, her children began to backslide. It boggled my mind. I realized then that living in prosperity is a hindrance in the christian life. We do not “need” Jesus until we are faced with persecution or poverty. I do not buy into the whole prosperity theory. Pray God we learn to want and need Jesus when we have much, so that we can genuinely come to him when we are in want.

    Thanks for this post, I have struggled mightily with Christianity lately.

  8. 17

    says

    Wow, beautiful words. Words that I need to hear today. Thank you so much for sharing this painful journey of your heart with your readers. This reader is being blessed by it!

  9. 19

    says

    This is such a powerful, raw and natural post. I love how honest and upright you have been. You speak what we think and hide! It is so true! Our society is lending more and more to where are our blessings…but what have we done with little to show we will be faithful with much? I struggle with that often! This is a post I am sharing with everyone! Thank you for writing this!

  10. 20

    says

    Yes! How I long to rid myself of these selfish American dreams and bask in the presence of God. Stuff cannot meet my need nor can my husband fulfill the need I have for Christ (Link to a post about that above). I know that. Yet I continue to stumble along when I really just need to be still. And find Jesus in each moment. Because He IS enough.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  11. 21

    says

    In so many ways, and for so many reasons, I LOVE this post! When life is unstable, when my daughter is lying sick in her hospital bed, it’s somehow easier to put my faith in God. I need to do this more when life is status quo, when I’m spending my days doing laundry, homeschooling, cooking meals, cleaning up messes, and breaking up fights. I never want to forget the fragility of life, of what we have, and of how we can bless others.

  12. 22

    says

    What a great reminder! I can be the same way- equating the Messiah with comfort and security. Amazing how we can be reminded from those who have neither.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Shalom~

  13. 23

    says

    Sadly, I had to learn this lesson through a great trial… one that tested every possible emotion I had… and only in my final attempt to solve it myself did I fail miserably and find Him. Him being all I *really* need that is. It amazes me the people that make it through this life without Him… well, without accepting Him as their Savior.

    This is a huge post… a wonderful reminder.

    Every single moment of every single day… I want Him to be my everything.

    Be blessed-
    Amanda

  14. 24

    says

    Thanks so much for this gentle reminder. But I’m left with a question. What does contentment look like? I’m not perfect, but I think I’m pretty content. Happiness is just a mood that can come and go, but joy fills my days, because of Jesus. Would I be less content if I weren’t so outrageously blessed? Probably so. I think I’m content, and yet I buy. I shop. I acquire things that are not needed. I don’t feel myself desperately wanting more stuff, but I buy anyway. So I’m a bit perplexed about my own situation. Is Jesus enough for me? Does that mean never to buy another unnecessary thing? Not sure, just throwing my questions out there.

    • 24.1

      kristen says

      Mainline Mom,
      Very good questions. It’s those exact questions that led me to write this post. I’m not an extravagant person. I like cheap-always have. But I discovered I was buying to fill something deep within me. I don’t suggest that every person buying is doing that, but it was true for me.
      I still buy unnecessary things. I still love conveniences. I don’t equate buying to Jesus not being enough and I hope it doesn’t come across that way. But for me personally, I equated more to happiness. I want to be totally content in Him without any strings attached.
      Thanks for asking the hard questions.

  15. 25

    says

    This post touched my heart~ thank you sooo much for sharing this story~ My cousin (Bridget) is your neighbor and a friend of mine from church just shared your post on Facebook~ Thank you for taking that mission trip~ this story made my day~

  16. 27

    says

    I am learning this lesson as well. thanks for your encouragement and honesty. Sadly, many ‘traditional church going’ people will read this and still not get it. I at once, like them, over look it. …say amen, and think it isn’t refer to us/them.We read the same scriptures over and over again and just do not get it, Americans are becoming more and more numb to the radical commandments He calls us to. I am afraid a lot of people are blinded my the model of church we have, that lacks accountability, leaves little room for the Holy Spirit (even in the midst of a sermon), and keeps more for itself then it gives away. if the church is doing this, then of course its disciples do not know any better.

  17. 28

    says

    Like every other Africa post you’ve written, this touches my heart so deeply. I know exactly what you mean, how you feel. As our move is less than 3 weeks away, it stirs up SO many emotions in me to read this. I’m going to live there. and I want to be reminded of this every day. I never want to become numb to the great faith that available to all, maybe greater for those who “have less”.

    Thanks, Kristen.

    ps- I’ve got an email coming your way soon. :)

  18. 29

    says

    What a reminder. A concept so rooted in what we say we believe, but yet it is the hardest thing for us TO believe. Those of us reading this right now are the biblical “rich man” equivalent — the man who Jesus told to sell all this things and come follow Him. The rich man walked away sadly because he knew he couldn’t do it. What would we do if Jesus asked us to do the same today? The question scares me quite frankly. Much like Jesus said, it is easier for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to go through a needle. But with God, all things are possible! I pray for the impossible and for us — namely me — to know that Jesus, is indeed enough. Thanks for the post!

  19. 32

    Ann Cox says

    This brought tears to my eyes. How true what you say is! Louis Gigleo, (probably butchered the spelling), says when we pray we so often pray and ask God to bless us, forgive us, watch over us, go with us. We pray the same prayer over and over. He challenges us to pray to God, to say real things. If you want him to bless you tell him how, what it is you are trying to do that blesses Him and for his hand to be completely around it so it will show everyone else who Jesus is. Not us, but Jesus. He says we are the most blessed nation as far as money goes and we as Christians have the blessings of the old and new testament because Jesus is in us. We need to mix up our prayers and ask God to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and ask for us to be able to Bless God today. Not the other way around. Jesus needs to be enough and we need to start thinking about what we can do to bless Him.

  20. 33

    says

    There are tears in my eyes. This post touched me. I visited family in Africa (for the first time) a few weeks ago and wondered myself at the contentment with so little.

    As I read this, I cried. Because Jesus isn’t always enough…if I am honest, far too often He isn’t enough. I want Him to be enough…

  21. 34

    says

    I’m a new reader, so forgive me if you’ve addressed it in the past, but have you read any David Platt?

    I’ve read a bit of his stuff. He was recommended on http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/ at the end of her Feb. 11th post.

    When I first read Katie, my heart started to change. Life altering stuff.

    And David Platt’s The Radical Question. What is Jesus worth you you? Wow.

  22. 35

    says

    You words resonate deep in my heart. In March I was in Haiti, I was dumbfounded by the joy of the Haitians in the midst of utter chaos, pain and poverty. They had Jesus. I had my stuff neatly folded in my suitcase and my heart. Still and yet, they had so much more than I had at that moment. Their Jesus was complete – their fullness found in His abundance. Their joy was proclaimed with each Mesi Jezi. I had watered down “my” Jesus with stuff.

    I learned a lot on that trip. I changed a lot on that trip. May I never stop changing for Jesus. May I never be satisfied with anything less with the fullness found in Him alone.

  23. 37

    Amy says

    So true, and what are we willing to do to change it within ourselves is the burning question. I’m sure if we’re honest we all struggle with this. Love the brutal honesty you are choosing to share with us. You have blessed me today!

  24. 38

    says

    I was just listening to a CD about worship yesterday that touched on this topic — too often, we shrink God down to such a tiny size. We worship him because He gives us things, or because we still have our job, or because we’re healthy. We forget that we should worship Him simply because He deserves it — He’s a big, huge, mysterious, powerful, eternal, almighty God whose very existence demands the response of worship. I hope and pray that I won’t forget that, and that Jesus would truly be enough for me if every comfort was stripped away.

  25. 42

    says

    I have recently been reminded, by the Holy Spirit, of Angie Smith when she learned that the baby she was carrying had many life threatening conditions and would likely not survive. When the doctor asked her what she was thinking, she replied, “I think that my Jesus is the same as He was before I walked into this room.”

    I recently asked a friend whom I hadn’t seen in over 10 years, how she handled being diagnosed with cancer and going through chemo. Her reply was, “It really didn’t affect me because it doesn’t affect eternity.”

    Many of us tend to consider God’s faithfulness to us in terms os materialism or physical comfort. We say “God was really watching out for them” when referring to a near accident or some life-saving act. However, God is not more attentive to any one of us. He is equally so to everyone, everywhere. He was no less present at the scene of my nephew’s car accident which took his life at the age of 16, 8 years ago. However, He used that to His glory when so many youth attended his funeral and heard about all the others he led to Christ over the years. That’s God’s presence!

    I pray to keep Him more in my focus and less on the things of this world. I know where I will spend eternity and know that things here will not affect eternity, but is that demonstrated in my life? Do I focus enough on others’ eternity? That’s where God wants our focus – serving Him so others can know His love. At times when we say Jesus isn’t enough through our actions, is that a slap in His face? After all He did and gave for us? I am so sorry for all the times to have done that and so grateful for His forgiveness! It reminds me of the song “The Problem” by Downhere, found song box on the right: Downhere

    Thanks for the thought -provoking post and allowing me to share how God is speaking to me through it.

  26. 43

    Deanna says

    I love your blog, Kristen! Since your trip you have really written some convicting, poignant, beautiful posts. Thank you for that!

  27. 44

    says

    Wow… what an amazing post. Thank you for the inspiration and the reminder of where Jesus needs to be in our lives.

  28. 45

    says

    Once someone asked my husband, “How do you know that God is on your side.”

    My husband replied, “He isn’t on my side. I’m on his.”

    I think that’s a similar concept.

  29. 46

    Laura S. says

    I just returned from Cambodia last week and have been asking myself these same questions “What makes these people so happy when they are poorer than poor? And Why isn’t Jesus enough for me?” Tough stuff to work through and struggle with. But it’s a beautiful part of the journey! Thank you for your encouragement to all of us as we strive to make a difference in this world and live a life that is glorifying to our Savior!

  30. 48

    says

    Jesus should ALWAYS be enough, but so often I let whether I’m in a peak or valley of my life to dictate how I see Him. His provisions and grace are sufficient. He is enough! Thanks for the reminder.

  31. 49

    says

    What an amazing post. It brought tears to my eyes. I read all of the posts from the Kenya trip, so I know exactly who you are talking about. We are so physically wealthy in the United States, but so spiritually poor. Oh WE of little faith.

  32. 52

    says

    Blazing, on fire words and I’m ignited!

    Kristen? Don’t ever put out that flame!

    Your light on a hill shines Jesus!

    *Thank you.*

    All’s grace,
    Ann

  33. 53

    says

    We are caught up in the “Jesus is enough” movement ourselves. We are simplifying. We are selling our home. We want to have more money at the end of the month so we can sponsor a Compassion Internatinal child, feed the hungry and make a difference in our own community.We don’t want to be too broke to help those in need and we want to show our boys a life where we depend on Jesus and act as His hands and feet to others.
    It’s hard.
    But it feels so good.
    Enjoying this journey with you…thanks for the inspiration!!

  34. 55

    says

    What a powerful message. Thank you so much for sharing. I just happened to stumble across your site and am so blessed that I did. I know God had his hand in leading me here.

  35. 56

    says

    Reading Radical by David Platt is making me ask the same questions and like Amy said in the comments- do we want to know the answer? because I am finding the answers to be convicting and requiring life and attitude change..thank you for sharing your heart!

  36. 58

    says

    Sadly, this is true for me also. I will be following your journey which I hope you will share with us. What an awesome experience you had.

  37. 59

    says

    I have had the same experience just recently as I traveled to the Dominican Republic. I saw a slice of life with the same emotions and have come to the same conclusions. Still unpacking from that trip spiritually. You said what I have been feeling. Wow….thanks.

  38. 62

    says

    Such a beautifully powerful and convicting post…thank you for sharing your heart so honestly and openly. This so goes along with what God has been teaching me during some very dark days in the last few years…and what He has been reinforcing and redirecting in my life since I have read (and keep re-reading) David Platt’s book Radical.

  39. 66

    says

    Amen. Oh that my heart would have the will to one thing, that Jesus would be enough, that he would be all I need, all I want., ever.
    Thanks my sister for the reminder.

  40. 67

    says

    Yes, oh my heart is overflowing. Kristen, God has been working in me over the course of this past year. I am going to link back to this blog post. I read your tweets and watched as you journeyed through Kenya. My heart is so full.

    I just can not explain. I do not write/explain like you, Ann, Lisa-Jo but my heart aches like the three of yours…….

    Hugs… praying for you. I am so thankful our lives have touched.

    much love,
    ~Teena~

  41. 68

    says

    What a wonderful post. My husband and I are active in missions in Venezuela and we are constantly amazed by what God teaches us through the people of that beautiful country. His children rely on Him in ways that put me to shame. I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned. Most of all, for helping me learn the Jesus IS enough!

  42. 69

    Beth Werner Lee says

    Yes! I mean no….okay, God’s working on me here, and your post was his timing. A week or so ago I read in Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss that we sing that God is all I need but we lie if we turn to self-help etc…and I’d been wondering if I needed to go see a counselor to get help. Gently he’s saying, I’m your counselor and I can speak through many voices: trust me.

  43. 71

    says

    I just posted last week on the song “Enough.” I can’t listen to that without being convicted, and convicted deeply. Your post is very thought-provoking. I’ll be pondering for awhile. Thanks!

  44. 74

    says

    My wife and I recently (two months ago) permenantly moved to a little village in Kenya Africa called Tala. We had been living the “American Christian” life-style in comfort. Jesus had called us many times over our lives to do more, but we always went back to the easy way of serving. Finally we were hit so hard by the Holy Spirit that we had to give up everything and make the move to serve as we were being called. We started Saved By God’s Grace and began a ministry to the orphaned children of Kenya. In Kenya we find Jesus is totally sufficient because He is literally life…He is the only providence we have. The peace and contentment of relying totally on Him, while admitedly a life-long learning process, is more fulfilling than anything we could accumulate this side of Eternity…thank you Jesus for being our all-in-all.

  45. 75

    says

    Simply stated but so powerful! Thank you for this post, it is something I think most of us need reminding of when it is so easy to get caught up in what we do and don’t have, when all that matters is who is in our hearts, everything else should pale and fade away!

  46. 77

    says

    Thanks for this post. I am currently overseas in Thailand where my husband is directing an orphanage. I have three small children, and I am amazed at how much more they fight/argue/bicker/complain in comparison to the precious orphans we work with. My kids have so much in comparison, and I am learning that “stuff” often just complicates things. The simplicity of little material possessions does wonders for a person’s ability to be content with Jesus . . . only.

    Thanks for reminding us that sometimes we Americans suffer from a poverty of “too much.”

  47. 78

    says

    Our pastor has been trying to get this very same message across to our congregation but it seems that they just sit and stare at him until the next time we get together. If poeple could only grasp the truth and reality of that statement. Jesus is always “enough” He is MORE than enough!

  48. 79

    says

    Same here, sister. I have been struggling with having too much and then making too much of having less… it just goes on and on. I want Jesus to be enough for me, too. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  49. 80

    says

    realizing that we don’t find Jesus to be enough is a great first step. it so often comes through suffering of some sort…or being exposed to the suffering of someone else. so humbling! thanks for your post:)

  50. 81

    says

    This was my take away from the Dominican Republic as well. People who had nothing, but whose faces shone because of Jesus. I want my face to shine like that, but I fear it does not. Awesome post!!

  51. 83

    says

    Excellent reminder. DH was able to go to Far East Russia in 95 and came back saying the same thing. It’s good to be reminded of this every day!!

  52. 85

    Kim Walker says

    What a reminder! I have been feeling like a failure for what I haven’t accomplished. My own father say to me “you are exactly where you were at 17 years old” Know-where”. Could this be true that I am know where? Jesus has always been enough for me but now I must work harder to have more to show for this life? More than three great young men and a man whom I love and respect. What else is there? Nothing. This world have nothing for me but Faith, Family, and Friends..Jesus is enough!

  53. 86

    says

    I love that you are so honest with where you are in your faith. I love the dichotomy in this post. It challenges me to be and do better than I am. And it comforts me that I am not the only screw up struggling with these same issues – to love Jesus more. Thank you for that.

  54. 87

    says

    That was powerful!

    We can have or yearn for so much stuff that we loose focus of what is the most import.

    Jesus! And it doesn’t cost us anything to be in his presence or draw closer to him.

    Wow, I really like that post. Thanks for sharing.

  55. 89

    Deidre says

    Straight through the heart! I’m totally there right now. Thank you for sharing and letting Jesus show me where I need to be.

  56. 92

    Shay Gerritsen says

    Most people that know me would say Russia ruined me…I would argue that Russia recreated me. It feels dangerously close to the same thing. I’ll never forget meeting Yura for the first time. He took my hand and led me to his room in the orphanage. He lifted his pillow and started removing small items, handing each one to me as he frantically described each one to the translator, making sure she told me every word. She said under his pillow was the only place he could keep his things without them being stolen. Everything that child owned had to be small enough to fit under his head or it would be gone…and I was mad because one of the 3 suitcases I brought got lost at the airport. Two and a half years later, I am STILL struggling to reconcile ‘enough’ in my heart. It feels like I’m not succeeding. It makes me desperate for Kaliningrad in a way I cannot explain. And so, maybe, in a way, I am ruined…

  57. 94

    says

    Wow! I’m so glad you relinked this. I missed it the first time. So powerful! I’m going to let this sink in. Hopefully deep enough to stay forever.

  58. 95

    Sandi says

    I read this again for the upteenth time. It is a great reminder that I need to (continually) get over myself. Keep up the good work!

  59. 97

    Danielle says

    Thank you so much for this post. I wonder about this all the time. I’m scared that sometimes Jesus isn’t enough for me. If you don’t mind I will be posting this on tumblr to inspire other Christians. Of course I will state it as your words and put the link to your blog on the post. I was just so moved by this post that I have to share it with others! :)

  60. 98

    says

    I was “leafing” through your blog here and this post caught my eye, so wonderful and true. It caught my eye because I wrote something very similar not too long ago. I feel so much like here in America it is so easy for us to see everything BUT Jesus, and it feels so much like He isn’t enough for most Christians here. I want Him to be enough for me too. I find it so interesting when I hear similar messages from different Christians- I believe that is the Holy Spirit- He has only one message- Jesus!
    http://thegentlehome.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/the-american-church-is-jesus-not-enough/

  61. 99

    Kathryn says

    I’m not sure if Jesus is anything other than the Person who died for me in the past but there is Nothimg in the present going on . Dissapointed in the build up other people proclaim but I experience none of it but I’m also not Jesus and won’t be Jesus in my life . That’s on him not me . I’m Kathryn not Jesus so anything he’s supposed to be doing is 100% on him not me
    Relationship with Jesus ? With ? No that’s a 2 way word to me . Nothimg 2 way at all !!

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