People Who Need People

Aug 11, 2023 by Colleen C Orchanian

I was in an online meeting and heard Claire Dwyer say, “The Lord has made us to need each other.” That got me thinking about the people in my life. There are so many people who enrich my life, and I am grateful for each one of them.

Because I know that God is active in my life, I know that there are no chance encounters. Each of the people is in my life for a reason. Each person I have encountered was either sent by God for my benefit or theirs, or sent by the enemy to keep me from knowing and serving God. (And God can use even those sent by the enemy.)

Let’s explore who God might bring into our life and why, and then we’ll consider how the enemy works through the people in our lives.

First, we know that we are called to be one, to be united in Christ. We are all part of one body, the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:21 says, “The eye cannot say to the hand I do not need you.” Paul is telling us that we need each other. We are “people who need people.”

So if God brings a person into my life, why? What is their purpose in my life?

It may be to teach me. I have had many wonderful teachers, beginning with my parents, and continuing today with so many others: my siblings, husband, son, friends, priests and pastors, and some who I only know through their books or podcasts. Sometimes I have been taught by people I didn’t much care for, and I resisted what they were telling me. I am sure there is much more I could have learned by this point in my life if I had been more open to learning from the people God put in my life. The virtue we need is docility – the ability to be taught. I pray for more of that.

Some people are in our life to strengthen us. There are times when we are struggling with a trial or burden. We may want to give up. God brings a person to remind us of God’s grace and love and power. They encourage us and help us persevere.

Some people are in our life to help us carry our cross. They are our Simon of Cyrene. He was the man called to help Jesus carry his cross through the streets of Jerusalem. They don’t take away the pain, but they are with us in it. Or maybe God brings them into our life to be their Simon of Cyrene, to help them carry their cross. We comfort them. We do small acts of kindness to remind them of God’s love.

Some people are in our life for us to help. They have a need that we can fill. It can be a material need or a spiritual need. The neat thing about these people who we are called to help is that we receive graces when we help them. There is a book, also made into a movie, called Same Kind of Different as Me, about a man who volunteered at a soup kitchen with his wife. He befriended one of the homeless people and thought it was for the other man’s benefit, but the story tells of how it worked in just the opposite way. The homeless man was there to carry the volunteer through a personal trial. God works in such beautiful ways when he brings people together.

Some people are in our life to love us – to show us God’s love. It may be a parent – and wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were the case in all families, but it’s not. Maybe it’s a spouse. I have been married for 43 years, and I know such love from my husband. It grounds me. There are many moments when I see God’s love for me through my husband. That is a great gift.

Someone may be in our life to show us how to forgive. Maybe they forgive us in such a gracious way that we become more able to forgive others with more grace. Or maybe we hear about how someone was able to forgive something very tragic in their life. I hear or read about those situations and wonder if I would have the faith to be so merciful. I pray that I would.

Some people are in our life to correct us. They are there because God wants to make us better, which usually means that they are difficult people. Just because someone annoys me doesn’t mean they are not sent by God. Paul talked about the thorn in his side. We have thorns in our side sent by God to keep us from being too full of ourselves.

Some people are there to give us perspective. There are times in our life when we can’t see the forest for the trees. We are overwhelmed with the chaos of life and want the world to stop for a day. Someone comes along and helps us see things in a new way and we can handle things better. Or we have a decision to make and we’re not able to see the situation objectively. I know someone who was in a very stressful job and thought the answer was divorce – not from the job but from her husband. As she talked to her friend, she gained the perspective needed to recognize that the problem was not her husband and took the proper action to regain control of her life.

Those are all ways that God works through the people in our life. I can’t learn and grow in a vacuum. I need other people. I can’t serve God all by myself. I need other people. I can’t become a saint alone. I need other people in my life to help me grow in virtue.

There are some people in our life that are not placed there by God. There are there by the enemy. They are there to distract us from God, to tempt us to indulge in our passions, to frustrate us, to lead us away from the narrow path. It could be a person you think is there by God, but is actually working for Satan and they may not even know it. When Jesus told Peter about his upcoming arrest and passion, Peter said, “God forbid.” And Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan.” That’s a harsh rebuke. Peter, in that moment, was rejecting the entire purpose of God coming into the world. If the person keeps you from serving God, worshiping God, or growing in holiness, they are not from God in that moment. If they get you agitated about the state of the world or the problems in the Church without proposing a solution, they are not from God in that moment. If they frustrate you or cause you to worry, they are not from God in that moment.

The great thing about these people brought into our life by the enemy is that God can use them, too. God can bring good out of everything, even the most difficult or dysfunctional relationships. If you have one of those, pray for God’s grace and wisdom to bring good out of the bad.

The Lord has made us to need each other. He has gifted us with so many people in our lives. Some are there for the duration and others for just a season. Some are family, some friends, some acquaintances, and maybe even a few passing strangers. Each of them is a gift. Each has a purpose. Each is a blessing. Take time to praise God for the people in your life.

Questions for prayer:

  • Who are the people God has placed in your life and what has their purpose been? How has God used them to help you?

  • When have you been challenged with someone placed in your life by the enemy? How did they try to draw you away from God? What good did God bring out of that relationship?