An unpublished poem captured my imagination years ago in a way no other poem has. The title is “I Want My Life to Count.”
The poem was written by my father.
My preacher-father wrote that poem near the end of his ministry career, perhaps as he mused over his long years of quiet service that never earned him recognition and perhaps hoping he’d made a difference, anyway. Dad never pastored a large church or wrote a book or became a popular speaker, but he is the reason, in so many ways, that I came to faith as a child. I know he is the reason I kept my faith when disillusionment was strong in my college years. Because of his ministry, I know others who can say the same.
So when I discovered his poem years after he had written it, I was a bit startled.
Is it possible that after a lifetime of preaching and ministry to others he felt something lacking? Did my father’s heart yearn – near the end of his ministry -- to be appreciated, to be remembered, to do something worthwhile?
PLACES IN THE HEART
Clifford Williams, in his 2011 book Existential Reasons for Belief in God, identifies 13 existential needs every human feels. Williams’ list includes these: a need to know that Someone is ultimately in control (he calls it “cosmic security”); a need to know life extends beyond the grave; and a need for goodness, beauty, justice, and love. 
In other words, humans need to feel significant. We want our lives to count.
Williams explains that these 13 “existential needs” should lead to faith in Christ because only the God of the Bible can meet every one of them. Only the Christian faith satisfies all of them. At best, other worldviews or religions can satisfy only some of those needs.
This is heartening.
In a culture spiraling rapidly away from Truth and the Christian message, we sometimes wonder what we can say to non-believers. Do we share our personal journeys with Christ? Or do we focus on arguments for God?
Williams’ answer is “both.” He writes, “Need without reason is blind, but reason without need is sterile.”
My experience tells me the same.
ANCHORS AND DRY DIRT
Evidence and reason were the anchors I needed as a college science major when I encountered counter-Christian beliefs. Yet, facts alone were not enough.
Though I could not have phrased it this way as a child or even as a college student, my father’s and my mother’s all-in commitment to Christ despite times of difficulty and want convinced me existentially that the Gospel was real. I knew they considered Christ worth whatever the cost. They were content to do without precisely because they were contented within. Their satisfaction with Christ was the evidence I needed most.
Rebecca Manley Pippert, author of Stay Salt: The World has Changed, writes of well-meaning friends who warned her that Europe was barren soil for the Gospel. But, after her family’s move there, she found the opposite to be true.
… secularism does not have the power to erase our human longings for meaning and worth. If anything, it increases them. God has placed a longing for identity, meaning, and purpose in all human hearts; so, even if people can’t quite articulate what they feel they are missing, the longing and wistfulness are there.
This is the opposite of what we are tempted to believe about our secular culture today. Yet as Ravi Zacharias writes in the introduction to Pippert’s book, we must never forget “how beautiful the [Gospel] message is and how powerful the truth is.”
Christ satisfies the deepest needs of the human heart and as Williams noted, “one is warranted in having a faith that satisfies the needs.”
I was mistaken about my father’s very simple poem. Though it hints of earthly trial, it was not written from a heart that longed for something more, but one that was full. He wrote this: “I want my life to count for Him who died for me. In service here my life must count for all to know and see.”
MARILYN STEWART is assistant director of communications at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College.
 Clifford Williams, Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires & Emotions for Faith (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 20-27.
 Ibid., 12.
 Rebeca Manley Pippert, Stay Salt (The Good Book Company, 2020), 16.
 Ibid, 11.
 Williams, 44.