Empty or full, which would you prefer?
Given an option between the two, my personal preference would be towards full. I like full.
A full tank of gas. Fully stock cupboards, freezer and refrigerator. A full bank account. A full heart. A full home. A full marriage, full friendships and full relationships. Full sounds good.
Empty sounds hallow, void, lacking substance, activity, and comfort. Empty sounds broken. Empty sounds bad.
Full gives the impression of independence, success, and security. Emptiness gives the impression of the opposite – dependence, failure, and insecurity.
No matter how badly we want to be full, how hard we strive to maintain that good full feeling, we will all experience times of emptiness. It may be emptiness in our relationships, or emptiness in our bank accounts. We may be running low on energy, on time, on peace, on understanding, or on patience.
In those times of emptiness we need to pray, but those times can be the hardest to pray from. Empty times carry many feelings with them, disappointment, rejection, sadness, anger, hurt, stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Those feelings make us want to weep, instead of pray.
If we do not want to weep we will often work to find a quick fix. When we focus on finding a fix to be full, instead of employing our emotions to entreat our needs to the Lord, we can fill our emptiness with something that numbs rather than something that nourishes.
I often like to try to numb my emptiness with nachos. Nachos and a cherry Pepsi. The only thing nourished by this action is the number on my scale and the size of my waistline. I even try to rationalize that this combo is better when shared with my spouse or kids or friends. As if the company I keep can somehow offset what I eat.
Emptiness can also be full of excuses. Those nachos were for a celebration. Last time I checked surviving the day was not an official reason to celebrate, although I often try to treat it like it is. Just for today, tomorrow I’ll make better choices. Funny how tomorrow never seems to get here.
Be Still in the Silence
It is hard to be still. In a world that calls us to run faster, harder, and higher, still can be a struggle. Silence can be hard to find. Let’s face it when we try to sit and be quiet we can notice sounds we often overlook. The sound of air coming out of the vent, the hum of the refrigerator, and all of the outside noises that usually do not catch our attention.
If we want to pray from a place of emptiness we need to be still in the silence. You may have to try several things to figure out what works for you. I often lay face down, on my bed or the floor with my forehead on my wrist with my eyes closed.
“In the silence of the heart God speaks,
If you face God in prayer and silence,
God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing.
It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness,
that God can fill you with Himself.
Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”
Give What You Have
We focus us on our limitations as disabilities, God sees our limitations as opportunities. Where we want to numb, the Lord wants to nourish.
In Luke 9:10-17 there is the story of Jesus feeding 5,000. Masses of people are gathered. Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God and healed those who needed healing. As the hours were drawing on the disciples asked Jesus to send the people away to find food and lodging.
What the disciples had in terms of food and funds left them empty in comparison to the need that laid before them. The task of feeding a crowd of thousands. Send the people away was a means to numb the problem. Jesus had another plan, a plan to nourish even with the limited resources available of five loaves and two fish.
“They all ate and were satisfied,
and the disciples picked up twelve baskets of
broken pieces that were left over.”
Luke 9:17 (NIV)
Our Lord is majestic & incredibly creative. Jesus can do more than we can even begin to imagine. We just need to give Him what we have so His nourishment can provide for what we need.
Follow When it Doesn’t Make Sense
We like to follow when logic is in the lead; when reason & common sense have made their arguments, and the known benefits outweigh the known costs. Estimating potential outcomes can keep us entrenched in our emptiness.
What if this…what if that…maybe I should…I wish I could…if this then that…and it goes on, and on, and on.
There are times to figure and times to follow. Sometimes it is just not going to make any sense in the moment.
I love reading about the prophet Elisha. It seems like so many of the stories about him in the Bible involve Elisha telling people to go do things that do not make sense.
Like in 2 Kings 4:1-7. He tells the Widow who is about to lose her sons to a creditor to go gather empty jars from all her neighbors, go inside her house, and pour the little bit of remaining oil she had into all the jars she gathered. When your own jars are nearly empty, it seems a bit nonsensical to go ask all of your neighbors for more emptiness. But God met the need and nourished the widow & her sons.
In 2 Kings 5:1-19 Elisha tells Naaman, the commander of the army of Aram, that he will be healed of his leprosy if Naaman washes himself seven times in the Jordan. Seven baths in the river, that sounds a little crazy, not very logical. Even Naaman himself said “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:11 (NIV) When Naaman washed in the river God met his need and nourished his body.
We must have the faith to follow, so the needs within our emptiness can be nourished.
When we find ourselves in the empty places of void and lacking, may we have the strength to pray in stillness & in silence, may we have the generosity to bless whatever we may have to give, and may we have the faith to follow even when it does not make sense.
Beloved and Treasured Lord,
Please help us to be able to pray from our places of emptiness. Lord, there are many things that leave empty holes in our lives – broken relationships, disappointments, lack of resources, sickness, disease, poor choices, storms, fires, injuries, and unexpected losses. Lord, these holes can make us acutely aware of our needs, and create within us a desire to numb the feelings emptiness emits.
Please help us to find times to be silent and still in prayer, help us to give graciously what You have given us even if it may not seem significant, and help us to have the faith to follow the path You call us to even if it does not make logical sense.
Please bless each of us with nourishment in the midst of our emptiness fully meeting our needs for this day.
In the nourishing and encouraging name of Jesus, amen.