An author does not always know why he or she writes on a certain topic. I’ve heard so many say, “My muse guided me, so here I am.” Definitely true of me on this topic. Actually, I think the Holy Spirit brought me here.
Weeks ago, someone asked me to think about the word "empty" and what it means. Thereafter, I came across the word in print multiple times, and I started hearing it in conversations. Empty—a powerful word.
It would not leave me alone, so I asked 30-40 other people for feedback and thoughts about empty. I broke the comments into age categories:
Children: If you ate all the candy…; not anything left; sad; disappointment when good things are gone; just empty; all gone.
Preteens: like there’s nothing in it; sad.
Teens: lonely; panic; nothing inside; lack of fulfillment; a hole that is waiting to be filled—could be filled with happiness and love from friends, family, God; lack of substance in a container, but emotionally, a lack of good and/or bad feelings
20s: dull, depressed, lonely, didn’t care enough to cry, sadness; depression; misery.
30s: frustration at trying to keep everything done…and keep everyone happy; a by-product of extreme sadness or despair; the way grief feels
40s: a sense of unfulfillment; nothing left to give, drained…, something bad finally out; maybe now, an openness to new beginnings; a sense of unfulfilled desire, whether it’s emotional or with another person; an abyss; empty, so now who am I?
50s: void; true when experiencing insincerity in a relationship; rare but can be blissful…peaceful…if I take it as a moment to stare at a flower…; being apart and distant from God; not full.
60s: …a dry vessel, cannot squeeze out another drop; done; need rest, so maybe I can fight again tomorrow; void; not having peace; nothingness; not full; waiting to be filled; everything gone; nothing there.
70s: like my three cars; nothing there; empty is sad, a big zero if the heart is empty; no love for one another; alone, sad, forgotten; lukewarm; no energy, no hope; half empty or half full—could be healthy or unhealthy; born empty—opportunity to be filled; a void; no desire, no wants, no joy; tolerating life; watch a sunrise and see light but no beauty; don’t know what I want; no feelings; separated from meaning of life; feel like I’m by myself; can’t think straight; nothing in the barrel—a vacuum; nothing left for me; numb; fog; shut-down; no agenda.
80s: my state if I were without the Lord; how I feel without Jesus!
Not everyone gave a direct response. And someone said “hollow” without giving his/her age. Hollow. I hear it with an echo. I hear the emptiness of it. Emptiness is a fact and a feeling. And people all ages seem to understand empty on some level. So let us go to an instruction book where there are many examples of those who asked God to get them through the empty times.
In the Bible (Luke 24, NASB), women came with spices to Jesus’ tomb and found the stone rolled away. They were perplexed and hurried to tell the disciples what they had seen and heard from two men dressed in gleaming clothing. Next, Peter and John responded to the empty tomb.
The ultimate empty for the women and the disciples.
Next, the good news: Jesus had risen! He was alive!
From a barrenness, hollowness, or void, love and aliveness can come as surely as flowers bloom after a winter freeze. If we believe and act on the truth, a relationship with Jesus/God/Holy Spirit can spring up and fill an emptiness that comes and goes or an emptiness that wants to set up housekeeping inside of us.
If I ask Jesus to come into my heart and live inside me, the emptiness has less space to grow— especially when I pray scripture and nurture my relationship with Jesus.
And it is not being disloyal to loved ones to let Jesus become King of our lives, to let Jesus take first place, to invite Jesus to live inside of us. It is a choice. If it feels disloyal to stand with Jesus, that could be about an old message received in some dysfunctional relationship. (That’s the counselor in me talking, of course.)
I love what D. L. Moody preached: “Spread out your petition before God, and then say Thy will, not mine, be done. The sweetest lesson I have learned in God’s school is to let the Lord choose for me.”
It’s a place to fight emptiness.
P.S. Happy Easter! He is risen!
Hollow stump photographed by Jimmy Durmon.
Books by Pat Durmon