Running on Empty
I never claimed to be a poet. But it didn’t matter after Mom discovered my old high school journal.
“Did you actually write these twisted poems? I should have taken you to therapy!”
“It’s OK,” I replied. “That was before I was saved. I’m not empty anymore.”
Ever since Christ filled me with His grace the emptiness was gone—and I no longer needed to write poetry (my apologies to you that teach English).
Emptiness: A Common Problem
I don’t think my life was unusual. I was one of the many empty people with nothing to hope in (cf. Eph. 2:12). Like the woman at the well they go from one object to the next, seeking fullness (John 4:15). Like Solomon they seek satisfaction in alcohol, sex, money, or accomplishments—only to discover it is like trying to grasp the wind (Ecc. 2:1-11). What thirsty people need is the God who quenches their thirst (Is. 55:1-3).
Yet, even believers in the Lord Jesus Christ may struggle with “running on empty.” Especially in Christian ministry it is easy to get so used to giving to others that we run dry or feel burned out. How can this be?
No doubt physical factors play a role. We all need adequate rest, proper nutrition, and appropriate exercise. Illness can take its toll on every part of our bodies, including our brains. But what is at the heart of our struggle with emptiness?
Emptiness: Understanding the Cause
Many years ago the Lord asked His people,
“What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity [emptiness], and are become vain [empty]? (Jer. 2:5).
Did you notice the three steps? They walked away from God, walked after emptiness, and became empty. It is always that way—we become like the object we worship.
Unfortunately, the temptation to worship someone or something other than the Lord continues to face us today. In the same chapter, God laments,
“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).
God’s people continue to walk away from the only Source of spiritual satisfaction to pursue things that leave us empty. Anything other than God is ultimately a broken cistern.
Emptiness: God’s Solution
What is the solution to emptiness? It is allowing our thirst to drive us to the only One who can quench it. It is turning from broken cisterns to the Fountain who alone can fill us. As the Lord said through the psalmist,
“Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me; there shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide and I will fill it” (Ps. 81:8-10).
As we turn to the Lord with open mouths in the midst of our emptiness, we find a fullness that truly satisfies. The Lord assures us,
“He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee” (Ps. 81:16).
This is the heart of what we teach in the biblical counseling program at BJU. Thirsty souls that have found fullness in Christ are taught how to minister the thirst quenching truth of the Gospel to others. As we all grow in the reality that God is all we need, there would be fewer believers “running on empty” and a few less “twisted poets” in the world.