Coming Up “Empty”?

When I started driving gas was 28 cents a gallon; so long as I had a five dollar bill it was easy to keep the tank of my car full.  Having said that, I remember running out of gas on several occasions because I forgot to watch my gas gauge.  One time I was driving to school on a curvy mountain road when my car suddenly quit and rolled to a stop.  I could not believe I had done it again!   In a panic, I jumped out of my car and stuck out my thumb to hitchhike to a gas station.  The first car that came along stopped and I jumped in as I asked the driver to take me to the gas station.  The driver dropped me off at a station that was a couple of miles away and the gas station attendant kindly filled up a plastic gas can and drove me back to my car.  (Thankfully, there were no serial killers out looking for foolish girls to take advantage of that day.  It was not until much later that I realized how graciously God had put His hand of protection over me!)

Reflecting on Ecclesiastes in my Journey Notes, I have been struck by how the writer (with absolutely nothing out of his reach in terms of power and wealth) totally came up on “empty” as he assessed all that he had done in his life.  This is what stood out to me this morning:

 “I refused my heart no pleasure.  My heart took delight in all my work, and the reward for all my labor.  Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; NOTHING WAS GAINED UNDER THE SUN.”  (2:10b, 11)

Depression is a very old problem that began when Adam and Eve rebelled against God.  What I find interesting, is that Ecclesiastes affirms the root of man’s depression (referred to by many today as “the common cold of psychiatry) continues to be mans disconnection with God.  Consider 2:24 & 25: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.  This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him who can eat or find enjoyment?”     

 Because we live in a fallen world Christians also get depressed or experience anxiety, coming up “empty” in trying times.  But God has blessing for those who seek Him for the help they need.  The question is, how can we assess that blessing?   The following are some guidelines that have been helpful to many of my clients over nearly twenty years:

  1. Give thanks to God that you are not alone in your struggle, that He is faithful even when we are not.  Ask Him for clarity in looking at yourself, the people around you and your situation.  Repent of whatever sin you have committed and give thanks to Him for that forgiveness.
  2. Talk to someone who you know as being spiritually mature and who knows the Scriptures.  Request their prayer support and their help as an accountability partner.
  3. Go to the Scriptures to be “filled” as you ask God’s Spirit to grant you a teachable heart.  I encourage all of my clients to go to God, with the help of the Journey Notes  process between sessions, to be “filled” with the wisdom and strength of the Scriptures. 
  4. Give thanks for what He shows you in the Scripture and act accordingly.   
  5. Actively commit to a local church that centers on Christ and the Scriptures.   

  It can be a good thing to come up on “empty” at times when it helps to underscore how much we need God in our lives.   If you are struggling with depression right now then let me encourage you with these verses from Psalm 139: 7, 8, 11 & 12,

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Where can I flee from Your presence?  
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;  if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”  
even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.”

Do you see the blessing?  No matter how dark and empty things may appear, if you have Christ in your life it will never be as dark as it would be without Him.  The closer you are to Him, the lighter (and I must add fuller with hope) will be your perceptions.

All to His Glory!

What Are You Hungry For?

I had to giggle when I read my daughter-in-law’s entry on this morning.  Having lived in China for the past nine months, Shannon wrote about visiting friends in Beijing the previous weekend commenting, “One of the best memories of that weekend was eating a delicious hamburger!  It was exactly what I wanted!”   I could totally relate to what Shannon was saying.  I remember being hungry for Chinese food (note the irony!) after moving to Big Spring, Texas for my husband’s Air Force pilot training.  We drove 50 miles to eat at a Chinese restaurant in a neighboring town in the hope of satisfying our craving.   Imagine our disappointment when we were served tomato rice soup (instead of the traditional egg drop soup) and iced sweet tea (rather than the Chinese green tea served at Chinese restaurants where we grew up!)   The only thing served that was even remotely Chinese were the egg rolls, but they weren’t that great.  Months later we discovered a place that served decent Chinese food located at the end of the Base runway called (I kid you not), the Ranch Inn Pizza Cafe!

Since that time we have lived in various places and there are certain things I miss from each location.  However, as time has passed I have noticed a definite shift in my priorities.  The “things” left behind are not nearly as important to me; more often it is the fellowship with the special people I miss that I truly yearn for.

Beyond the physical and relational things we hunger for in life, there is a third area that trumps the first two even though many are not aware of it: the spiritual realm.  Several entries ago I quoted Jesus’ teaching from the Beatitudes where He said:

 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6)  

At the time I asked myself the question, “What are you hungry for Kathie?”   I became increasingly troubled when I did not have an answer!  I decided to go back to what is “square one” for me: I started a new Journey Notes Praise Journal.   That first morning I focused on Lamentations and committed to write an entry every day.   It felt good to log my Praises to God as well as my Prayer Concerns.  Lamentations 1:22 stood out to me:  “Let all their wickedness come before You; deal with them as You have dealt with me because of all my sins.  My groans are many and my heart is faint.”  My Response was,

“I am so grateful to finally get back into Journey Notes!  Thank You Lord for leading me to Lamentations.  I know it’s going to be very worthwhile.  I appreciate what I have read so far, in that it answers the question “How are we who are saved by grace alone to deal with those who persecute us and delight in evil?”  The answer: 1. Go to God in humility and faith in our suffering. 2. Trust that His justice will prevail.  Thank You for shepherding my heart in such sweet ways . . .  ”  

That day I found myself looking at people around me differently, praying for some as I passed them walking on the sidewalk.   By “Day Three” I could hardly wait to get started on a new entry because I was curious to find what truth God had waiting for me to discover.  That morning I logged my Praises to God for, “Good sleep last night . . . Roses in my garden . . . Your Spirit guiding me.”  Lamentations 2:19 stood out: “Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the LORD.  Lift up your hands to Him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger at the head of every street.”   My Response that morning (in part) was:

“The wisdom of Lamentations is valuable because it demonstrates how we are to mourn when calamity strikes:  “Arise . . . cry out . . . pour out your heart . . . lift up your hands” to God for your children’s sake. . . .  Help me Lord to take it to heart so that I may benefit those You give me to counsel.”

I realized then, that what I was hungry for was for something I didn’t know I had lost.   Reading Scripture had become more of a duty than a joy for me.   What I discovered anew was how much I love the freshness of reading and meditating on the Scripture with God’s Spirit as the Shepherd of my heart.   Such a rare gift and yet I lost it and did not realize its absence!  

How about you?  What are you are hungry for?

  1. The physical desire for something familiar from your past?
  2. The emotional connection with people you miss?
  3. Or is it a spiritual desire to know God better as the Shepherd of your heart?

I invite you to consider Jesus admonition to us both: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  The question to think about is not just what you hunger for but, “What do you want to be filled with?”  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)