25th August 2014

The Gift of Emptiness

How can emptiness turn out to be a ‘gift’? What does it take to bring man to his senses? How many miles must we walk before we realise that the track we are on is not leading us anywhere? Sensual pleasures, fantastic career opportunities, financial security and academic success, in the long run,  do nothing to shield us against the emptiness we experience when we are not rightly related to God and live in His truth.

GK Chesterton puts it well: “Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs… but each time it was the dog that died”

Indeed to be without faith and God is to be without hope (Eph 2:12). To be without hope is to live my life for the fleeting moment, to fail to discover the real meaning and purpose of my existence. It is to be taken in by the idols and philosophies of thd world we live in with all its empty promises.

A cursory look at what is happening in the world is very sobering – the wars in the Middle East, the vicious persecution of Christians and other minorities,  the ebola virus outbreak, the situation in Ukraine and so on . Our own society shows signs of moral decay and rampant relativism. Young people grope in the darkness, building their life under the false impression that wealth, education, health and unbridled pleasure is all there is to it. The devil gloats over all this.

The Christian disciple however is related to the ‘God of Hope’, a hope which is rooted not just in his mind but in his deep heart. He is filled with hope even in difficult times because he has discovered prayer, a journey with Jesus where his emptiness is filled and his faith is strengthened:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

However the disciple too must also remember that we receive God’s blessings on God’s terms. He calls us to nothing less than ongoing conversion and holiness since sin is the cancer of the soul, much more worrying than that of the body. Sadly there are those around us who speak about Jesus’ friendship with prostitutes, tax collectors and so on, not in order to show how great mercy His is, but to excuse sin and ungodly behaviour.

“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord
Amos 4:6

Jesus once told a story of a young man who did return however. Having left his father’s house he messed up his life big time. At one point feeling the emptiness in his stomach, he came to his senses and acknowledged the emptiness in his heart. Ironically this emptiness became a gift because it was what led him to go back to his father’s house. And Jesus describes the encounter as one filled with joy (see Luke 15:11-31). The challenge is not only to return to the Father’s house but to stay there, heeding the Word of God which tells us : Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life  (Jude 21).


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