Apparently a teaspoon of milk left in a gallon jug is justification for returning it to the refrigerator. Many a family can relate. You pour a bowl of cereal, put it on the table, set out a spoon and go for the milk … only to find an empty container. You reverse all these actions and mumble something about common sense, but you’re the only one in the kitchen.
Empty things. I wonder if we really consider the impact they have. Depending on their nature and degree of importance, empty things can cause us more than just a little inconvenience. They can create circumstances that range from disruption to devastation. Beyond milk cartons, a host of other depleted circumstances exist. Empty gas tanks on a lonely road. Empty rooms once filled with laughter. Empty pockets in over-stocked stores. Empty stomachs in settings of poverty. Empty promises that echo broken trust. Empty hearts that once overflowed. Empty lives that dreamed of wholeness.
To be empty means containing nothing; not filled or occupied; having none of the usual or appropriate contents. Things that are empty need filling, but how and what they are filled with matters. We don’t put milk in gas tanks or gas in milk cartons for obvious reasons. Yet we seem to ignore that same wisdom when life is empty.
God has created a place within us that only He can fill, yet many substitute Him with inappropriate things that have neither value nor substance and life becomes hollow. It’s an age-old problem that is spelled out clearly in 1 Samuel 12:20-21: “Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing.” (NKJV)
Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges and his words were uttered for their admonition … and ours. God had already brought His people out of bondage in Egypt and led them to freedom. He went before them and delivered them over and over from the godless inhabitants they faced in their journey; establishing them in the Promised Land. Yet despite a history of God’s leading, they fell again and again into rebellion and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. What was the wickedness of which Samuel spoke? They demanded that a king rule over them, rather than God. They took for granted God’s sovereign provision, protection and blessings and began to look around. Coveting the lifestyle of men, they decreased in their devotion to God. The same condition exists today.
We look around and try to fill our needs by embracing the world’s definition of meaningful living. We chase after power, riches and physical perfection and try to satisfy loneliness with excessive indulgences. But attaining them doesn’t bring the satisfaction we deeply long for. It can’t, because humanity was designed to have its greatest need filled only by a relationship with Jesus Christ.
In all our futile attempts to create life as we think it should be, we empty life as God designed it for us, believing that simply isn’t enough. The Israelites of Samuel’s day thought so and their lesser pursuits brought sorrows that caused them to cry out in misery. Samuel responded with rock-solid truth: “Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” (vs. 24)
God has done great things for us. He has given us life and purpose. He has endowed us with various gifts and abilities that, when used wisely, lead to true fullness and abundant living. But we have to quit settling for emptiness.
When life seems to hold only a small measure of hope, strength or resources, we need to stop returning our empty conditions to the same familiar place and seek to be filled by the unlimited reservoir of God’s Word.
It’s never too late, for even a teaspoon of His life-giving truth is sustaining enough to begin the process of refilling an empty soul.