Empty Hearts

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Not long ago I made the following post on Facebook: “If God has created you for Himself and has set eternity in your heart to bring Him glory, then the only thing that will fill that eternal space is something eternal–God Himself. Temporary things will never fill an eternal void. You are powerless to fill an eternal need with anything this world has to offer.” (re:gen) I was a bit surprise when I saw the interest the post received, so I thought maybe I should write on it.

I can tell you that my journey in life and through my year re:generation, has been learning about emptiness and dissatisfaction with my life with the LORD. It took a few months for me to start putting this together. At times, I really disliked this “holy dissatisfaction” as I came to call it. Not that I was holy in all of what I was going through. I found overall, that I was selfish and self-centered. For some time, I would try to fill the emptiness I was feeling with things of the world. They were not bad or sinful things in themselves, but I was trying to fill my emptiness in ungodly ways or with things other than God Himself. While my struggle has been much improved since completing re:generation, I still battle with this “holy dissatisfaction.” I’m not giving God the glory in my life I should be.

Philippians chapter 3 has always intrigued me and it is this chapter that birthed the term holy dissatisfaction. The Apostle Paul talks about his credentials. He had everything to brag about and talks about them in verses 4-6. It seems like he had the best of everything in his day. Then in verses 7-8 he makes this astounding statement: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus My Lord. For His sake, I have suffered the of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ….It’s like, “WOW!!!! He made it!! He found the answer. Our only hope is Christ, and Christ alone!! But did he really make it?

I’m afraid he didn’t. Just a few verses later he says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus had made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” I tend to think of Paul as the epitome of a disciple, or Christ follower. But it appears that he had the same struggles that a lot of us do. It seems Paul had times of restlessness and emptiness just like us. It also seems like Paul had the answer to this that many of us do not have.

So, what do you and I do when we feel empty. My first thing is to go inside myself and become depressed and full of self-pity. I also withdraw from people and fill my time with mindless things like TV and DVDs. Some of us may even go further and slip back into old habits like drugs and alcohol. Whatever you do, there are ways to stop the downward spiral that we sometimes face.

First, I would suggest that we read and study Philippians chapter 3. One thing Paul did was that he kept looking ahead. I think that might be a bit difficult for some of us, because we don’t really know what is ahead. But we do know that one day we will be with Christ and will be transformed into His likeness (3:21)! Our struggles here will not compare to that.

Paul also did something else. He wanted to know Christ more than anything else. His desire was to not let anything else take the place of that. Everything else was loss. Can we give Christ first place in our hearts above family, friends, relationships, vacations, job promotions or anything else we might desire? These are all good things, but if they push Christ out of being first in our lives, then we face the possibility of taking His glory for ourselves. Only Jesus Christ can fill the eternal void we feel!

I want to end this with a true story about a person that I knew many years ago. Her name was Jane (don’t get excited, no romance here). I met Jane over 40 years ago when I worked for a year or so in a Christian Nursing Home in Denver. I was just out of college and needed a job immediately so I took a job as an orderly while I looked around for something else. But I really enjoyed that job although most people couldn’t how I could do such work.

Jane was probably one of the most beautiful girls I had seen up to that point in my life. She was also nearly a total quadriplegic. She had contracted polio just before Dr. Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine in the 1955. She had a little use of her arms and hands but that was about all. During the evening shifts when I worked, me and one of the nurse aides would help Jane with her “exercises” by holding her up and walking her up and down the hall. But what intrigued me most about Jane was this inner peace she seemed to have. I always wondered how that was possible in her situation. I never saw her angry or bitter. She always had this angelic smile about her as she sat in her wheel chair with her Bible.

Jane was also an artist. She could paint and do lettering freehand. Once I asked her if she would make me a small plaque with the phrase from one of the early church fathers, Augustine: “Thou has made us for thyself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” I still have the plaque. It’s in a small plastic picture frame, all faded and ugly, but I still keep it around. I always liked that quote because it encouraged me to keep seeking and resting in the Lord. Jane was a picture of rest and contentment. All she had in her life was Jesus.

About 10 years later, I learned through my wife who was a volunteer for a time at the same nursing home, that Jane contracted pneumonia and died. I feel sad when I think about it but am also happy because I know she is with our Lord and can walk and run without help. She is now has true peace that she demonstrated to me in the short time I had the privilege of knowing her.

So, we have come to the end. I tried to make this post about our journey in this life and how to handle our difficulties. This may be simplifying things too much but the way to deal with our difficulties is to make a decision to look only to Jesus for everything. Nothing is this world satisfies or can solve the restlessness in our hearts. It starts with a decision to look to Him, forgetting our past and moving forward in our walks. May we make a decision today to give Jesus first place in our lives.

 

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