It’s possible to be a Christian and be empty at the same time.
In fact, many Christians have experienced that state — empty, stuck and joyless. Maybe you are in that painful state, and you’re asking, “Why?”
If you haven’t been a Christian for as long as you can remember like me, you might recall the period you first understood your need of salvation and the joy that comes from knowing that Jesus loves you and died for your sins. Those times were euphoric, and you recall how vibrant and alive your relationship with Jesus was.
I was there, too. Yet somehow, three years later, I found myself sitting in my bedroom, staring at the floor. Empty.
I still read my Bible every day. I pray at least twice a day. I actively serve at church. I have a Christian mentor that lovingly counsels me whenever I need counsel. Everything seems to be in place. Yes, there is an enormous pressure from school, work and ministry, and I am still very much struggling with my own sinfulness. But I’ve always had these, and I remember the time when Jesus enabled me to experience joy in the midst of these difficulties. But why not now?
This emptiness invariably leads us to a constant state of weariness and anxiety. We become unsatisfied, discontent with life. As a result, we pray harder, we spend more time in Bible reading, and we do all the Christian things we could possibly do to break the status quo. Yet nothing changes. All the while we look at the rest of the world, and we see that in their unredeemed state they seem to be happier than our Christian selves.
Then the thoughts start to come in.
“If I have this, I’ll feel better.”
“As soon as I’m through with this, there will be sunshine.”
We finally got there, but there was no sunshine.
It was midnight, and in my desperation I picked up a booklet from my shelf. It’s called “The ABBA Cry” by Don Lessin. And as if diagnosing my emptiness, he asked me:
What is the loudest sound within you?
What is the sound that rings loudest day in and day out?
Have you been quiet enough in your inner man to know?
What sound rings the loudest in the very center of your being?
Is it Jesus? Is it “Abba, Father”?
Can you really say, whatever your age, whatever your circumstance, that apart from all the good and beautiful sounds you hear within you, Jesus’ voice rings loudest?
“No,” I quietly said to myself.
It is our natural state to have voices other than Jesus’ ring louder in our hearts. Yes, you can still listen to His voice, but in our natural state it is subdued compared to other voices of school, work, ministry, relationships, etc. And when this is true, nothing comes but emptiness.
“If there is another sound within you that takes the place of or weakens the sound of “Abba, Father” then that sound becomes idolatry.”
As Lessin points out, the truth is, the Holy Spirit is always crying within us. It is there, enabling us to cry “Abba, Father” in our fallen state. And when we don’t stop and purposefully search for this voice in the midst of the clanging sounds of other voices competing for our hearts, the result is an idolatrous, empty heart.
You see, whenever we feel empty, anxious, angry, dissatisfied or anything that is not a fruit of the spirit, it is a symptom that Jesus’ voice does not ring loudest in our hearts; it is a sign that we need to stop and shut down everything else around us and within us and focus our heart’s attention to the Holy Spirit’s voice that is crying out “Abba, Father.”
“Turn off all the sounds within you, but My voice. Turn off the sound of business, family, and ministry. Turn off the TV, the radio, and the music. Turn off the call of sports and movies and entertainment. Let it all be silent within you, and hear My voice.”
Only when Jesus’ voice rings loudest will we truly put Him at the center of our being, and only then will our emptiness be filled with His joy and satisfaction.
I turned off the light and laid down on my bed. And as I did, so I turned off all voices that rung in my heart. All but the Holy Spirit’s voice that cries out “Abba, Father.” I asked the Holy Spirit to sing it louder and louder and louder until my heart could hear nothing but “Abba, Father.”
And Jesus came. And faithfully, He filled my emptiness with joy.
Nothing else will ever satisfy. He is the living bread that fills; the water that will eternally quench your soul. Him. Jesus. He’s what your soul longs for.
Let His voice ring loudly in your heart.
Philip Maniscola is an actuarial science major at Temple University, a U.S. Army Sergeant and a lover of all things Indonesian.
If you would like to contribute a post to the Boundless blog’s “Your Turn” Friday feature, see “Writers Wanted” for more details.