Have you ever left full, only to return empty? Maybe you followed God’s call, you journey out with Him excited and ready to do what He has put in your heart. Maybe God called you into ministry or missions, or maybe He called you into the unknown in your very own home. Perhaps God called you away from something, some people, some situations, a job. And now, now you find yourself exhausted, spent, used up, empty.
Maybe God led you to a far off place, only to bring you back void. You followed God into the deep waters of faith, you abandoned the boat and the safety of shore to fling yourself into His calling and now here you are being led back to shore. But suddenly what was shallower before, is deeper, it’s not easy going back in as it was going out. You’re tired, bone-weary, it’s all you can do to keep a mask in place, to keep others from seeing the battered places.
We are so quick to think that the label of Christian should make our way easy, we think it means we won’t have to experience the flames. But we forget that we were promised that God would be with us in the midst of the flames and in the storms. It didn’t promise that the fire would never come, but then when it does He will sustain us. That when the storm is at it’s very worst, we will not be lost in the waves.
I’m reminded of Naomi, returning to her homeland alone and broken. She’d lost everything – husband, children, home, provision, comfort. She’d followed her husband into a distant land, and suddenly everything she’s known, everything she’s loved, everything that is familiar is gone. She’s a stranger in a strange land.
She returns to her homeland changed, the people who had once known her greet the woman they use to know but the journey has changed her. She’s not the same person she was when she left. She left them as Naomi full, but she returns Mara which means bitter. Bitter because she returns broken, and empty, believing that God has cast her aside. Wondering if He’d used her up, only to cast her aside. Whenever brokeness finds us, bitterness isn’t far behind.
Sometimes God takes you far away to teach you to rely on Him, and then He squeezes you out into others lives because He knows you have what they need. We so easily forget, that just one heart touched makes it all worth it. Just one life impacted makes the pain of feeling empty worth it- and even if you don’t see the impact today it’s worth it because it was for Him. All for Him.
Sometimes God brings you back to the familiar, to your homeland, because someone back there needs what you’ve learned squeezed out. Sometimes He brings you back because someone needs what you’re bringing back with you. You are a landmark in someone else’s journey. He brings us back because maybe someone needs to know that no matter how battered or empty your life looks to the world, He is weaving your story. The places that we return empty are the places He will shine through the most.
Home doesn’t always look like what it did before we left, but that’s ok we’re not the same person we were. We’ve changed, we survived storms, We’ve walked through the fire, we’ve struggled with things the people back home will never see and sometimes never understand. We’ve been poured out. The journey has changed us. It’s easy to claim the name Mara in this season… but as we continue to read Naomi’s story it’s clear she didn’t stay in this place. She kept believing in spite of the pain, in spite of feeling empty.
Are you in this season? Are you returning empty? You left full, your hands filled, praising God for what He was doing. But now you are returning empty-handed, struggling to understand, to find Him in this empty place. Wondering what happened, what you did wrong. But we forget that was the whole reason we were called out into the unfamiliar, to be squeezed out into other’s lives. To plant seeds of truth, or water those that have already been planted. If we came back full, the whole journey would be pointless. We weren’t meant to come back full.
Perhaps like a parent teaching their child to swim, God draws us into the unknown where we can’t touch the bottom- and then when we are tired He draws us back to the familiar shore to be filled once more, and to speak into the lives of those getting ready to embark on their own journey. No matter how empty you feel in this moment you are never truly empty. No matter how confused, no matter how broken you feel, no matter how useless you feel He still there. He is still working, He will not abandon you.
It’s OK to return empty, as long as you let Him pour back into you. As long as you soak back into Him. Sometimes He allows us to return empty, so that like when Simon had been out fishing all night and returned to shore empty-handed there was room for Jesus. He lets our decks grow empty so that we have to return and when we do, there is room for Him. If our hands, our decks are full when we return to the shore there would be no room for Him. No place for Him to step into and proclaim His goodness. Perhaps this empty season is yet another way to teach us to rely on Him.
We get so busy asking why we are returning empty, that we forget to trust that He won’t leave that place empty. We forget that He is using all of this for our good.
We often forget that the reason it seems so dark is that we are the light, and we can’t see it is because we’re standing in it. We can’t see the lighthouse because we are the lighthouse and we shine the brightest in the darkest place.
I know you feel empty, that He can’t use you, that He’s done with you. Maybe you feel like He’s forgotten all about you, that you aren’t enough anymore but you’ve forgotten that you don’t have to be enough because He is enough. He is enough in every season, on every day, in every place, HE IS ENOUGH. When you pour what is enough into what is not enough, what is not enough becomes enough. When you take the one who is enough and pour Him into your empty places, the empty becomes full.
He is here in this season with you, ready to pour over your dried up wasteland. Ready to breathe life back into what is barren, ready to sooth the broken places, prepared to fill you back up. Don’t fear coming home empty, it’s a place that only those who abandoned the shore and sailed into the unknown with Him will ever experience. To be filled, you first have to be emptied. We may never see, the impact of us being poured out but I promise, it’s there. It may not look like what you expected. You may not even see it in your lifetime. It may look like a drop in the ocean, but there was a reason. Maybe He had to pour us out so He could fill that space with Himself.
Don’t fear this season, if He saw you through the storms over and over again, do you think He’ll abandon you here? Don’t try to cover this place up, don’t bury it beneath a mask and plant artificial flowers. Throw the doors wide, and prepare for Him to rain down, prepare for Him to flood over those dry places in your life.
Praise Him in the dry season, praise Him for the rain that’s coming even though you can’t see the clouds gathering. Rest in the knowledge that even though you can’t see the clouds or smell the rain it’s coming. Praise Him for the rain, even though you can’t feel it yet, because maybe that’s the reason He brought you back home empty- to show others there is hope in this place, that He will not abandon them because He didn’t abandon you. That they have not been forgotten in this season. Prepare for the rain, praise Him, before you feel the first drops. Perhaps this is just another step in learning to follow Him into the unknown scary places of faith.
Perhaps this season is here to teach us that no matter how many times God calls us out into the unknown, no matter how many times He pours us out- He’ll always fill us back up.