Filled Up Empty

We’ve all seen them. Those insipid roadside church signs or social media gifs, full of pop theology and dad puns (no insult meant to you dads). They attempt to be relevant, clever, funny. They’re not. And often they’re damaging, not just to good taste, but to the body of faith. 

They are empty of the richness of God’s Word and sound theology, leaving one full of doubt and guilt. Empty words like these leave the suffering with nothing to fill the voids formed in trials of this life – where you’re unable to praise your way out of the current hell on earth in which you find yourself.

Are we of the body of believers all that different? Quick to try and fill up the struggling with scripture, out of context, thinking it relieves us of our duty to care and love them in their difficulties. “It’s for your good. It’s God’s plan. It has purpose.” Though these things are true, when referencing the glory of God, ask the grieving widow, the sorrowing parent, the abandoned spouse, the abused, how they hear it when pummeled with it by their fellow pew sitter, if they’ve been able to attend church while the devil tries to drain them of their will to live.

The Psalmists knew what it was to be empty.

“Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.” (Psalm 6:1-7)

If only David had known to run into the hallway of his cave and scream “Hallelujah!” All of his suffering would’ve been GONE! Yes, we are to praise and bless God, but these often must be acts of obedience to our Creator, not mystical magical miracle dispensing incantations. In the depths of the darkest places in our sojourning on earth, we will rail at that command and at scripture itself, at God, emptied it seems of hope, trust; full of anxiety and gut punching, soul sucking anguish. To praise and bless God in these places? 

To whom would you rather empty out your soul? The Creator of all things, Who holds you in His hands, DESPITE your toddler like attempts at escape, or yourself – helpless sinner that you are – knowing that you couldn’t even keep from being hurled into the suffering you now find yourself.

Pour out your soul to Him, again and again and again. He who knows all things, holds all things, Who poured Himself out for you, He will sustain you. Faithfulness, trust despite fear, grief mingled with peace, clinging with dug in fingernails to God’s Holy Word, all by HIS hand. 

He empties us of ourselves to fill us up with HIM.

To those churches who have these road signs that assault my sensibilities, I almost feel I should apologize, but…no. May I suggest either using the scriptures to accomplish your fly by highway proselytizing or one of the many rich hymns we have in Christendom, such as the following:

Be Still, my soul, tho dearest friends depart 

And all is darkened in the vale of tears; 

Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart, 

Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears. 

Be still my soul; thy Jesus can repay

From His own fullness all He takes away.

(Be Still My Soul, The Lutheran Hymnal #651 vs. 3)

{For my beloved Joel, on the one year anniversary of our temporary separation, thanking God for the love, and the catechism, He gave us through you. May the kids and I honor our Savior, and the faith you taught us.}