Psalm 126:5-6 5 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.6 Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
As I write this I am sitting in a hotel room, a 500 miles from home, opening a new store for the grocery chain that I work for. Usually I enjoy opening a new store. It is exciting. Thousands of people rushing into the store to see the new programs and food items. I like my job particularly for that point. I open coffee bars for them and they are very exciting. Not the highest sales in the store, but some of the highest transaction counts so I get to see a lot of different people. Young, old, male, female, fun-loving, sociopathic. They are all there.
But this opening has been different. A lot has been going on with work lately that I have been very angry and saddened at the same time. A company that one time was simply irreligious has turned to a religion and been aggressive against Christianity. A company that has as a core value “supporting team member excellence and happiness” has turned into an offensive environment toward people of faith.
I was at a store talking to a couple of the young girls behind the coffee counter. They were talking about a party they were having that upcoming weekend. I smiled, chalking it up to their youth that they were out partying, and walked away doing my own work. Later, when I was eating lunch, I had my Bible out reading. One of the girls saw this and approached me and said, “You should come to our party this weekend.” Thinking that maybe a 20-something was flirting with this 40-something made me feel flattered and intrigued, but I knew something else was going on. I told her that I most likely was not the perfect candidate for their party and she explained to me that I indeed was. You see, they use the term “party” to describe their upcoming Bible studies between employees because if they use the term “Bible study” they will get counseled.
But that isn’t really why I am writing this. I used to be excited to go to work. After my divorce, my life changed. My work didn’t excite me anymore. Not because of the lack of Christian tolerance, but because of how the people have changed. The focus isn’t on people anymore, it is on, as my regional boss told me, learning how to “stay alive in this culture without getting fired.” No longer is the company about enjoying or celebrating our successes, it is about hiding our failures.
And because of that change, at work I have felt empty.
Enter in the travel. Travel takes a significant toll on relationships. Being responsible for over 8 states and 40+ stores, I am away from home a lot. My former marriage suffered because of that. My relationship with my kids suffers because of that. The woman I am dating right now suffers from the travel I do for work. Relationships at church suffer because of the travel.
And because of the travel, I feel empty.
Emptiness can hurt. It is painful. It causes us depression, whether short-term or long-term. It causes a lack of focus.
No matter who you are, what you do, or where you are at you will feel empty from time to time. It is simply human to feel alone and empty. That is part of our fallen nature.
Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is wrong.
A parishioner asked Martin Luther once why he preached a message on grace every Sunday. Martin Luther looked at the parishioner and said, “Because every week you forget it.”
If we realize that we have God’s grace leading us every minute of every day, then we will realize just how full we are. Our focus should be placed squarely on Christ.
The apostle Paul had plenty of opportunity to feel empty. He was single and was a traveling church planter. Paul shared in his first letter to the Corinthians several arguments showing the benefit of belief in the gospel. His argument is that those who believe in the resurrection and continue to believe maintain benefits in this life.
The benefits are as follows in 1 Corinthians 15:
Good manners v33
Optimistic purpose v58
Along with these benefits, belief prevents some negative consequences:
Misplaced faith v14
Absence of faith v17
Pointless life v32
Corrupt lifestyle v33
Willful ignorance v34
Fear of death v56
Emptiness is clearly a sign of taking our eyes off God. And we all do it from time to time. But we must deal with the consequences when we do. After we realize that we are empty, we need to get filled up. The only way to do so is to reach out to Christ. To reach out and ask Him to take away those feelings and to ask for His forgiveness for losing focus on Him.
So have you lost your focus? Have you tried putting yourself first? If you have and are feeling the strain of feeling empty, then reach out to Christ. He is the comforter. He is the paraclete. He is the only one who can heal your soul.