It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness.”
– Henri Nouwen
Last year I didn’t have any major writing projects from March through July. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to live without money, but it’s a fairly challenging experience. Watching your credit card balance go up month after month is a soul-sucking exercise. Maile got a part-time job at a local market, I worked weekends selling baked goods to try and make a little extra while cobbling together some odds and ends on the writing front.
It was a long five months. It felt like a very empty five months. I wandered around the house, tired, not sure where to sit.
Emptiness is a funny thing, because while it’s basic implication is “lack” (empty stomachs, empty space, empty containers), emptiness also signifies something completely different.
Emptiness means there is room for opportunity.
Emptiness invites us to stop trying to control everything, to sit back and wait patiently for what might happen next to fill the void.
Emptiness creates space for trusting God.
* * * * *
Maile and I were talking about the hope of emptiness yesterday morning as we face our normal uncertainties in life. Being self-employed is a constant exercise in trust. She marched over to the side table in our bedroom and read the following passage from Isaiah 43:
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
“This isn’t the same old thing,” Maile insisted. “We’re not going around in circles. We’re not destined to live our past over and over again. God is doing a new thing. A new thing!”
The two of us sat there in the morning light, shadows from the sycamore tree outside the window waving on the floor of our room. We sat there, and for a moment we were in awe at the new thing this emptiness might bring.
This emptiness you’re experiencing? This sense that your circling around the same disappointment, the same failure, the same mistakes? It’s not true. There is a new thing in the making. There’s a stream making its way toward you, through the wasteland.
* * * * *
Where are you experiencing emptiness in your life? Would you consider beginning to see that emptiness as a space in which something new can grow?
* * * * *
I’m so excited to be giving away THREE FREE COPIES of a wonderful, beautifully-written book: Christie Purifoy’s Roots and Sky. If you’d like to enter your name for a chance to win one of those copies, leave a comment below. You could always let us know how past emptiness led to something new. Or you could let us know your current emptiness and we could commiserate with you. Or you could simply say, “I’d love a copy of Christie’s book!”
16 Replies to “Going Five Months Without Income (and Why Emptiness is a Good Thing)”
So in Christie’s book, I just read and underlined this today: “When I stop trying to fill my empty places, I leave room for glory.”
Oh, the way God works things through us all . . . often in great movements of teaching . . . I wonder what that all means, and I can’t wait for the answer to come.
I know it is not
Oops; my comment got away from me…
I meant to say something about how I know this is a different direction than you were speaking of, but I couldn’t help but think of another good aspect of emptiness. I am in the middle of letting go of stuff – physically downsizing and also desperately trying to drop some pounds. As for the physical weight loss, I know that it is necessary to wait for hunger, to get empty, to allow hunger to do its work – rather than always stuffing something more in my mouth whenever I feel the slightest pang. We are so accustomed to feeding our appetites whenever they make themselves known. (At least I am.) And alongside that, I am learning to part with the “stuff” that has over-filled my life. Stuff that I don’t need, but I might want. Yes, emptiness can be good. Healthy.
I have known emptiness in my life . It is as much a part of the landscape of faith , and as essential as being on the mountaintop . Times of emptiness bring me to my knees in utter dependence on God , learning to walk by faith, not by sight. I would love a copy of Christie’s book. Thank you.
We refer to our times of emptiness as holy-hard. They are not easy, but they are sacred. Rough edges in our absence of faith, get slowly whittled down to a still, soft resting, a place of complete dependence on our Father.
Our teens have been discovering and talking about silence this week and how it opens the door to listen to new possibilities.
Silence and emptiness… I’m going to settle into marinating on this for a bit.
My emptiness led me back home to my family. God’s love has filled my soul again.
I know your post isn’t really about unemployment–it’s about emptiness–but I am unemployed right now after many years at a job I liked as much as any place I’ve ever worked. I have known from the beginning that God would use this experience to do some work in me. But I’m into my 4th month now, and I’m still not sure what He’s up to, and I’m really ready to go back to work, not just for financial reasons. I’ts been very hard, and getting harder.
I’m grateful for emptiness, because if I’m not reminded of how limited my resources are I’m tempted to live without God. Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
What you said about emptiness making space to trust God–yes! My shame is that I sometimes wait until I’m empty to start trusting.
Thank you for this post. I would love to read Christie’s book.
This post is beautiful. So much of what is beautiful and new in my soul is the result of letting go and allowing God to work in my emptiness. I wrote a poem about that sacred empty a while back. I need to remind myself of these words fairly often. https://jlsanborn.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/sacred-empty/
I would love to read Christie’s book if you have any left.
After feeling the emptiness of resisting God, I finally said yes. Obedience takes away emptiness. My life is full and now I can’t imagine it any other way.
Feeling an emptiness with our townhouse that feels like an albatross around our necks. Praying that my husband will trust God to take care of all the issues that go along with renting it out, repairs and covering the mortgage on it. Praying that my husband will trust God with our finances.
Another way to look at it: emptiness means *space* to begin something new and to spread it all out in front of you as you get started. I’m always trying to create *physical* space in my home for that; keeping tables cleared off so that the next person who comes along will have an open area in which to lay out their current project. Time and energy are other spaces we can clear out so that God has room to spread His new projects out in our lives.
Great post. That wife of yours has some wisdom within her!
I’d love to read a copy of Christie’s book.
This past year has been a time of cutting of some old relationships, moving, and letting go of priorities. At times it has felt very empty, but it has allowed space for healing. In this season, I’ve learned that God is truly everything in life.
I’d love to read Christie’s book! =)
I’m being forced into an empty season for various reasons. I’m thankful for how I’ve seen the Lord’s provision thus far, through various empty times. I hope he continues. It’s good to think that there is something new brewing. That’s a hope I can hold onto. Thanks.
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