Responding to Emptiness

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Where do you go when you feel low, empty, spent? When you feel beaten down by your circumstances or just by your day?

At nine months pregnant with our second child, I experience moodiness and exhaustion as norms in my life now. But of course, I have plenty of non-pregnancy-related experience in feeling down too. We all do; we're human. And as women, we often experience our emotions fairly close to the surface - accentuated by a host of hormonal shifts that we encounter throughout much of our lives.

I've found that there are two contrasting responses that I and others often adopt when feeling empty or low - equally unhelpful and both, ultimately, of the Enemy.

1. The first response is self-pity. We feel sorry for ourselves. We lament our circumstances, our feelings, or the person or situation we believe is causing our distress. We compare ourselves to others we know and find our own situations wanting.

This response reflects the general mindset of modern Americans, bombarded with the lie that we should feel content and fulfilled at all times. If we don't then something is wrong, and someone else is probably responsible - partly or fully. We hoped for more; things should be better than they are? Ergo, we are victims.

We adopt this false line of thinking with amazing frequency and power, even as Christians with a completely contrasting worldview. Subtly or implicitly, we condemn God: How could he have let this happen to us if he loves us? Or how could we feel so empty and low if he is truly good and sovereign? We become accusers and wallow in self-righteousness.

2. The second response is to talk ourselves out of the way we feel. We know God is good; we know we should be grateful for all he's done for us and our many blessings; we know many in the world have situations far worse than ours. Who are we to be upset about something as petty as feeling distant from our spouse (for example) when there are thousands of children starving to death in developing countries?

On its face, this response seems godlier than the first as it plays at selflessness. The problem is that it's dishonest. God is a God of truth, and acting as if our situation or emotions didn't exist dishonors him and does violence to our own souls. God created us as emotional beings, and he is not glorified when we try to pretend away our feelings - even the ugly ones. Worse, this response robs us of the opportunity to engage with God and to hear from him in the midst of whatever we are experiencing. How can he help us work through our feelings to something holy and righteous if we won't let him shine light into our hearts?

August 21, 2007 at 12:30 PM

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