The word is small, but it encapsulates so much. We can be empty physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We can be empty because we’ve poured out all that we contained or because there is nothing that will fill us up at the moment.
My wife and I recently took a cross-cultural trip to a people group that was previously unknown to us. These trips are exciting as they provide a glimpse into how God is working around the world. To be as clear as I can, God is working around the world in miraculous and marvelous ways.
Our experiences were heart-warming, refreshing, and gut-wrenching. At times we sat in fellowship as the body of Christ and witnessed God’s work, not only in how he has saved souls but also in the process of making believers more like Jesus. These men and women bear the fruit of the Spirit and our time together was precious. We experienced the “oneness” that is spoken of in the New Testament.
But we also experienced the heaviness that sits on the shoulders of men and women because of the evil that is present in this world. We heard first-hand stories of those who have lost young children to the bullets of war. We heard of families who were forced to flee their homes because of invading powers.
Despite the heaviness, we sensed God’s movement in these peoples. There is no greater joy than to be in the presence of God’s work. Our senses were awakened from our slumbers. We were bold to share love and hope. We prayed fervently. We enjoyed the presence of Jesus.
We boarded a plane to return home, our hearts already missing those we came to love. What happened next was unexpected. I felt empty. This was not the same as some post-trip blues. It wasn’t a valley low after experiencing a mountain high.
What I felt was an absence of God’s presence. Writing that sentence feels shocking. After all, we know that God is in us, around us, and with us. Yet I arrived home and looked around and wondered why I didn’t feel God’s presence the same way that I did during our trip. I looked at my job and life, the things that I do for work and fun, and everything felt empty.
It is natural for the immediate reaction to be to chase God’s movement. If God is working around the world in miraculous ways, why not pack up everything and move around the world to join God in his work? In fact, our church does a phenomenal job at sending out global workers who want to live cross-culturally in order to make the name of Jesus known. Despite that, I had a strong awareness that chasing this pursuit is only a fraction of the life that God has called us to enjoy.
As I wrestled mightily with these feelings of emptiness, I kept returning to a truth that was made fresh to me on our trip. Jesus is our reward. There is no greater experience than being with Jesus.
If we pack up all that we have to move away in order to live the “right kind of life” for God, we’ve missed the mark. If we obey God because we are afraid of his punishment for disobedience, we miss the mark. If we look at God as the one who wants to give us a good life, but we don’t care about knowing him, we miss the mark. If we live our lives to the fullest extent to not need God, we’ve missed the mark.
But if we understand that Jesus came to bring us back into his family so that we can be with him, then we understand the life that Jesus intends. This life with Jesus can be here or there. It isn’t contingent on circumstances or abilities. It exists in richness or poverty. Whether we are free or oppressed, we can still be with Jesus now.
When we better understand this type of life, it frees us. Doors are opened instead of closed. Do you want to live cross-culturally in order to make the name of Jesus known? Go and enjoy life with Jesus and make his name known. Do you believe that you will stay and work as a sender of those who will go? Stay and enjoy life with Jesus and make his name known.
I want to close with another valuable truth that we learned on this trip. The life of the global worker does not contain a super secret for making Jesus known. They meet with people. They enter homes. They enjoy meals together. They share while taking a taxi or Uber. They are observant and look for the chance to share truth. All of the things that they do there are the things that we can do here. This is encouraging, humbling, challenging, and convicting as it means that we can make an impact for Jesus today as we interact with those around us.
So, wherever you are, enjoy life with Jesus now. Look for opportunities to invite others into that same life. Walk in obedience of the Word of God. Realize that he alone can satisfy our empty souls.
Jarrod has been a member of HBC since 2008. He and his wife, Amy, are the current leaders of our Discipleship Community, Fusion.