The Empty Container on the Shelf

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I reached into the refrigerator for the box that the small, individual sized hummus servings came in and found they were all gone.  Of course, this meant that someone in my household took the last hummus and then put the empty box back.  This phenomenon is a baffling part of parenthood.  All of the children put empty boxes, cartons, and containers back on the refrigerator and pantry shelves on a regular basis.  Why?  They could just as easily place the empties on the counter so that I know we are out and need replacements.  Instead, I am left to discover the need at some later point much to my frustration.  Or they could actually tell me that we are out of said snacks, and we could avoid the offending behavior all together.  

Sometimes, I think we resemble the empty containers, tapped out spiritually, emotionally, physically, or mentally.  We feel hollow and vacant.  We have nothing left to offer others or ourselves.  We may suffer from grief, depression, exhaustion, anxiety, or illness.  Whatever the cause, we are left an empty vessel.  

And what do we do with ourselves?  Often, we have a tough time admitting to ourselves that we are lacking or feeling less than.  We minimize our worries.  We decide that it would be selfish to address our own needs.  Or we just don’t feel capable of seeking help.  We ignore our problems and push ourselves to the back of the shelves where no will find us.  

But if we don’t tell anyone we are struggling, no one knows we are empty.  No one will understand that we need attention or care if we suffer in silence.  Even those who are in our closest circles cannot read our minds to know how we are feeling.  The pain will only get worse the longer we remain in isolation.  Our culture signals that feeling down means we are weak.  We often buy into those societal norms adding guilt onto our already fragile feelings.  We respond by withdrawing even more from those who would love to help us if they only knew.   

And while we tend to hide our feelings of despair from other people, we sometimes hide from God as well.  We may be reluctant to pray or seek God’s comfort when we feel hopeless.  But God does not want us to pull away from him ever, but especially when we feel sorrow or are so disconnected that we feel very little at all.  God does not want us to pull away from the people in our lives because we are ashamed.  

In the Bible, apostle Paul, and his assistants, Silas and Timothy, wrote a letter to the church of the Thessalonians in which they describe their relationship with the people of that church.  They said, “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”  (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8).  God loves us and does not want us to feel alone.  God places people around us to demonstrate his love and care.  When we feel lost, we need to ask for people to care for us and come along side us so that we can pull out of the difficult circumstances.  And when we find out others are grappling with hard times, we too can share our lives to bring them out of the darkness.     

All of us go through times of trouble when we are stripped bare and feel detached from joy, but we need not remain cut off from others.  We are precious and important to God, and God wants us to seek him and reach out to others so that we can find restoration and replenishment.  

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