WHY ARE WE SO EMPTY?
Emptiness is that weird sensation of missing something you can’t identify-or of wanting something but not being certain what. Some people feel emptiness because they suffer from other psychological disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Disorder. Anyone diagnosed with one of these disorders needs to talk to a professional and follow a doctor’s guidance. But for many others, the feeling of emptiness isn’t part of a larger disorder, but it has become a way of life.
On one hand, we might argue that a wealthy nation like the United States, with so much entertainment, technology, options for education, travel, and personal freedom should not, at least on the surface, have much excuse for feeling empty. On the other hand, the abundance of all of those things points to the reality of the problem-if a nation of consumers can’t be filled with all we have, the problem of emptiness must go far deeper than what we can acquire or achieve. Emptiness defines us, on one level, as a culture.
One friend of mine described a man he knew this way, “You could sense the presence of his absence!” How many of us are painfully aware of the “presence of our absence?” Something is missing and we are not sure what it is. It’s something just not there! It’s the presence of an absence.
Psychology Today, in an article about relationships and our natural longing for other people, acknowledges that when we are lonely we self medicate in “typical” ways with alcohol, meaningless sexual relationships, and food. Those abuses are so common they are proverbial in America. But notice what the article says about the feeling behind the longing for relationships.
“If you are without the love you need, you may be compelled to bury your longing in any of the typical ways that can serve to disavow what you feel: an indulgence in alcohol or substances; pursuing sexual relationships that are otherwise meaningless; an overconsumption or over-restriction of food; or various other diversionary activities. Longing is painful, but emptiness that may exist beneath such yearning is dreadful.“ (March 26, 2013: “Longing and the Dread of Emptiness”)
When we look for love from others and don’t find it, and then attempt to cover the pain, it is the deep sense of emptiness that we are really trying to fill. We try relationships, sex, food, work, pleasure, drugs-anything to avoid the confrontation with our own emptiness. But we don’t really need a psychologist to tell us that do we? The emptiness of our lives and those around us is self evident.
What does God say about it? Actually, the Scripture acknowledges our struggle with emptiness. As I was reading Scripture this week, I became fascinated with how many times the Bible promises that we can be “filled.”
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:18 ESV)
“…and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God…” (Ephesians 3:19 ESV)
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11 ESV)
God knows we battle an empty life and He offers the only solution that doesn’t add more emptiness to the emptiness! He promises “fulness.” We can be filled with the Spirit, filled with the fulness of God, and filled with joy. Who needs fulness? People who are empty!