Win Today with Christopher Cook

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How to Get Filled-Up When You’re Totally Empty

How many of you are running fast and hard in life have suddenly felt as though you’re drowning in discouragement and a lack of motivation because your sense of significance, purpose, and personal identity is fading quickly? Perhaps you’re frustrated by the slow-drip of status quo flowing through the daily grind of life and even more discouraged because you see others living the life you so desperately want. Maybe you want change but feel stuck and don’t know how to change. Maybe you feel hollow.

How many of you are running fast and hard in life and have ever felt as though you’re drowning in discouragement and a lack of motivation because your sense of significance, purpose, and personal identity is quickly fading in the journey? Perhaps you’re frustrated by the slow-drip of status quo flowing through the daily grind of life and even more discouraged because you see others living the life you so desperately want. Maybe you want change but feel stuck and don’t know how to change. Maybe you feel hollow.

If so, I’d hedge a bet that the soundtrack of your life sounds a lot like this:

Just like a prophet called Elijah.

Get the Heck Out of Dodge

Elijah was the greatest prophet in the Old Testament. He was a man of power and strength, motivation and vigor. That is until he met a woman named Jezebel. Picking up the story in 1 Kings 19:1 (MSG), the Bible says:

“Ahab reported to Jezebel everything that Elijah had done, including the massacre of the prophets. Jezebel immediately sent a messenger to Elijah with her threat: ‘The gods will get you for this and I’ll get even with you! By this time tomorrow you’ll be as dead as any one of those prophets.’ When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: ‘Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!’ Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush. Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, ‘Get up and eat!’”

Allow me to set the stage for what brought on his retreat. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah called down fire and absolutely annihilated a bunch of false prophets. Then, a few verses later in chapter 19, a single taunt from a woman named Jezebel sent him running for his life where he asked God to kill him. Really. The same guy who called down fire got yelled at and was shaking in his boots begging to die.

Filled-Up Until You Get Jacked-Up

But how much does this represent life for you and me? You know the feeling: you’re doing well until something sets you off or deflates your will to get through the day. And it doesn’t even have to be something catastrophic. But it could be. And in that place, you don’t feel close to God, close to people, or connected to your identity and personal value at all. In fact, you may even feel completely alone. Maybe you feel—just like Tori Kelly’s song said—hollow. Perhaps…

  • Your relationships are falling-apart.
  • Your mom or dad was recently diagnosed with cancer.
  • You fall flat on your face again after struggling with porn.
  • Your bank account is running dry.
  • You’re grieving the loss of a loved-one and you feel rushed to “get over it.”

Listen, my friend, I get it.

Fear pokes holes in your heart.
Insecurity pokes holes in your heart.
Failure pokes holes in your heart.
People poke holes in your heart.

Check, Please…

When I was eight years old, my parents divorced. While it was very amicable (they always honored each other publicly and in front of us kids, always prioritizing our well-being) I remember the feelings of vulnerability and fear about losing my very predictable young life. Shortly before my 12th birthday, my mom was diagnosed with incurable cancer.

Two years later, as a freshman at one of the top parochial high schools in the nation, I was bullied every day for three months. Fearful of further taunts, I pressed through my pain each morning by hiding out in the chapel before the first bell of the day. Several years later, as I was finishing college, my mom was in critical condition at home. And after six more years of unrelenting medical crises, she unexpectedly went home to be with the Lord—two weeks after my birthday. I felt so hollow. I felt like every time I got filled-up, it all came spilling out.

My first question was, “How do I get out of this?” My second question was, “Where the heck is God right now?” What I discovered over time was that…

He’s not turned-off by fear.
He’s not turned-off by failure.
He’s not turned-off by shame.

In fact, He doesn’t run from it; He runs to you and me in our weakness.

The Key to Getting Filled-Up When You’re Totally Empty

The key to victory is found in your identity. And anytime you’re facing lack or challenge, the most important questions you should ask yourself are: “Who am I?” and “Whose am I?”

Are you irrelevant? Are you a sinner by nature? Are you a slave to fear?

Or are you a beloved son or daughter of God? Your answers to those questions are critical because they create the lens through which you live your life. Know this: your identity is not connected to your good (or bad) performance. God’s love is a gift, not a reward.

Shift Happens

When you know who you are and Whose you are, you won’t question what you have access to in this life and won’t look to others to define you or place limitations upon you, even when life throws a hot bag of elephant crap on your front porch. Look at the psalmist for situational inspiration (Psalm 55:1-8, MSG). He was a “man after God’s own heart” but was obviously rehearsing his 911 call:

“Open your ears, God, to my prayer; don’t pretend you don’t hear me knocking. Come close and whisper your answer. I really need you. I shudder at the mean voice, quail before the evil eye, as they pile on the guilt, stockpile angry slander. My insides are turned inside out; specters of death have me down. I shake with fear, I shudder from head to foot. ‘Who will give me wings,’ I ask—‘wings like a dove?’ Get me out of here on dove wings; I want some peace and quiet. I want a walk in the country, I want a cabin in the woods. I’m desperate for a change from rage and stormy weather.

Then shift happened…

But as for me, I shall call upon God, and the Lord will save me.” (Psalm 55:16)

Here’s the point: just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean life won’t throw junk your way. In fact, you can expect that it will. No weapon formed against you will prosper, but it doesn’t mean that the weapon won’t be formed. And I promise you that because you are “more than a conqueror,” you will have something to conquer in this life.

Take heart, your present situation is not your final destination.

  • Emily Croitori

    You write some great blogs but this is my new favorite. Thanks for sharing Truth and what you learned through your own traumas and losses. It’s a great encouragement and reminds me that God makes beauty from our ashes…