Friday, February 27, 2015

Deepest Joy

A few weeks ago, I had opportunity to reflect on the present season of my life. Almost without realizing it, the words I chose were "desert" and "emptiness." It is certainly a season, for me, in which I feel the depth of my emptiness. (And that's not necessarily a bad thing.) It comes, for me, after a season in the wilderness - the uncultivated place where it's hard to figure out what this life is trying to grow.

And I'm not alone in this. There are persons all around us, right now, including some of you reading these words, who are aching in a certain emptiness. You're feeling the depths of your being exposed. You're feeling your feet kind of skim across the ground, like there's not enough weight in you to hold you down. You're feeling stripped, open, maybe abandoned. You're feeling like you can't get a hold on anything, like there's nothing to hold onto, like there's so little that is real. 

Because that's what this world does. This world reaches into you and takes every precious thing you think you have. And when you don't feel like there's anything else you can lose, this world reaches in again and takes even more. Digging, digging, driving its grubby little hands into you and just ripping you apart from the inside out, taking everything that means anything and even the things that don't until you're just...empty. Until the hollowness penetrates all that you are. Until your very breath echoes in the chambers of what was once a vibrant spirit but is now a vacant space. You look in the mirror and your hollowed eyes betray you already, and then this world digs in again and takes even more.

I'm not saying this to sound pessimistic; this is just real. This is what is happening to countless souls right now. This is what people are waking up to this morning. This is what's happening in our world. 

But it's not all that's happening. 

See, I've had a lot of time to think about this desert season. I've had a lot of days to count the sands. And what I'm finding is that there is this beautiful gift embedded in this emptiness, this incredible blessing of being in this place. 

It's no fun feeling the emptiness. It's no fun feeling the hollowness. But there's something else I feel in this season that simply cannot be ignored:


Pure joy. Absolute peace and confident assurance and tremendous joy. Others have noticed this in me. Some have commented. Some have asked. I can't explain it. Or...I couldn't. 

Then I came to understand how much of the desert is God's terrain. How much He is using this season to shape me, even when it feels like it's the world that's making the mold. I don't know if God causes the emptiness or if He just allows it, but over the course of the world's digging, I, too, have dug deep. I have learned how to pray. I have learned how to worship. I have learned how to connect my empty spirit to the fullness of God, and a lot of days, that's all that's kept me going. I have come to recognize how God has been using the emptiness for my good - to shape me, to mold me, to teach me. 

And one day, I don't know. It just sort of happened. This joy just...filled me. And what I hadn't expected, what I hadn't even considered, was how deep that joy could be in a life that felt so shallow. It's precisely because of the emptiness that the joy is so deep. The world has emptied me out enough, it has taken enough out of me, it has dug deep enough into my soul that when God in His great mercy decided to pour out grace, it hit first at my deepest core. 

It hit the depths of the empty places and erupted in joy. Erupted in peace. Erupted in confident assurance. It poured in and just kept pouring until it filled my very being. And thanks to this desert that's been slowly eating away me, grace has had a lot of space to fill. It's amazing. 

I share this not to share my story, but to offer strength for yours. There are some of you right now who are feeling this emptiness. You're in your own desert season, and the world keeps digging into you. It keeps taking away more and more, and you feel like soon, you'll be nothing at all. You feel like soon, there will be nothing left of you. And what then? 

But there's more going on here than you know. More than the world has bargained for. The day God decides to pour out His grace on you, you'll feel it. You'll know. All this time, all this pain, all this season that's been hollowing you out, it's only preparing you. It's preparing you for that grace to just pour in and hit the deepest parts of you.

It's preparing you for deepest joy. 

And joy is coming. Just hold on. 

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