The education of our faith is incomplete
if we have not learned that there is a providence of loss,
a ministry of failing and of fading things,
a gift of emptiness.
I’ve been pondering this phrase I read the other day: the gift of emptiness. What contradictory terms! How can emptiness be a gift?
We have all received gifts from family and friends for various occasions. Every so often someone will give us something special just because. Those are my favorite gifts—a card for no reason at all, a special book from a friend who knows my taste in reading, a hug, a fistful of flowers my Rick picked from the side of the road just for me. All of these make me feel special and loved.
My daughter once gave me a purse she hadn’t used in a while. It was the perfect size and color for me (bright pink!) and I loved the feel of the soft patent leather. There was no special reason for this gift; she simply thought I might enjoy using it, and oh, I did I ever! On top of my desk is a sweet teddy bear wearing a dress and pinafore, with a bow and headband around her head. A close friend gave me this gift because she saw it and thought of me.
I was away for a week and before I drove straight home I stopped at the car wash to surprise Rick with the gift of a brightly clean truck. A couple of days later, as a surprise gift to me, he completely cleaned out the inside of the truck. How’s that for mutual gifting?
As special as touchable gifts are, there are some intangible ones that are special too. The one I’m thinking about now happened a few years ago when my son renewed his commitment to the Lord and was baptized. As the tears streamed down my face, I thanked God that He had allowed me to witness this extraordinary event in my son’s life.
Emptiness is defined as an unfilled space; a total lack of ideas, meaning, or substance; a desolate sense of loss. On the other hand, a gift is something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned. How can two such different words occupy the same sentence or thought?
Ecclesiastes 5:7 says “For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.” The fear of God is not that cowering kind of dread but rather a total awe, wonder and reverence for a perfect, holy, righteous and just Creator. When we truly fear God, we bow to His awesome power, complete knowledge, overwhelming faithfulness, and unfailing love and mercy for us.
God is our strength when we feel weak, our fortress when people try to overpower us, and our refuge when we need to pull back from the pressures of life. In fact, God is our ultimate security and protection.
There is nothing He is not able and willing to help us with. No matter how far we may stray from Him, He is always ready to take us back with open arms because His love for us is immeasurable. All of these are intangible gifts from God, gifts we experience from Him but cannot touch or feel with our hands. We know these gifts are from Him because:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
10 For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Pastor David Strem, in his sermon “Easter: Emptiness that Fulfills,” shares this:
The empty tomb is about the power of God to overcome death…[and] is God’s promise that physical death is not the end. It displays His power over death and satisfies our hope for eternal life. The world is full of empty promises, but God is different. Instead of promises full of emptiness, God gives us emptiness that is full of promise. Emptiness because He poured Himself out for us.¹
Beloved, God’s ultimate gift to us is the reality of that empty tomb where Jesus was after He died for our sins. God bestows many gifts on us because He loves us so much, but His gift of emptiness tops everything else. If Jesus had not conquered death, leaving us that empty tomb, we would not have the reassurance of His coming back for us. It is this reassurance that comforts and upholds me during my worst days because I know without a shadow of doubt that God has my back. His gift of emptiness keeps me from losing heart. How about you?
But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” Then they remembered that he had said this.
¹ The Last Days of Jesus’ Earthly Ministry