These days there is a mantra we’re meant to take up. As we look in the mirror, or scroll through Instagram, or compare the store-bought snacks we brought for the team to the homemade goodies brought by another family, we’re told to say to ourselves, until we believe it: You are enough.
It’s an attractive proposition, since the inadequacy and emptiness of our lives is painful. If only the gap between life as we thought it would be and life as it really is could be filled by simply adjusting our self-talk.
But I’m convinced that when we survey the Scriptures, we discover we don’t have to be afraid of, ashamed of, or lose hope because of the emptiness in our lives. Instead, we can face the emptiness with confidence that God can and will work in our inadequacy as only he can—filling it with his own divine fullness.
Fullness of God
The story of the Bible begins with a God who is full. It was out of this fullness that he created everything from nothing: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void” (Gen. 1:1–2). Void. Empty. But as we read the rest of Genesis 1 we see that God did his very best work with “empty,” filling it with beauty and abundance, purpose and meaning.
But then along came the serpent who began whispering to Eve that who she was, as an image-bearer of God, wasn’t enough, and that what she knew and experienced wasn’t enough. Rather than trusting God to fill her life with everything that would satisfy her, she reached out for what she thought would fill her life with pleasure and insight. But instead of filling her, it took from her.
Ever since, emptiness has been inherent to life in this cursed world. Yet the rest of the Bible’s story assures us: God has not abandoned us to this emptiness forever.
Emptiness of God’s People
As the story continues, we continually witness God at work in the emptiness of his people. He worked in the seeming hopelessness of Sarah’s womb, filling it with a child. He worked in the empty stomachs of his people in the wilderness, to teach and train them to depend on him to provide.
Moses warned that when they got to the land “and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deut. 6:11–12). Evidently fullness can lead to forgetfulness. It was true for them. And it is true for us.
God uniquely works in the emptiness of our lives to teach and train us to trust him.
God uniquely works in the emptiness of our lives to teach and train us to trust him. When our lives are full—full of health, full of comfort, full of everything we deem good and satisfying—it can lead to forgetting our dependance on him. It can lull us into thinking we must have these other things to be happy, rather than living as if Christ is the only thing we must have in this life.
Sure enough, their fullness did lead to forgetfulness. Jeremiah spoke for God: “They went far from me, and walked after emptiness and became empty” (Jer. 2:5, NASB). Ezekiel promised, however, that God was going to work in their emptiness. He was going to work in the desolation to make their lives like a fruitful garden. He was going to fill their lives with his own Spirit (Ezek. 36:24–36).
Fullness of Jesus
Then finally, Jesus—in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell—entered into this world (Col. 1:19). “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8).
He came to fill the emptiness of all who would be willing to receive their filling from him. John writes that “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). But for us to receive this fullness, Jesus had to be emptied. Though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that by his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
For us to receive this fullness, Jesus had to be emptied.
The generosity of this grace convinces us that “he who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).
Filling of the Holy Spirit
The filling began at Pentecost, when the believers in the upper room were filled with the Holy Spirit. And it continues today as we abide in Christ and the Spirit generates his fruit in our interior lives. Even now God is answering the prayer Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:19 that we would be “filled with all the fullness of God.”
Convincing ourselves we are enough is not the answer to our emptiness. It is not more of ourselves we need. “The fullness of God” filling up our inner being is the ultimate answer to our not-enoughness, our emptiness.
So instead of telling ourselves “You are enough,” we instead tell him “You are enough!” as he fills our lives with his grace and kindness, his joy and love, his purpose and meaning. And we anticipate the day when Divine Fullness will bring human emptiness to an end.
The God who has no needs will fill every need. We’ll be able to look back over our lives and say it was really true: God did his best work with empty as he filled us with himself.