I’ve been hesitating to write this post. It’s not that I’ve been lacking the right words, but rather I wanted different words.
I wanted to write a different story. To write about answered prayer and miraculous intervention. I wanted words of celebration and jubilation. I wished I could weave my words into a fiction so powerful it became true.
But instead I will write about the one word that has kept coming back to me this last month: I feel empty.
They don’t warn you that months of struggling with chronic illness will take it’s toll mentally, physically and spiritually. That you will fight and push through until it feels like you are scraping the bottom of the barrel. That some days you will forget what you were fighting for in the first place.
My heart feels empty. I have cared so much about so many things. I have poured little bits of my heart into people and situations. I have thrown all of my passion and my drive into keeping going, only to find there is always one more day. That the morning always brings another battle to face.
And my hands feel empty, as though I have little to offer the world. When so much of your energy goes into keeping your head above water, there isn’t much left to give to other people. And I know that shouldn’t matter, that people love me for who I am, not what I can do. But fatigue seems set on turning nearly every ‘yes’ into a ‘no’, and I’m so desperate to turn the tables.
I feel spiritually empty too. I can cry my way through a worship set, singing words that I know are true. But somehow these days it costs more to sing them. It is hard to sing of freedom when at times you feel imprisoned by an illness you can’t escape from. It is costly to declare God’s goodness when your circumstances do not always seem to reflect it. And pouring out your sacrifice of praise can be painful when you are scraping out the last drops from an empty heart.
I would love to say that when I come to God empty, I leave filled to bursting. But that isn’t my experience right now. Sometimes his spirit and presence feels like more of a trickle than a flood. I can come with pleas and desperation and leave feeling the same. Maybe I’m doing something wrong or perhaps this is the desert place people talk about.
And I understand now why people lay down their faith in the face of suffering. I can see how it could be easier to tell yourself there is no God, than to accept he is letting you walk through this valley. When every day you are forced to wrestle with a loving God who allows you to suffer. And your prayers seem to fall unanswered like the tears that are running down your face. On those days lies can seem so much truer than the truth.
After years of depression I am familiar with emptiness. But back then there was always a plan. There was therapy or drugs to try, science and answers, doctors who were determined to find a solution. Right now I don’t have a plan. No one seems to understand what is causing my ME or cares about finding out how to fix it. Instead what I’m left with is acceptance and making the best of what I have. After trying everything at my disposal, I have abandoned the illusion that I am even remotely in the driving seat. And some days all I can find in me is frustration and confusion, and tears I am done crying.
I know God hasn’t changed, the sun doesn’t stop being there just because the clouds have covered it. In my head I know I am not lost, nor abandoned or beyond his love and grace. But sometimes I feel all those things.
I suppose whether we feel it or not, we are all empty vessels. Ready to be filled with God’s grace and spirit. It may be that I need to pour out more of myself so his light can shine through me brighter. Perhaps these days serve a purpose I can’t yet see.
And how we come to God, seems to matter less than the fact we keep coming. That whatever we’re feeling, we bring every broken and empty part of ourselves to our Father. All feelings will pass, but his love endures forever.