When You Feel Empty

Sharon JaynesLiving Fully, Power of Words 21 Comments

A sign was posted on a telephone pole by the grocery store: “LOST DOG with three legs, blind in left eye, missing right ear, tail broken, and recently castrated. Answers to the name of Lucky!”

Perhaps you feel just about as “lucky” as that lost dog. Hobbling along. Impaired vision. Broken tail. Well, you get the picture.

There was a woman in the Bible who also felt like she was out of luck and had nothing to give. But then God showed her how to fill up so that she could pour out. Her story is found in 1 Kings 17, and it begins with a man named Elijah.

Elijah was a good prophet who gave some bad news to a king named Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1 NIV). God knew that news would not go over very well with the king, so He told Elijah to flee eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine east of the Jordan. For several months, Elijah drank from the brook and ate bread and meat delivered by ravens that God miraculously sent to feed him.

Sometime later, the brook dried up. Now, if God could supply meat and bread every day, He could have easily provided water. But God had a different idea. He sent Elijah to Zarephath to a Gentile widow who needed a miracle in her life.

When he arrived, he called out to the woman. “Excuse me, could you please bring me a cup of water and a cake of bread?”

“I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug,” she said. “I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die” (1 Kings 17:12 NIV).

Now that was a discouraged, empty woman! But Elijah had good news for her.

“Don’t be afraid,” Elijah said. “Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land’” (verses 13-14).

She went home and did what Elijah had told her. After she emptied her bowl and jar to feed Elijah, she went home to find the jar full of flour, and the jug full of oil. She was an empty woman, but as she took what little she had to offer encouragement to another, God filled her up.

I call this the Bucket Principle. I believe that each of us is given a bucket of encouragement. As we dip out of our bucket of encouragement and pour onto others, God miraculously fills it back up.

Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). Many times, we place a lid on our bucket of encouragement. I don’t have enough to give to someone else. I am drained dry, we moan. However, when we pour out, even in our emotional emptiness, God fills us back up.

What happened to the woman from Zarephath? “For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:16 NIV).

Dear Lord, I’m feeling rather empty today. Rather than feeling sorry for myself, show me someone I can encourage. Give me the words to say and the courage to say them. I pray that as I give encouragement to others, that You, Lord, will fill me back up. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Think of a time when you helped or encouraged someone else. How did it make you feel? Who is someone you can encourage today?

The most common way we encourage others is with the words we speak. Our words shape the lives of others, for good or for bad. If you want to become more of an encourager and less of a discourager, check out my book, The Power of a Woman’s Words. Also, you might like to take the 5-Day Taming the Tongue Challenge.

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Comments 21

  1. One summer day I sat in the doctor’s office waiting room depleted physically emotionally, and spiritually. An older woman shuffled in and fell in a heap into the chair. She could barely hold her head up. We were the only two in the waiting room. We made eye contact and she told me she didn’t know what was wrong and she was nervous. I remembered I had some scripture and prayer cards in my purse. I admitted to her I was scared too and asked if she’d like me to read one of my cards aloud. She said yes and as I began to read my body relaxed and instead of fear, I felt a flood of peace. I am usually a shy person and don’t make eye contact or conversation in waiting rooms. This day was different. I was prompted to comfort a fellow patient, but God graciously brought comfort to both of us.

    1. That was a “God appointment !” See you might have felt depleted but the Holy Spirit in you; is never depleted. Praise the Lord for that blessing that day.

    2. Thank you for sharing that beautiful story. I am very shy also. It is encouraging me to hear what you did. God bless you, for stepping out of your comfort zone.

  2. Thank you! This message came “right on time”! I’ve been feeling drained with the expectations as a wife, mother of 3, and full time Nurse Practitioner. I will admit, I overlooked several emails, but this one TODAY, I could not pass. Now I see why! Thank you!

  3. Sharon,
    this was a beautiful story.
    I would say that I have spent the majority of my adult life (68) not necessarily feeling sorry for myself but rather continually asking ‘What happened here?’ I didn’t know the beginning of the story until I was in my late 30’s. Then I started researching for the answer: I was diligently working as I had never worked on anything else in my life before and even after…

    Now, I have a question regarding the idea where: When we are feeling down and discouraged what will lift our spirits is that of doing for others > they feel good > and now we feel good.

    But isn’t our motivation for doing the good for others somewhat selfishly motivated? In this case, we go and do good because we have been told that it will make us feel better. Ought not we be doing good for others because we are wanting to serve them because they are in need? And not because it will make us feel good!!

    This confuses me. Bren

    1. To Bren: If this is allowed, I’d like to recommend a book called Desiring God by John Piper. It speaks to the questions you asked about our reasons for helping others. The gist of the book is that God wants us to feel joy and one way we can do that is by helping others. I hope this helps!

    2. I’ve noticed in my own life that I’m rarely motivated to do something for another person (particularly a stranger) just because God says it’s the right thing to do. It’s more likely I’ll obey if there’s something I want that is tied in. However, it doesn’t stay that way. As I obey God out of a selfish desire for my own benefit, He’s at work to change my heart. So eventually, what I began rather begrudgingly (such as tithing) becomes motivated out of love for God and joy at seeing others blessed. Somewhere along the way, I stop thinking about what I initially cared most about. At least until God asks me to do even more, and then I kind of freak out a little, and the selfishness rears up. But, again, as I obey my heart changes. Not only does my motivation change, but I grow closer to God because He is actively demonstrating Himself to me. It’s definitely a learning process.

      When I first started I would quickly grow upset if I didn’t see an immediate return on my “investment”. I treated God more like a vending machine and would be so confused, hurt, and mad when the item I wanted got stuck (yet again!) in the coils. Thankfully, He has been very patient with me and I am learning to understand Him better.

      So I think God might be pointing out what’s in it for the giver in order to motivate them because He knows that’s how many of us think. But He doesn’t intend for us to remain that way.

    3. I think the point is that if we go and give of ourselves, not expecting a return, God will bless us if our heart is in the right place, and that is not being selfish. Whenever I help someone without thinking of myself, I am filled with joy that I could help. That is a blessing.

  4. This “bucket concept” is such a wonderful revelation to me. If we can encourage someone, then the Lord will supply encouragement to me. I just talked to a friend who had been hospitalized for medication side effects. She was in good spirits but very weak. She told how she is considering moving closer to her daughter in light of her health “scare.” The conversation encouraged me to consider how I have such an opportunity to move close to my children. It was an example of the “bucket concept.” as I intended to encourage her, but in the end, she did to me as well. Great concept to use in life to lift up others and then find God filling me up as well!

  5. Thank you God for using me to reach your people. May words of encouragement leave my lips and talk of negativity and discouragement be bond to the depths of hell.

  6. I recently have been feeling discouraged and down for several reasons: health issues, finances, job situation. I am part of a new group where we do different Bible studies online. I recently reached out on a variety of help options that they offer for a prayer partner. She immediately responded and introduced herself and then disappeared for a few days. I eventually heard from her again, asking how could she help me and I basically poured out my heart to her. All I got in return was “I get it!” After reading this story, I realized that maybe I’m not the one who needs the help but rather, I’m the one who needs to be helping others. I’ve always been there for others and found great joy in hospitality. Maybe that’s where my peace comes from. Thank you!

  7. Thank you so much for this beautiful reminder.
    I use to be this person.
    Then covid hit.
    The all the negativity struck me down.
    I have notice such a change in me how I have been reacting to the events of the day.
    I need to turn this around to help others, and to help myself
    Thank you so much for this message.
    What I speak and how I react to life events is up to me.

  8. This encourages me bcuz we are to Live2Bless, therefore reflecting God’s love & encouragement.
    In doing so, with no expectations for “ourselves” it takes our eyes off ourselves and looks to be
    the “hands & feet” of Jesus gloryfying Him. By walking in obedience & faith we too are filled up & encouraged,.
    Thank you for this post. It encouraged me (the Bucket Concept-I will remember this term) as
    I Live2Bless others.

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