empty, yet full

Life is what it is. Your experience of that life is what you make it.

That’s the moral of the story. A story of one woman’s response to the emptiness God handed her.

As soon as I tell you where this story is from, you’ll likely divert your eyes to the top of your screen, click “x,” and continue with your browsing. Bible stories don’t capture many Christians anymore. Not in this world of clogged news feeds. If it’s not “breaking,” few bother to read it.

But I hope, if you’ve managed to read this far, that you’ll take some time to think on this ancient and familiar story. Why? Because I heard this story for years myself and never noticed the parallels. And now, having spent many hours pondering the implications, I earnestly pray they shape my experience of the life God hands me. So I share it with you.


I studied the story of Naomi and Ruth with a friend for four months. I then became a part of a new fellowship of believers. And of course, they were just beginning an eight-week series on the story of Naomi and Ruth {check it out here}. I soaked it up like nothing else.

Can I just say, the Bible is amazing. You spend hours upon hours in a four-chapter book over a span of six months, and you feel like you haven’t scratched the surface. Life-changing thoughts keep showing up. This one captured me at least five months in. Watch carefully.

Naomi had a husband and two sons. Full.
She had a home and friends. Full.
There was a famine. Empty.
She moved to a plentiful land. Full.
She was separated from her homeland and friends. Empty.
Her husband and two sons died. Empty.
She had two daughters-in-law to care for her. Full.
She returned to her homeland where there was food. Full.
She returned without her husband and two sons. Empty.
Her daughter-in-law followed her to care for her. Full.
She received favor and plenty of food. Full.
She found redemption in a son-in-law and grandson. Full.

Take note. Naomi was full more often than she was empty. Not only that, the above scenes overlap. Anytime that Naomi was empty, she was also full.

Now, listen to this statement made by Naomi at one point in the journey.

Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty.

But in some ways, she went away empty and came back full.

I marvel. Not at how sorry a job Naomi did at seeing things from a proper perspective, but at how sorry a job I do. I am much like Naomi.

Emptiness is real and always present in some form or another. But if all I see is the emptiness, I miss out on the abundant fullness that is overflowing all around me.

And, in all reality, I can never be truly empty. Any emptiness I see in this life is just that. In this life. Fullness, though often overlooked, is ever-present and eternal.

God may hand me emptiness. It is what it is. But if I choose to see the fullness that far outweighs it, the way in which I experience that life may well be worthwhile, redeemed, and even joyful. Just as it is possible to be sorrowful, yet rejoicing, it is possible to be empty, yet full.

[image credit: flickr.com, journeyoftheword.com]

6 thoughts on “empty, yet full

  1. Thank you for your writing. I was just sitting and pondering my thoughts on being an expatriate living almost five years from my country. I felt the words empty yet full in my spirit and googled it and came across this piece. I think I’m going to do the study on Naomi and Ruth. Thank you for sharing.


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