Women are constantly serving the needs of others. Almost every night we fall into our beds depleted of energy and devoid of passion. We are completely empty, and we wonder how we’ll find the strength to make it through another day.
I’ve had many nights like this. Out of obedience, I pour into the lives of family and friends, and I fulfill the many obligations that come with life. Hands continuously grope at the fleeting seconds of my day, and I desperately search for the scraps. When there are no leftovers to be found, I hold my empty hands up to God and cry out, “Lord, there is nothing left for me!”
As I contemplated more ways to hoard my little scraps, God taught me a beautiful lesson that has forever changed my life. He taught me how to Gather Empty Pitchers!
I read the story about Elisha and the widow found in 2 Kings: 4.1-7.
A prophet died and left his wife and sons with a considerable debt. The debtor was going to come and take the widow’s sons away to pay for the debt. The widow came to Elisha and asked for his help. Elisha asked the woman if she had anything of value, and at first the woman said no; but then she admitted to having a little oil. Elisha told the woman to gather all the pitchers she could find and take the oil and fill each of them. The oil poured out until there were no more empty pitchers. The woman was able to sell the oil and keep her sons.
When I read this story, I imagined the woman carefully pouring her oil into each pitcher. As she held one of the pitchers and poured oil to its rim, she cried out, “Another pitcher, please.” But there were no more. I could see the desperation on the woman’s face as she realized how very few pitchers she had filled.
I felt the woman’s anguish over not having more pitchers. I wished that she would have been more prepared. If she would have taken Elisha’s words more seriously, she would have spent weeks or even months gathering empty pitchers. That’s when I felt God say to me, “You are gathering empty pitchers.”
I didn’t quite understand what God meant, but I knew He was about to give me hope in my obedient emptiness.
I meditated on the story for several days, discussing it with God and friends. Finally, I felt the last puzzle piece fall into place and an amazing image of empty pitchers appeared in my mind. I figured out how I could gather empty pitchers! At long last, I understood how I could find my “true self” by sacrificing myself!
Jesus said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” (Luke 9.23 Message).
How could “Self-sacrifice” be beneficial to finding my “true self”?
If God is my Creator and the Creator of all things, wouldn’t it stand to reason that He knows me better than I know myself? And if He designed me for a specific purpose, wouldn’t it be to my benefit that I surrender to His will completely?
But why does it seem that God would have us continuously pour ourselves into those around us? So many times we want to be like the widow. She didn’t want to let Elisha know that she had a small jar of oil at home. We do the same thing. We don’t want to let go of the little time, resources and energy we have because we’re scared there will be nothing left for us.
But this is not the case. Every time we pour our lives out for God’s glory, we leave an empty pitcher for God to fill. Every time we serve the needs of our children, we leave an empty pitcher. Every time we sacrifice our bodies for our husbands, we leave an empty pitcher. Every time we pour into the lives of our friends, we leave an empty pitcher. Every time we give resources to the poor and disadvantaged, we leave an empty pitcher. And every time we surrender our desires to the Holy Spirit, we leave an empty pitcher.
Sometimes God fills those empty pitchers immediately, and we are instantly blessed for our sacrifice. However, most of the time, the empty pitchers gather. God allows them to gather because He knows that He is about to open the heavens and pour down the blessings. He wants you to be ready with a bunch of empty pitchers, so you do not cry out, “Another pitcher, please!”
This revelation has helped me because now I look forward to leaving empty pitchers. Every time I serve those around me, I open myself to be blessed by God. And the most awesome part about pouring myself out to others is that God loves my emptiness! He can complete His divine work only in my emptiness! The “real me” shows up when I have nothing left to hoard!
Be constantly mindful, though, that you do not try to get others to fill your pitchers. Wait on God’s hand! If we expect others to give us something in return, God will not bless our actions. He only fills empty pitchers (Matthew 6.1).
Sometimes we forget that God is the everlasting Creator. He specializes in creating something out of nothing. In the Old Testament God created life out of emptiness: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1.2 NIV). And in the New Testament God created new life from an Empty Tomb (John 20).
If we are constantly pouring ourselves into the lives others, God is able to create something beautiful within our emptiness. So many times we think we could do a better job than God can at molding us. We pray to God to make us more like Him; then, we scold Him for not doing things our way (Isaiah 29.16). God created life! How could we possibly top that? Whenever we try to take control, we just create chaos and heartache.
God in His infinite wisdom knows that we want to meddle with His creation, so He ensures our humbleness by keeping us continually poured out to others. Our brokenness allows the Holy Spirit to easily pour through us, and it makes us more malleable so that God can complete the good work He started in us (Philippians 1.6).
God is so awesome because He made our self-sacrifice doubly good. God blesses us when we sacrifice for others because we are able to leave empty pitchers for Him to fill and He blesses us when we sacrifice for others because He is able to create us into His image. It’s the best two-for-one-deal in the entire universe! This is why Jesus said that the only way to find your “true self” is to sacrifice yourself. Only God knows our “true self” and only He can complete His design.
So the next time you feel exhausted and your lift your empty hands up to God, cry out to Him, “God, create life in me!” And if you feel like you’ve messed up the life He has already given you, lift up your hands to Him and cry out, “God, create new life in me!”
If you can stay broken by continually pouring yourself into the lives of others, God will be able to bless you and create your emptiness into a thing of beauty. Don’t hold anything back! Trust God with all you have and start gathering empty pitchers!