How to Fill Spiritual Emptiness (Thurs. May 5)

The word of the day is “filled.”  Most believers go through times of spiritual emptiness.  They feel that they are in a spiritual “black hole.”  Their heart feels hollow.  They keep going, but they are running on an empty tank.  Today in our reading of Acts 4:23-31, we read that the new community of believers gathered after the religious authorities had released Peter and John.  Luke then reports, “And when they had prayed… they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (NKJV vs. 3).  Today in our study of Scripture, we find a way to fill an empty heart.

A Prayer for Spiritual Fullness

St. Paul prays that God would grant the Romans an overflowing spiritual fullness.  He writes, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (OSB Romans 15:13).  The term “fill” in Greek calls to mind the image of “filling up a hole so that the ground is level” or even to cram things into a container” (Strong’s #4137, 204.)  Thus, Paul prays that the spirits of the members of the church be filled to the very top.

But Paul goes on to pray, “that you abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (OSB Romans 15:13).  The term “abound” means to have something in great excess in either quality or quantity or to have in vast abundance (Strong’s #4052, 199).  Accordingly, The New International Version translates, “may you overflow with hope” (NIV Romans 15:13).

Causes of Spiritual Emptiness

What a difference this fulness is compared to the emptiness that we sometimes feel!  Yet we should ask, what makes the sense of desolation so different?  Emptiness of spirit has many causes, such as disappointment, grief, lack of spiritual nourishment, burnout, and depression.[1]  Then too, the feeling of being spiritually worn out and exhausted is a sign that we have taken on too much and that we have tried to carry heavy burdens by our own power.

The remedy for an empty heart is not more activity to fill it up.  When the spirit is thirsty, emptiness needs to drink.  When the soul is hungry, it needs to eat.  On the hiking trail, if you don’t stop to “hydrate,” you are going to collapse.

The Remedy for Spiritual Emptiness

So what do we need to do when we are spiritually dried out?  We could say that we need the renewal of the Holy Spirit like the experience of the assembly of believers did in our reading.  But note that the revitalizing of the Holy Spirit among them was in response to their prayer and that their prayer was the specific petition that they might “speak the word with boldness (OSB vs. 29).

Their distinctive supplication suggests that spiritual emptiness is a sign that one has lost a sense of purpose and meaning at its roots.  One merely goes through the motions of life, soldiering on without a point.  That is why the inspiration of an occasional party, even a celebration of worship, may not last.  The spirit of the occasion only endures if it renews us in the motivation to carry on the work that God has called us to do.

There was a man carrying a heavy burden up a hill.  Halfway up, he asked himself, why am I doing this?  Am I hired to do it or ordered to do it?  Do others expect me to do it?  Am I taking a present to a loved one?  Or am I taking provisions to a sick friend?  The man stopped and sat on his baggage until he could find a reason to go on.

Renewal Comes from the Restoration of Purpose and Meaning

When we lose our purpose and meaning, we ask ourselves, what is the use?  We no longer hope that anything good will come from our efforts.  Therefore, above all, Paul prays that hearts of the Holy Spirit would “overflow in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (NIV Romans  15:13).  We earnestly desire joy, peace, and faith.  But note that in this verse, Paul suggests that the blessings that we earnestly desire are not ends in themselves.  They are the gifts of grace so that we might be renewed in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And hope fills us with the encouragement to continue to love the Lord and serve others with zeal and purposefulness.

For Reflection

If you find your life’s mission in accord with the will of God, your life will not be easy nor always enjoyable, but your heart will not be empty.


[1] Of all of these conditions of the spirit, depression needs medical treatment.


    1. Dear Francine: thanks for your comment. We all feel empty at times. I find that reading the scriptures often fills that emptiness. God bless. Fr. Basil

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