I don’t know about you, but the quarantine left me feeling sort of empty and I’ve had a difficult time filling back up. My feelings remind of a sign I saw on a telephone pole: 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’ve felt a little like Lucky. Hobbling along. Impaired vision. Lost direction. Empty. There was a woman in the Bible who felt the same way. But then God showed her how to fill up so that she could pour out again. 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). After delivering the prophesy, Elijah fled to the Kerith Ravine east of the Jordan where he drank from the book and ate bread and meat God provided.
Eventually, the brook dried up. So, God sent Elijah to Zarephath to a Gentile widow to provide for him. When he got there, he didn’t find a woman with plenty, but a woman in want.
“Excuse me,” Elijah called, “could you please bring me a cup of water?”
As she turned to fetch the traveler a cup to quench his thirst, he continued. “Oh, and can you bring me a piece 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).
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 as Elijah said.
Can’t you just see this woman taking the last bit of flour and oil to make Elijah a meal? What does it matter? I’m going to die anyway. So what if it’s one day earlier.
She emptied her flour bowl and oil jar, took a little cake to Elijah, and returned home. As she went to wash the dirty dishes, she picked up the jar and the jug and they were full! (1 Kings 17:16)
I call this the Bucket Principle. I believe each of us is given a bucket of encouragement. As we dip out of our bucket 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 by withholding life-giving words. I don’t have enough to give to someone else, we moan. I am drained dry. However, when we give, even in our emotional emptiness, God fills us back up.
If you feel empty today, think of one way you can pour into someone else’s emotional, spiritual, or physical bucket. Then watch God fill you back up.
“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.”
Sharon Jaynes is the best-selling author of over 20 books, including her newest re-release, the updated version of The Power of a Woman’s Words: How the Words You Speak Shape the Lives of Others and Bible study guide.