On emptiness and our need for God, by Hannah.
Late summer in Japan: it smells green and feels heavy, the night alive and buzzing to the hum of cicadas. The air beats warm, wrapping around skin like steam, and mosquitoes swarm the lights above sidewalks. The trains are full of salarymen carrying briefcases and women clutching bags, their nails manicured. Most passengers stare at the backlit screens of cellphones, or crinkled newspapers and unfinished work documents. Others nap, their limbs sprawling, heads bobbing and backs arched stiffly forward.
A woman is standing, unaware that the end of the umbrella she rests on her arm prods those seated in front of her. The offended persons say nothing, too tired to complain. Outside, the darkness grows. Someone lets loose a laugh that has been waiting until after-hours to escape. Two elementary school kids exchange stories, and evade thoughts of homework for a little while longer. The night envelopes the city in muted softness.
At night, it’s easy to feel numb, when the stars aren’t visible, and the moon is concealed from view. The world looks grey. You feel faceless. The feeling is the same, no matter where you are in the world. I have experienced such “nights of the soul”, and in times of darkness, there is clarity.
When daylight burns away, you are left with your thoughts. You reflect. And for that brief time, you forget the messages being thrown at you daily by people, media, and work about what you should be, could be, or what you aren’t. You simply exist – not as a “human-doing” characterized by what you do, but a “human-being”. Perhaps that is why the character of some Japanese people seems the truest at night, when everything else is stripped away.
When the drinkers stumble home from bars, the initial buzz of alcohol worn off and nothing left to satisfy in its place – and couples walk together, unafraid of the glances of others which would intimidate them by daylight. When business people vent their feelings and stress, after-hours. When people return home, and wonder why they call it that. Suddenly all of the pretending, the perfection, is gone.
Here we are – human beings – imperfect, lonely, lost.
It’s been said that when you feel empty, you will do everything to fill the void with things, accolades, accomplishments, and pleasure. Yet when it fades into the night, what is left? Emptiness, numbness, and a need for God. Yet, it is then that the soul can be renewed. When we realize how much we need God – how empty we are on our own. It is difficult to desire God in a world that is constantly pleading for our attention. No one will seek God if they already feel full without Him. Every day is a competition to distract us from the greatest, most satisfying fulfillment the soul can ever know with worthless replacements.
But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life. – John 4:14
The light of karaoke and restaurant billboards persists, the main streets are full of taxis, and the signage in side streets glows, casting shadows. The alleys are nearly empty, and smell of damp pavement and cigarette smoke. A policeman bikes down a street. Beneath the curtained light of apartment complex balconies, a stray cat roams between garbage bags set out for collection. The wires between buildings drip with rain. The door to a cafe shuts. お休みなさい。
Every breath tastes deliberate, and the pressure of evening humidity hugs close like one too many overcoats. Sleep tugs for attention until finally, even in this wakeful, busy place, it can be resisted no more. Yet, as night deepens, I can rest well, knowing that regardless of feelings which may shift each day, my soul is far from empty and my God is near.
Have you ever felt numb inside? What did this time teach you? If you knew the cure for emptiness, would you seek it? And if you do, as I suspect many of my readers might, what stops you from being filled? If this is something you are currently struggling with, please share with a fellow believer in your fellowship community, or comment below and we will pray for you.
To find out more about Hannah, visit our writer’s page.