The Lie of an Empty Cup

One Sunday afternoon, the Lord opened our eyes to a need so we invited a family over for a meal, rather spur-of-the-moment. As I prepped after church, making food and getting the house ready to welcome these impromptu guests, I was faced with a very real temptation.

It seemed like despite all my work to ready the house on Saturday for just this kind of opportunity, I still had quite a lot to do to make the home comfortable and I was running out of time to lay down and rest before they arrived. I was fearful that if I didn’t conserve my energy or rest, I would “be no good to them.” Almost as soon as I formed the thought, though, I knew that I was believing something false about God and His ability to supply me.

My mind drifted back to a conversation I’d just had with a dear friend after church. We were talking about the need for women to disciple and be discipled. Over the years, we’ve both struggled with longing for mentors, but we find more often than not, we have women in our homes who are looking to be mentored or discipled, and we are tempted to believe we have nothing to give.

When it comes to discipleship, hospitality, motherhood, Bible teaching, or just about anything else I’m called to, I find I’m regularly tempted by the same question: “How can I pour from an empty cup?” In other words, if I’m not filled with what (or who) I think I need, how will I ever have enough to give? I’ve come to believe though, that these questions actually presuppose a lie.


The danger of self-care memes

The world neatly packages this lie in popular self-care memes of various shades and shapes, but the bottom line states, There’s no way you can obey God in your calling without the thing you think you need, provided the way you think you need it.

Really, this is just a temptation to repeat Satan’s lie: God is not truly good, and He’s holding out on us. “Has God actually said He will supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus? Is His grace really sufficient?”  

Sure, if you want to get technical, it’s true that you can’t pour from an empty cup. But a much bigger truth is that in Christ, our cups are never empty. Often we anxiously, desperately ask how we can pour from an empty cup, while we forget that our God is the source of all wisdom, grace, strength, and abundance. And not only is He our supplier, He is also caring for the people we’re serving.

So I believe the better question is, “Will you fill my cup, Lord?” And His resounding answer is always, “Yes”.

Over and over, we see throughout Scripture the call to come to Him to be filled. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 ESV) He opens His hands and satisfies our desires, and is near when we call on Him (Psalm 145:16, 18). He fills us with the fruit of righteousness, and the knowledge of His will (Phil. 1:11, Col. 1:9).

Will He use what I want Him to use?

I’m also tempted with thinking God can only use the means I believe I need for my situation. In other words, I think because God ordinarily uses the means of physical rest or fellowship or discipleship to meet some of my needs, He is somehow short-handed without those means.

So then, I start to believe I cannot possibly be filled apart from God using my ideal resource to fill me. But in thinking this way, I think too little of Him and His ability and grace. He can and does fill me directly and powerfully. Reminders of his Word and the presence of His Holy Spirit are never lacking.

Jesus said our Heavenly Father knows what we need (Matthew 6:31-33). We don’t even know the depth of our own need – but He does. If He knows better what we need, why would we anxiously look around us as though His provision is in short supply?

Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9 ESV) Is His grace only sufficient on our terms, in the ways we want it to be sufficient?

When we ask Him to fill us, can’t we trust that He will faithfully do it? He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), and He will not turn away from our need.

We have a Savior who is intimately familiar with our weakness. He knows our temptation to look for strength apart from the Father’s abundant supply.Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV)

He is our abundant supply. All we have to do is hold up our empty cup and receive.

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