Is the glass half empty or half full? Traditionally, the cliché serves as a test of perspective with optimists focusing on what’s there and pessimists noticing what’s missing. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I heard a third response. Someone remarked that either way, the proverbial glass has room for more.
This idea caught my attention because of the obvious correlation to life. Experience testifies that whether or not things are going well, improvements can always be made. No one is totally satisfied one hundred percent of the time – many people feel like they could use more time with loved ones or an increase in income or a longer vacation. As far as relationship with God is concerned, there will always be more to learn about Him and areas for growth in His grace.
What I’ve found, though, is that in difficult seasons – the “half empty” times of life – my need for God is much harder to ignore. In other words, when life feels emptiest, I’m most aware of my capacity for more. For me, the physical emptiness of my womb exposes my need for God to sustain and satisfy. Others may be experiencing emptiness in their relationships, homes, or workplaces.
To be honest, I’m tempted to focus on what’s not in my cup – the baby that isn’t in my arms or the money I wish was in my account or the relationships I don’t have right now. But if we focus less on what we do or don’t have and more on our need for God, the emptiness starts to feel less like a curse and more like a gift. C.H. Spurgeon said it well: “The more empty I am, the more room is there for my Master. The more I lack, the more He will give me.”
Many of the struggles we face aren’t good things in and of themselves; they are evidence of our world’s brokenness. But these broken places – the areas in which our cups are running dry – can actually serve the glorious purpose of driving us toward God in desperation. Like physical hunger that alerts us of our need for food, so hunger of soul exposes a need only God can meet. As one of the psalmists put it, “[God] satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9).
Whether our souls feel stuffed or starved – or the cup feels half full or half empty – God is the One who enables us to face both seasons with contentment (Philippians 4:11-13). In fact, during the Israelites’ four-decade journey through the wilderness, God allowed them to go hungry for a time and miraculously provided food. In both situations – when they hungered and when they were well-fed – His purpose was singular: to remind them that He alone was the source of true sustenance. In Moses’ words, “He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna…that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
There are unique challenges in every season of life. When times are tough, we can’t forget that true satisfaction is found in God alone. Conversely, we must be mindful of our dependence on God even when times are easier, lest we follow in the footsteps of the Israelites: “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me” (Hosea 13:6).
Until we get to heaven, life will be marked by degrees of dissatisfaction. Like weary travelers who are just ready to get home, holy restlessness should characterize our sojourn through this world. We don’t have to ignore reality – things aren’t as they should be. But the brokenness, the lack, the longing – they are all invitations to come to God for healing, fullness, and satisfaction.
To reference the cliché once more, because God is who He says He and does what He promises, the believer’s cup is never truly half full or half empty. With the Lord as our Shepherd, our cups really do overflow (Psalm 23:5).