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How to Fill Your Emptiness

Someone once said, “The pity of the Church is half-filled Christians trying to overflow.” Sadly, I understand that all too well.

 C.S. Lewis wrote a book about his conversion entitled Surprised By Joy. My story would be more like, Surprised By Fulfillment. When I gave my life to Christ, His fullness filled my deepest emptiness, His love overflowed the banks of my heart, His peace supplanted my suicidal turmoil. I was so full of His marvelous lovingkindness I never expected to be empty again. That lasted all of about two weeks.

 The cares of this world quickly overtook me. Tormenting doubts tried to extinguish the glowing embers that faith had ignited in my soul. My own weaknesses snuck back in to again too, seeking their old familiar place in my heart. Lust, impatience, anger and fear returned with such a vengeance I began to wonder if my rebirth was just an illusion.

 Though I’d previously felt like everything about me was different I now wondered if anything had changed. Was I really new or just deluded? Had I been born again or spiritually aborted? Was I decidedly different or just deliciously deceived?

 I was learning that the Christian life was full of ebb and flow; that doubt was the twin brother of faith; that every truth I now cherished was built upon a reservation I once held dear. And it nearly scared the heaven out of me.

 Eight years into the Christian life, I teetered on the ragged edge of burnout. Though I had said I would never go to seminary, be a Methodist or become a pastor, I learned to seldom say never to God. Enigmatically, He had led me to do all three. But though I was a good preacher, counselor and teacher, I didn’t possess that unique personality so essential to being a pastor. I just wasn’t squeaky clean. Also, though I loved Jesus, I didn’t like religion or religious people. I was simply too honest and not nearly nice enough to thrive in the political cross currents of an institutional church. By this time, I was burning the wick instead of the oil. Before long, that would be gone and I had no idea where to buy more fuel for my inner spiritual lamp.

 In the midst of my dilemma, a friend’s father told me about a very different kind of retreat he had attended. He said it opened him up to God and others in a way he never had before. People cried for hours and got better he said. They cared about each other in a way that miraculously healed their deepest hurts. They openly shared their truth without fear, and so laid the axe to the roots of the problems in their personal lies.

 So I went. Now, I shudder to think what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone to that retreat. It changed me and forever altered my ministry.

 To my own chagrin, I pastored churches for over 23 years. Most pastors flame out after just seven years. I couldn’t have lasted six years had I not attended that retreat. It reconnected me to God by opening me up to other struggling Christians -- people who hurt too badly to live any longer in pretense. For five glorious days, we wounded healers helped each other walk again. We did it by listening, by risking, by sharing what our lives were really like. We forsook our shallow judgments and accepted each other like Jesus did, “just as we were, without one plea.”

 In that rarified atmosphere of authentic fellowship and the exquisite spirit of true Christian charity my emptiness was wondrously filled again. I could keep on keeping on. Through genuinely caring spiritual siblings, I realized that God still loved me, even though I now knew without any doubt I was still a mess. I once again believed that God would complete the work He began in me years earlier when I flung myself upon His unfailing mercy. I knew I would eventually be okay.

 Ever since then, retreats have rescued my life a few times. Not typical retreats, where people lecture you and you are challenged to repent. Those never did it for me. Rather, the kind of retreats that refilled me are the ones that encouraged me to talk, to share, to listen, to care, and to dare admit to others where I really lived and who I really was. That kind of event has renewed me repeatedly, dusting me off from the grime of the narrow road and empowering me to again walk the second mile, and the third, and fourth miles where necessary.

 That’s why I offer the retreats I do. We all need God with skin. We all need people and places that can clean us off, bind up our wounds, accept us where we are, and help us refill our empty brittle wine skins with the sweet intoxicating love of God. If you need that, we’re here for you now. Don’t put it off. It’s never convenient. Maybe you think you can’t afford it. Probably you can’t afford not to. You deserve to be cared for; you deserve to be heard; you deserve to be healed. Jesus came to give you that. I deserve it too. In fact, I’m attending another retreat very soon for my own growth and healing. And wild horses can’t keep me from it.



Ken Unger is President of and founder of, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at  The Ultimate Breakthrough "
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