Chaplain’s Corner: XX

“Trusting God to Fill the Empty Places in Your Life”

If God wants to do something special in your life this week, will he have space to work? That question emerges from a fascinating story in the Old Testament.

In II Kings chapter four, a widow approaches the prophet Elisha. “My husband is dead,” she says. “His creditor is coming to take my two boys as slaves.”

Seizing children to pay debts was part and parcel of Middle Eastern culture eight centuries before Christ. Widows were virtually powerless. Their husbands had been their 401(k). Without income and without advocacy in the public square, they and their children might be one day away from starvation.

“Tell me,” Elisha asks, “what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she replies, “except a little oil.”

Pressed olive oil was a critical source of fuel, a key ingredient for cooking, and the equivalent of cash on hand. To be low on oil was to be at the end of one’s tether.

Elisha makes a counter-intuitive request: “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

This of course defies the laws of physics. You can’t keep filling jars with a little oil. But God who crafted the Laws of Conservation of Mass and Energy is not thwarted by the need for a miraculous event.

The widow keeps pouring oil. She turns to one of her sons and asks for the next jar. “There is not a jar left,” he says. At that moment the oil stops flowing. Elisha tells her, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” (II Kings 4:7)

What is the take away from this story?

Our response hinges on what Elisha says to the widow: “If you’re trusting God to fill some empty jars in your life, don’t go around and ask for just a few.”

If you give God a few empty places in your life, he’ll fill a few. If you give God the chance to fill place after place after place in your life, he will fill them all.

How much space have you left for God to work?

If we fill our calendars with busyness, if we cram our minds with our own plans and ideas, if we rush to fill every vacuum of “down time” with distractions, and if we vow to control every detail of every day, we will never leave an empty jar for God.

Leave at least one space open this week – a place where you’re willing to wait patiently for God to show up.

See if He doesn’t provide the supernatural gift of life-sustaining oil.


Ron Naylor, Chaplain