When Emptiness Needed God’s Presence

By Julia Pearson

As we enter into this sacred Advent season, my heart is so full of expectation. How desperately we need the delicate and miraculous baby Savior. We wonder at our Father’s planning, the warmth of His intimacy with humanity. We know He truly is God with us – with me! While we grasp the hugeness of our Father, we also know how He works so intricately in millions of spinning circumstances and crazy human hearts at once, to accomplish just what He wants in our own lives, weaving together our pasts, our presents and our futures. I have seen this ring so true in my own little life.

While the Savior came to save us, I also have such deep gratitude that He left us an Advocate that will never leave us. In my life, the Holy Spirit has been especially present in those times when I needed to know how much God is truly with us.

Early on a spring morning almost 18 years ago, as a Junior in high school I was awakened by a phone call. My best friend and three of my other friends had been in a car accident on a trip that I had planned to be part of, but my parents decided not to let me go. The caller told me that my friends had been hit head on by a drunk driver. My best friend Meg, and my friends Shana and Angie, had all been killed. The utter shock and despair was the truest thing I have ever felt to this day.

As a preacher’s daughter, I was taught that God was real, Jesus’s love and sacrifice are our saving grace, and that even so, horrible things happen to very good people in this fallen world. Despite this head knowledge, and having known enough about the world and pain, there was nowhere in my little 17-year-old heart to process this kind of absolute devastation.

I cannot even count how many times I sat in my room, door locked, lights out, shades drawn, with my knees to my heaving chest, with a heart completely void of any feeling besides emptiness. Every single loving and wonderful person I knew was trying their best to reach me, trying to show how loved and un-alone I was, but in my grief I felt so desperately isolated and forsaken.

These dark feelings dragged on as I numbly floated through the rest of my Junior year – a plastic smile on my face and a draining hole in my heart. And then one day, I distinctly remember driving down the road, thinking all of those blank thoughts that go round and round in your head when you are in this type of grief. It is just nothing. Complete emptiness. At a stop light I thought about how alone I was, how forsaken I felt by a God who would allow this type of beauty to be snuffed out from the world in such a violent manner. I thought of all the people in my life who were working so hard to love me and still I felt so incredibly alone. And then, in a way that I have not felt since, I felt the presence of God telling me, “Julia, you are completely alone and no one can understand exactly what you are feeling and experiencing – except for me. I never leave. I always understand. I am all you have.”

For the first time in my life, even though I had loved and followed Jesus for so long, I felt the impact of Emmanuel, God with us.

And from there, He carried me. He knew that moment was the moment when I could no longer walk, I could no longer struggle, I could get nowhere on my own. I had to truly understand He was with me. He always had been, and the world felt lonely because it was. When everything collapsed around me in my little 17-year-old life, I then saw, He was all I ever truly had.

As I sit typing this, 17 years have passed. Still the truth remains and I have seen it play out time and time again. All I truly have is God with us. Emmanuel.