Monday, 29 February 2016

The Problem with the Empty Cup by Catherine Campbell

I haven’t written anything in ages. In fact since I hit the ‘send’ button on my sixth completed manuscript back in September the nearest I’ve got to writing is the occasional post on Facebook.

The reasons for my absence at the keyboard are many and varied: each one a perfectly understandable excuse for my lack of written words. Conversely, my publically spoken words have had to continue due to the bookings expanding the covers of my diary. Somehow I have managed to continue ministering to others in the many places I find myself every month. God’s willingness to equip for the task in hand never ceases to amaze me. He is faithful in spite of me.

However the true nature of my problem was brought into sharp focus by a picture someone posted recently on fb. It didn’t simply catch my attention as I scrolled one morning; it reached out and grabbed me.

The words: “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first” accosted my soul.

“But Lord,” I protested, “I spend so much time preparing your word for others, and life is so busy at the moment. When life slows down a little, perhaps then I’ll have time to look after my own soul.”

My response didn’t cut it with the One who had created the cup. He wanted to fill it, not merely to satisfy those for whom it would be emptied again and again, but for the satisfaction of the cup’s owner. The Potter knows that running on empty brings no joy. Living on spiritual dregs does not satisfy.

Many of you, my ACW friends, write fiction. It’s a skill I greatly admire, but I do not have. I, like others on this forum, write non-fiction. The kind that, I pray, engages others with the challenges of God’s word and His plan for their lives. As one editor told me: “You’re a primary communicator Catherine. Stick to what you do best.”

Yet somewhere in the melee of ministry, family sickness and life’s demands it is easy to forget that to be a primary communicator the cup needs to be constantly refilled – not with what I think is sufficient, but with what the Lord knows is best to fill the empty places.

The author and teacher Beth Moore says in her book Whispers of Hope: “Nothing destroys life like emptiness. If Christ has not been invited to fill up all the hollow places in our lives, we may be saved, but we are not safe!”

“Not safe”, what a dreadful thought.

And so, in my current writing wilderness, I am taking time to fill the cup once more. It’s a process that I know needs to be ongoing. There’s no express line. It requires a slow fill. Perhaps soon there will be enough on board for me to tackle one of the three book outlines already planned in my notebook. But for now, I wait on Him.

I doubt if I am alone with the problem of the empty cup.

About the Author

Catherine Campbell is involved in ministry to women through speaking, writing and pastoral situations.

Catherine’s interest in writing started in primary school when she won a National School’s Story Competition run by the chocolate company, Cadbury. Much later she moved on from the story of the cocoa bean to crafting magazine articles published in magazines such as: The Nursing Standard, Parentwise, Just Between Us, Woman Alive, Lifetimes and Rejoice Always.

In March 2008 her first book ‘Under the Rainbow’ was published by Ambassador Productions, closely followed eight months later by her second, ‘Rainbows for Rainy Days’. Since then ‘God Knows Your Name’ and ‘Broken Works Best’ have been published by Monarch, who have also republished expanded versions of ‘Under the Rainbow’ and ‘Rainbows for Rainy Days’. Catherine’s latest title ‘When We Can’t, God Can’ was published in June 2015.


  1. Great post Catherine. Thank you for sharing. It is so easy to forget that we need to fill ourselves. And not just for our writing but in everyday life. I do a job which I find very draining and have to keep coming back to God and allowing him to fill me in order for me to cope with the job. It is easy to forget to keep filling one's cup.

  2. I echo Lynda's words. I think we underestimate the extent to which the demands of everyday life/work/ministry drain and deplete us. It's only when we suddenly realise we have little to give this situation/blog post/talk that we do the obvious - turn to God and allow Him to fill us. Very inspiring post. Thank you :)

  3. I find this very challenging, Catherine - I often struggle to keep the right balance between taking care of myself spiritually and fulfilling all my other responsibilities. Thanks for this reminder of the importance of looking after ourselves and setting aside time to wait on God.

  4. Me too, Catherine. I find sometimes that I have so little left that writing becomes another burden and then I know that I'm all empty. Finding the time and space to allow God to fill my cup is another matter - haven't got this one sorted out yet.
    Thanks so much for this post. Good to know it's not just me. x