In 1977--amid the turmoil of recession and the socio-political malaise that followed Watergate and Vietnam--Jackson Browne released his chart-topping single entitled "Running on Empty." Although the single was wildly successful, the song's main character was not. He finds himself "running into the sun, but...running behind"...that is, on the road to failure and burnout...leaning forward, while at the same time falling backward...much like our nation at the time. In truth, the song is quite depressing! But I suspect it found favor among the American public because it so adequately expressed the general sense of unease during the Carter administration. Americans feared what tomorrow might bring, and Jackson Browne gave their fears a voice.
As I reflect on my life today, I realize that I, too, fear tomorrow. I, too, feel a general sense of unease. I, too, am leaning forward, but running behind. However, my reason for "running on empty" is different from that of Jackson Browne's muse. I am "running on empty," not because of some national crisis (though there are plenty of crises to go around these days), but because I am a sinner. You see, I should not fear what tomorrow will bring, but I sometimes do...because of sin. I should be at ease knowing that God is in control, but I am often uneasy and untrusting...because of sin. I should lean forward and run forward confidently, but I far-too-regularly fall back and retreat...because of sin. Because I am a sinner, I fall short in so many ways.
Fortunately, I don't have to live on empty. For the believer, there is a place of refueling and revitalization, and that place is in Christ. Isaiah 40:31 says, "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (NIV). When I am in the throes of doubt, fear, uneasiness, and emptiness, my response should not be to give in to those emotions; rather, it should be to throw myself at the foot of the cross...to give control over to God. Of course, this isn't an easy or natural thing to do. But when I can get myself to the point of surrender, I can also get myself to the point of revitalization!
So, today I want to encourage all of us to seek out God in our times of trouble, despair, uneasiness, and emptiness. Don't just run on empty and run behind; run headlong into the loving arms of God. As Paul proclaims in Ephesians 3:19, "...know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (ESV). Maybe we can alter Jackson Browne's lyrics just a bit: "Running into the Son, so not running behind."