About a month ago I woke up feeling so overwhelmed that I told my wife, “I don’t want to talk to anyone I know today except you.” I notified my staff that I would not be in the office that day and drove to a solitary place where I could spend the day in silence. I normally listen to the car radio, but my craving for silence was so compelling that the prospect of hearing another person’s voice even on the radio sounded like torture. It took three and a half days of solitude before my emotional tank was full enough that I was ready to rejoin society.
A pastor once told me a powerful dream he‘d had. He was thirsty, standing beside a well. He dipped a tin cup into the well to get a drink, but rather than hearing the slosh of cool water, he heard the clinking of the cup against the side of the dry well. “This,” he heard God say, “is the condition of your soul.”
People in helping roles are always giving. Others constantly ask for our help. If we keep giving out more than we’re taking in, we end up trying to share water out of a dry well.
While needing to refuel is normal, to keep driving with the fuel gauge on empty isn’t. It is not normal—what God intends—to keep giving out more than we take in.
David pictures what God intends in Psalm 23: “My cup overflows” (v. 5). Normal is serving not from an empty cup, but from an overflowing cup. The ministry we offer others should normally be out of the overflow of our own souls. When that’s not happening, we need to hit pause and ask, “How did my cup become empty? What do I need to do to let God refill it?”
As I hit pause during this season, I realized that as I’ve been recovering from surgery, I increased my activity level too quickly. I overcommitted. So I rescheduled one major commitment for later and slowed the pace of commitments I’m making going forward.
I also realized that in the church I serve more people are in crisis than ever before during my time here. Their needs and pain have been draining my cup faster than usual.
So I need to be even more intentional about refueling. Jesus often went away to solitary places to get away from people, to recharge.* If Jesus had to have that, we would be fools to presume we don’t.
- How good are you at recognizing when your tank is low?
- When you are giving out more than you are taking in, how can you decrease how much fuel you’re burning?**
- What refueling strategies work best for you?**
* Matt. 14:13; 17:1; Mark 1:35, 45; 6:31-35; Luke 4:42; 5:16, 9:10