Spiritually I occasionally run on empty. During those times I have no energy to engage in ministry. I find no enjoyment in reading the Bible. I have little peace and contentment. I have action without emotion, oratory without power, and doctrine without love.
My empty spiritual tank is an invitation to disaster, like a car out of gas, I cough and sputter and pull over to the shoulder, out of service, unable to go any farther. I am drained. Everything in my internal world is chaotic. The Bible seems lifeless. My devotional life becomes a tiresome habit. I have no desire to pray. Communion leaves me as dry as the bread I swallow. Worship is vain. Serving Christ becomes mundane.
Spiritual emptiness is one of the most severe threats to Christian health. What am I to do? I have learned that I am more prone to run on the spiritual red line when I don’t care for my soul and my body. Therefore, I can overcome spiritual emptiness by adhering to some fundamental soul and body maintenance practices.
Receive Spiritual Nourishment
Without regular tune-ups, repairs, maintenance, servicing, and filling of the gas tank the car will eventually sputter out. So will my walk with Christ. Someone has said that if the intake does not exceed the output, then the upkeep will be one’s downfall. It is a spiritual law that the one who gives out much must also take in much.
The antidote to spiritual undernourishment is a consistent time alone with God—a fixed time of personal nourishment with God through the Word and prayer.
Engage in Service
A boat will rust out quicker in dry dock than when put to the test on the open seas. A car will rust out faster sitting idly in the driveway than by being run every day. Likewise, believers in Christ have been endowed and equipped to serve. For me to idly sit when endowed with gifts for disbursement, I will “dry rot” and “rust out” quicker than when engaged in ministry and service.
The antidote to my idleness is to give myself away in service and to disburse my gifts in ministry. For every quiet time, I need a “try it” time. A “try it” time is putting my faith into action. It’s what I practice. It’s taking the truths and principles of God’s Word and trying them out in daily living.
Avoid Over Commitment
In the Christian life, it is easy to become overcommitted. It’s a condition of spiritual overstrain. At times too much of a good thing can be damaging, like too much oil for the car. This situation is often expressed through the poor theology, “The devil never takes a day off, so why should I?” Who said I was supposed to be the devil?
I hesitate to share the antidote for spiritual overstrain because others may take it the wrong way and use this cure merely as an excuse for their undisciplined nature and laziness, I am compelled to share this treatment with those who are at the point of spiritual exhaustion while doing all the right things. If one is spiritually empty due to spiritual overstrain, it will not make sense to prescribe for that person to pray more, study the Bible longer, and attend more meetings. This prescription would be the same as advising a person with diabetes to eat more sweets and sugar. Or to think that if a small amount of fertilizer is right for the lawn, then a more massive amount could only be better.
When I am spiritually empty due to spiritual overstrain, it is helpful to engage in a time of restraint or monitoring of spiritual disciplines. In other words, I limit my devotional time to a minimum. I pray only shortly. I abstain from reading religious books. I step back from congregational activities for a while. I limit my spiritual disciplines until the appetite for spiritual things is aroused again. And you know what? It eventually returns.
Replenish Your Physical and Spiritual Resources
A disregard of my physical body will affect my psychological health and cause spiritual drought. If I don’t come apart, I will come apart. The bow that is always bent will eventually break. The car that is forever run will subsequently “rattle, rattle, clatter, clatter, boom, boom, boom.” Then sputter and die. Even the fine-tuned cars that race in the Indianapolis 500 need pit stops. I cannot separate body and soul. They are linked together. To ignore the body will reap severe consequences for the soul with an inevitable result of spiritual emptiness.
The antidote for physical overwork is Sabbath-rest or “still” times—the times of personal and spiritual replenishment. Still times renew my spirit and my soul and my body.
The Christian life is not like a drag race. It is more like a cross-country road race. And to survive for the long haul, I need to regularly and consistently engage in those activities that keep my body, my mind, and my soul running in top condition.