Whenever I drive my car on empty, certain feelings are always present. I become stressed. While on the outside, I’m calm; on the inside, my stomach is churning. My palms become sweaty. Tension rises like a thermometer on a hot sultry August afternoon. I fret. Driving, which often is pleasurable, becomes laborious. I fail to notice beautiful surroundings. I focus only on the needle and how many miles I’ve traveled since the needle ventured into the dangerous area of red. I become fearful of running out of gas miles from the nearest service station. Silently I berate myself. “How could you let this happen? Why do you always do this? When are you ever going to learn?”
Spiritually, I occasionally run on empty, too. I feel like the Psalmist who wrote, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1 NIV). 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. 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.
Spiritual emptiness is one of the most serious threats to Christian health. I can overcome spiritual emptiness by adhering to some basic soul and body maintenance practices.
Receive spiritual nourishment. 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.
Spiritual undernourishment can be covered up—for a while, but like a car that is not kept in running order, eventually disaster strikes.
The antidote to spiritual undernourishment is a consistent time alone with God—a deliberate time of personal nourishment with God through the Bible and prayer.
The regular quiet time during Jesus’ ministry was a source of spiritual refueling and refreshment. Jesus was never too busy for it; in fact, when his ministry was the busiest, that’s when he made certain that he kept in daily touch with the Father.
Engage your spiritual gifts in service. 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. We will “dry rot” and “rust out” quicker than when engaged in ministry.
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.
Avoid over commitment. In the Christian life, over commitment is a condition of spiritual overstrains. At times, too much of a good thing can be damaging, like too much oil for the car. This condition is often expressed through the poor theology, “The devil never takes a day off, so why should I?” But, who said we were supposed to be like the devil?
If one is spiritually empty due to spiritual overstrain, it would not make sense to prescribe for that person to pray more, study the Bible longer, and attend more meetings. This would be the same as advising a diabetic to eat more sweets. Or to think that if a small amount of fertilizer is good for the lawn, then a larger amount could only be better.
When I am spiritually empty due to spiritual overstrain, I limit my devotional time to a minimum, abstain from reading religious books, and 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. The bow that is always bent, will eventually break. Even the fine-tuned cars that race in the Indianapolis 500 need pit stops. We cannot separate body and soul. They are linked together. To ignore the body, will reap serious consequences on the soul, with an inevitable result of spiritual emptiness.
That is why God commanded us to have a day of rest. The antidote for physical overwork is a Sabbath—the times of personal and spiritual replenishment that renew our spirit, soul, and 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, we need to constantly and consistently engage in those activities that keep the body, mind, and soul running in top condition.