When Your Soul Is Running on Empty

I looked down at my car dashboard yesterday and winced. I needed gas, and I was stuck in what seemed like miles of traffic on I-24.

It’s not the first time that has happened: Stephen lectures me a lot about letting the gas tank dwindle until it’s nearly empty. I’ve never run out of fuel (thankfully), but I’ve definitely come close a time or two. This time, however, the low-fuel warning had not yet started dinging, but there was no telling how long I would be sitting on the interstate waiting for a wreck to clear. I scolded myself for not stopping earlier that day, called Stephen to let him know I was pushing it, and then proceeded to just sit in traffic and wait.

As I sat there, I thought about how often my car’s fuel tank looks like my life: running on empty. As I race from one task to the next, constantly adding something new to my ever-growing to-do list, I often forget that my soul needs fuel. Well, I take that back—I don’t forget. I simply tell myself—like I do with my car—that I can make it another day. Before long, the warning signs are alerting me that my soul is dangerously close to empty.

There are no bells or flashing lights to warn me that my soul is low on fuel, but there are definitely clear indicators: Like when my husband says something and I snap at him before hearing him out. Or when a critique on an article I’ve written ruins my entire week. Or even when a rough commute threatens to put my whole day in a funk. Sound familiar?

I too often turn to other things to find rest for my weary soul. I go shopping, eat junk food, or binge on Netflix. And while none of those things are technically bad, they’re not going to refuel my soul. The Bible tells us, however, that we can do nothing apart from the Lord. In the Book of John, Jesus compares His followers to branches on a vine. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

I’m not going to find a peace that surpasses all understanding by dropping $100 at Target. A bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream might bring a momentary satisfaction, but it’s not going to satisfy my soul like God’s Word. Just like a trip to the fuel pump gives me peace of mind as I’m sitting in interstate traffic, opening my Bible and talking to the Lord gives me peace, encouragement and joy. Apart from Him, I’ll just run on empty.

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