Running on empty: warning signs

The blinking light on the fuel gauge serves as a warning that the car needs a refuel. Ignoring the warning light can lead to disastrous situations. In life, we must not ignore the warning signs that tell us we are running on empty — our emotional, physical, mental and even spiritual tanks can be running at dangerously low levels.

When our emotional tanks are low, we become more irritable and hypersensitive to the things and people around us. This causes us to be edgy over minor issues and to over-react. At the other extreme, our fear of being overwhelmed may cause us to disengage emotionally with people and situations around us.

When we are physically tired, we find it hard to settle down and be still. We find it hard to muster the energy to work or engage in any physical activity. This low energy state may even affect our daily routine such as eating, sleeping and building healthy relationships. In turn, our avoidance from such life-giving activities makes us even more lethargic.

When our spiritual tanks are empty, our worship of God will be affected. Our hearts become lukewarm towards spiritual matters. Engaging in spiritual disciplines is no longer a priority for us. While we are able to go through the motion of doing ministry, we remain disconnected from who we are and the destiny that God is calling us towards.

The depletion of our tanks will result in a loss of joy and passion for life. An insidious critical spirit may even find its place in our hearts as we adopt a dark perspective of life. In such a state, there is nothing that we can offer to others and to God.

The “empty tank syndrome” does not occur overnight. While we all experience the normal tiredness that comes with juggling work expectations, demands on the home front and ministry commitments, it is the prolonged neglect and lack of constant refueling that leads to physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue.

If the lights of your fuel tanks are blinking, it is time to hit the ‘pause’ button. Take time to re-examine your life and develop a refueling strategy. It may mean altering the pace of work, or even taking an extended leave, to create a different rhythm of rest and work. Re-organize your priorities so that you can engage in life-giving activities such as regular exercise, investing in healthy relationships, and spiritual disciplines like keeping the Sabbath, meditating on Scriptures and practicing solitude. Be accountable to friends who can journey with you.

God wants us to be full and He is ever ready to fill us. The psalmist writes in Psalm 107:9:

“For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

Are you heeding the warning signs?

Lam Kok Hiang
Country Director

Photograph by Shannon Holman