Running on Empty


“Don’t let your gas tank get below a quarter of a tank!”

My dad still gives this life wisdom each time I leave for a long road trip. And he has for the last 25 years or so that I’ve been driving. I am reminded of it each time the indicator light comes back on in my minivan indicating that my gas level has once again gone below a quarter of a tank. The stress level in me quickly rises as I hope I can make it in to a nearby gas station, distraught because I don’t have the time to stop and fill up right then, and frustrated because it seems like I just filled up three days ago! Why don’t I listen to my dad on this?

Mothers of children with special needs do a lot of running. From school to doctors to activities to church and family functions, we are on the go. And with all the kids and carseats and cargo we tote around, most of us drive vehicles that don’t get very good gas mileage. So by necessity, we have to return to the nearest gas station frequently, often pushing our luck with a gas level far below a quarter of a tank.

As we need frequent fill ups in our vehicles, even more so do we need frequent fill ups in our lives. As we need our cars to keep going strong for us, our families need us to keep our hearts, souls, minds and strength going strong for them.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  Mark 12:30

Here Jesus tells us the most important command is to love God, and to love Him in four ways. I see these as four ways we need to be filled in order to faithfully serve Him. Emotions, spirit, thoughts and physical health. If we don’t stop and refuel in each of these areas, we run on empty in a constant state of stress and frustration.

1. When we are filled emotionally, our emotions are in check, balanced by self-control and a healthy perspective on the people and situations in our lives. When we are running on empty emotionally, every fleeting feeling we have comes pouring out of our mouths and we are left to pick up the pieces of all that we have damaged along the way.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.  Proverbs 5:23

 Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34

2. When we are filled spiritually, we run on the wisdom and peace and power of the Holy Spirit. We are filled with a lasting joy that goes beyond our circumstances. We live by God’s Word. But when we are running on empty spiritually, we are running in our own sinful flesh and old self-centered ways, which leaves us, as an empty gas tank, broken down.

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23

3. When we are filled mentally, our thoughts become like Christ’s. We think on things that are honoring to God (Philippian 4:8), and we take control of thoughts that would dishonor him if left to become words and actions (2 Corinthians 10:5). But when we are running on empty mentally, we lose creativity and the ability to rationally solve the problems that life brings.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Romans 12:2

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 2:3

4. Finally, we need to be filled physically. We need to fill up with those habits which allow our physical bodies to best serve where God has placed us. We need balanced nutrition, regular exercise and, perhaps most important to exhausted moms, adequate rest. When we run on empty physically, we are exhausted in all areas- heart, soul, mind and strength.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price, therefore honor God with your body.  I Corinthians 6:19-20

 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.  Psalm 4:8

There is some mechanical difference between newer cars and older cars related to gas tanks. I’m sure my mechanical father has told me before- some kind of converter something-or-other that one had or has and the other doesn’t. What I do remember is that it was less damaging to older cars to run out of gas, and that with today’s newer cars, running the gas tank all the way empty can be catastrophic to the engine.

So with today’s moms, running our tanks all the way to empty can be catastrophic. Irreparable damage to our families, our jobs, our bank account and our bodies can leave us completely stranded, broken down, alone on the side of the road of life.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’re there right now. I know I’ve been there several times.

Thankfully, our Redeemer is already on the way. He seeks us out and brings the filling of His Spirit. He fills up our hearts, souls, minds and bodies, restores us to wholeness, and get us back running safely again.

Will we learn from the breakdowns to fill up sooner? Will we watch and not go below a quarter of a tank? Will we come in for a “fill up” from the One who promises “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35)?

He is waiting. Will we listen to our Father on this?

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.  Mark 6:31

Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.  Psalm 81:10




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