When You Are Emotionally Empty

Harold Sala

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 
Matthew 11:28

Have you ever had the experience of having to drive a considerable distance with an empty gas tank? You knew that you were running low on fuel, but you were late for an appointment, in a hurry to get somewhere, and you kept thinking, “Yeah, I’ve got enough to get there,” but you were unconvinced. You kept glancing at the fuel gauge, then your watch. The fuel gauge was slightly above empty, then the red warning light came on, then your fuel gauge rested solidly on the empty mark. Your stomach grew tighter and tighter.

There is one thing for sure: a lot of people are doing the same thing emotionally and their problem can’t be remedied as easily as stopping for fuel–whether or not you are late getting to where you want to go.

There isn’t much of a margin between you and the empty mark on your emotional reservoir. You constantly take on more and more, with less time to refill your tank emotionally, and the least bit of overload leaves you in big trouble.

There was an expression used in industry for engines that had exhausted their capabilities: burn-out. Today that term is also applied to people who give out, and give out without taking in, until eventually, they, too, get “burned out.”

Richard Swenson, a medical doctor, believes that overload is an epidemic. Supporting that contention, he says that one in three of us feels “rushed” all of the time. He says that today we sleep two-and-a-half hours less than people did 150 years ago and that thousands of people cannot sleep at all without sleep medication. He also says that instead of modern communications making life easier for us, it overloads our stimuli with e-mail messages, cell telephones, junk mail and so forth.

Most of us would probably agree that we’re doing more than we should. But when you are swimming the horses across the stream, you can’t just say, “I quit!” When you are the mother of four small children (and you have no help) you can’t take the last youngster back to the hospital and say, “Hold up on delivering this one until the other three are in school.”

OK, how do we cope? Learning to say “no” is not only justified but also necessary. Overcoming the desire to be liked and appreciated has to be weighed against common sense. Learning to prioritize is a must, so that you keep the “main thing”–whatever it is–the main thing.

But there is more. Keeping a strong, firm grip on the Lord helps you face the storm when you have no choice but to keep moving ahead. There are some situations which you cannot change which you can lay at His feet, saying, “Lord, this is too much for me. I give it to you.” Peter had this in mind when he said, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NKJV).

Another thought. This needs to be said. Backing off from some things, making Sunday a day of rest–not a day to get caught up on what you haven’t done, walking away from everything to smell the roses, will not only sweeten your disposition but end up in your being more productive, more poised, and–frankly–nicer to be around.

However you do it, you’ve got to give yourself a bit more margin between where you are and the empty mark on the gauge that tells you how close you are to burn out.   Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) When we realize that we are doing more than God intended us to do, it’s time to back off and say, “enough is enough!”

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