When You’re About to Hit Empty
by Suzie Eller
And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat (Mark 6:31, NKJ).
Friend to Friend
If I had a warning sign on my forehead, it might have flashed these messages:
Fresh out. Give me room, people. Nothing more to give.
There were a lot of needs and I was juggling. I was tired and cranky, but I kept on going—until one day I realized it’s almost impossible to give anything good out of an empty well.
Maybe, like I once did, you ignore those signs too. You may even consider yourself strong. After all, you don’t let anything stop you. At least, until you can’t take one more step.
In today’s verse, we find Jesus and the disciples after a busy and successful time of ministry. He recognized their fatigue and also their human need for food and rest.
And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.
In their excitement, these disciples may have continued working. In their desire to meet the needs of others, they may have ignored the fact they needed rest and food. Jesus, however, didn’t ignore it. While He cared about the crowd, He showed by example that a balance of work and rest help us better love the people around us.
Not everything that seems important, is.
A friend of mine told me about a season where she ignored sleep. She stayed up night after night taking care of all the little things that didn’t get handled during the day. She felt like a robot as she moved through the morning and into the afternoon. She had dark circles under her eyes. Her thinking was foggy. Her body was sending distress signals, asking her to slow down.
God is a Master Creator. Just as Jesus turned to the disciples to tell them, “You need rest,” our bodies let us know when it’s time to slow down.
My friend realized she was on her way to burnout. She stopped working at a specific time in the evening. She acknowledged the accomplishments of her day, instead of beating herself up for what was left on the list. She gave herself permission to view sleep as important as folding that last load of laundry or tackling that last set of to-dos.
Pay attention to the warning signs.
If Jesus recognized the signs of fatigue and “empty” with His disciples, we can ask Him to help us see them too.
- If a small event creates a big reaction internally or externally, there’s a good chance we need to fill back up.
- If we say yes to whatever comes our way, but it makes us feel resentful, then it might be time to assess and re-prioritize.
- If we feel guilty about our need to rest or refuel because we are always focused on the next person or the next task we need to tackle, we may be out of balance.
We are going to ask our bodies to perform at a pretty high level for seven or more decades. Pouring out is good. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful things we get to do. Pouring back in, resting, giving ourselves permission to sleep at night, recognizing when we are stressed and adjusting or asking for help — that’s important too.
If you’ve been trying to do it all and all the signs are flashing “empty,” this may be your special invitation:
Come aside, sister, and rest awhile.
Jesus, I am a doer and I sometimes find that I am out of balance. Help me to recognize the signs that I’m approaching empty. Thank you for the privilege of pouring out, and also the invitation to pour back in.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
As you say yes to rest, resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. While some thrive under 12-hour days and deadlines, others don’t. You are uniquely made. As you prayerfully look at your own life, these questions may be helpful:
- What is your body telling you?
- Are there changes that need to be made, and what does that look like?
- What is one way to build in rest?