Everywhere I look these days, I see people promoting this thing called self care. And I don't disagree that taking care of our bodies - which comprise the temple of the Holy Spirit, after all! - is a bad thing.
But we're also commanded to be selfless, to put others first, and to be giving. So, while I think that self care (or temple maintenance, as I prefer to view it) can be a good thing if not overdone, there are going to be times when we have nothing left of ourselves to give, and yet giving of ourselves is exactly what we need to do.
When Turbo was first hospitalized, I stayed up late and got up early while Jon stayed with Turbo in the pediatric ICU. I had a 7-week-old who was nursing around the clock. I had to learn how to care for a diabetic by administering insulin injections, calculating carbohydrates in his food, monitoring his blood sugar as frequently as the baby was eating, and share 2a.m. blood sugar checks with Jon. And somewhere in there, I also had to find time to stay hydrated and nourished myself!
This was definitely a season of pouring from an empty cup. Chances are good that you will find yourself in a similar situation of needing to minister to others when you yourself have nothing left to give. So, how do you do it?
Here are 4 ways to pour from an empty vessel:
Feast on the Word
If you've ever had a family member go through trauma, you know how difficult it is to find time to eat and sleep, let alone get in some quality Bible study. It's in desperate times like these, however, that you need God's Word the most!
So, no matter what, feast on the Word. You can download a number of Bible apps on your phone that can read Scripture aloud to you while you drive or wait for someone or something. Ask friends to text you their favorite Bible verses for times of stress. Sing through all the Sunday School songs you learned that put verses to music. It might feel silly as an adult to blurt out the words to "The Wise Man Build His House Upon the Rock," but trust me, those might be the very words you need to hear.
It may not be easy, but do whatever it takes to focus on Scripture when you have nothing else left of yourself to give.
Drink of the Living Water
One of the most annoying things about hospitals is their insane ability to desaturate your body of every last ounce of water. I'm not sure what they do to their air filters, but trust me, after just an hour in a hospital room, you'll be begging for liquids and a tube of good chapstick!
What might be a little less obvious is our equal need for Living Water.
In John chapter 4, we read the account of Jesus interacting with the Samaritan woman at the well. In this passage, He tells her to ask Him for Living Water. In John 7:37-39, Jesus explains that the Living Water He had spoken of was the coming Holy Spirit.
As you go through your season of emptiness, are you fully relying on the Holy Spirit? Are you letting Him pour through you when you have nothing left of yourself to give? Although we ourselves have limits to what we can do and accomplish, the Holy Spirit is limitless and will never run out.
Even when we our empty vessels, we can drink of the Living Water and let the Holy Spirit work through through us.
Strengthen Your Hand in God
When Saul was seeking David's life in 1 Samuel 23, Saul's son Jonathan went to David and strengthened his hand in God. Then, a few chapters later in 1 Samuel 30, we read, "...but David strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (verse 6, NKJV).
Although the Bible doesn't say exactly what Jonathan and David did to strengthen themselves in the Lord, we can draw from Scripture that they likely prayed, read God's Word, recounted all of the things God had done for them in the past, and focused on God's goodness rather than on their desperate situations.
We, too, can strengthen ourselves in the Lord just as they did. It's yet another way we can pour from an empty vessel.
Seek Physical Rest and Nourishment
When we're in a season where we need to pour from an empty vessel, there likely won't be much time for taking proper care of ourselves. But we need to seek out and take all the available rest and nourishment we can. Whether that means sleeping at odd hours or accepting a meal from a friend, do everything you can to eat, sleep, and care for yourself as much as possible.
Additionally, when we're not going through a rough season, we should do everything we can to keep up with healthy habits so that we'll be able to take on an empty vessel season if it comes. Researchers believe that it's much easier on the body to get extra sleep before an emergency rather than trying to catch up on sleep after one. So rest up, eat up, and exercise regularly during simpler seasons so that you can face a rough patch with as much preparedness as possible!
Difficult, draining seasons are never easy, but by feasting on the Word, drinking of Living Water, strengthening our hand in God, and seeking physical rest and nourishment, it is possible to pour from an empty vessel.
Your turn: what do you do when called upon to minister to others when you feel like you have nothing else left to give? What recommendations would you add to this list?