The other day I was driving down the highway, and my truck engine suddenly turned off. I coasted to the right-hand pavement and safely stopped and turned on my emergency blinkers. I started to think, what happened? I examined my truck gauges. Electrical, okay, check. Temperature, okay, check. Engine warning, none, check. Fuel gauge, half-full, check. Why did my engine turn off? So, I opened the hood to exam the engine. Check the fuel line, okay, check. Everything looked normal, with no leaks, belts, oil, etc., everything was good. I called a friend who is a professional mechanic. We walked through all the options. His conclusion, you are out of gas, your fuel gauge is broken. He was right, I thought my gas tank was half-full, but it was empty.
The point of my story is this: If your spiritual gauges are broken, you will run out of gas and end up on the side of the road.
We need to watch our gauges, and we need to be sure that they are working. What are our spiritual gauges? How can we know if we are out of spiritual fuel? Many of us are running hard and fast in the middle of a pandemic, politics, educational issues, equality concerns, etc. I have talked with people who have run out of fuel and ended on the side of the road because they are not reading the gauges, or their gauges are broken.
How do you know you are running low on spiritual fuel? When was the last time you checked your gauges? Who do you have in your life who can see you at your best and worst? Who have you permitted to speak into your life? Does Jesus have access to your spiritual gauges? Are you able to listen to the voice of the Lord?
What are some of the signs of low fuel or empty tanks?
Feelings of sadness and apathy. Loss of a positive perspective on life. Overeating or loss of appetite, not sleeping well or sleeping too much, not having fun, loss of emotional and physical energy. We lose the personal value or worth that we have in Jesus. We are withdrawing from others. We desire to escape from our problems. We tend to be oversensitive to what others say and do, and we negatively misinterpret actions and comments, and we become irritable due to these mistaken perceptions. We are irritated, angry for unknown reasons.
What do we need to do? Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (NIV).
In those verses, we find three words—come, take, and learn—that will change how you deal with stress if you apply them to your life.
Come to Jesus. We come to Jesus for many reasons—to find healing, encouragement, and purpose. Rarely do we come to Jesus with our stress or when we are running on empty. But Jesus says if we go to him, he will give us the deepest kind of soul rest.
Our biggest source of stress isn’t tired muscles; it’s a tired mind and soul. It’s tension, worry, fear, and anxiety. It’s thinking about your problems repeatedly. Taking a nap, getting exercise, or spending time with loved ones can help us refuel. But none of these things will give us relief. When you are out of fuel or running out, the only thing that can help is God. We must spend time with him alone. We need to be still, quiet, and sit alone with him. During this time, we’re reading the Bible, praying, and asking God, “Is there anything you want to tell me?” Then we listen.
Give up control. The reason we are running out of fuel is that we’re trying to control too much. We think everything in our life—our family and our ministry—relies on you. But it doesn’t. We’re not the general manager of the universe. The fact is you can resign, and the world won’t fall apart. Jesus tells you to “take my yoke upon you.” Do you know the background of this illustration? A yoke is a piece of wood that brings two farm animals together. When this yoke is put on those farm animals, it halves the load for both. It’s a powerful symbol of partnership. We were never meant to carry all the stress in our lives by ourselves. Jesus isn’t saying he’ll add to our load when we take on his yoke. He is saying he will carry part of the load for us.
A yoke is also a symbol of control. Farmers yoke together animals so that they will go in the same direction. We get into trouble when we’re not going in the same direction as Jesus. We will always be yoked to something—the expectations of our parents, our boss, our spouse, or maybe even our ego. You might as well choose the lightest, easiest yoke. Jesus says, “my burden is easy.”
Learn to trust. Why does Jesus want us to learn from him? Because he modeled how to live with purpose and peace. Nobody has ever lived a more balanced and healthy life than Jesus. That’s why we need to study his life and follow his example.
Two things Jesus wants us to learn from him are gentleness and humility, the opposite of arrogance and aggression. We often think we’re in control of everything in our lives, and we act too quickly without thinking about the consequences of our actions. The way to refuel is to learn to trust Him to provide the fuel.
Filling up, together.