When was the last time you came to the end of yourself? You’re exhausted, spent, tapped out completely. Your well has run dry and you aren’t sure what to do next.
There comes a week or two each year when I feel this way. My family and I just returned from a two week vacation where we got filled to the brim with love and fellowship and wisdom and grace.
But two weeks ago, as I packed our suitcases, I was utterly spent. Ministry is so good, friends, but there comes a point when time away–time with Jesus, with family, not on the phone or on the clock or at the meeting or leading worship–is the only thing that will fill the well up again.
When have you last been at your end?
Here are 10 things I’ve found that help when the well runs dry.
1. Stop. Just stop.
There comes a point when you can’t push through any longer. Take a break, take a rest, take a nap.
Stop. Even for just a moment. If Jesus can leave his disciples and go up on a mountain to pray (and not just once, but many times), you can leave your To Do list un-did for a little while.
2. Take a step back
Problems often look different from another perspective. Solutions might come when you’re seeing a new angle.
3. Be kind to yourself
What would you tell a good friend if he or she was in your situation? Tell that same thing to yourself.
Often we’re our own worst critics. When your well runs dry, don’t heap on the guilt, condemnation, or shame. Treat yourself like a friend.
4. Get outside
Even if it’s just a walk around the block to clear your head, nature is a particularly unique gift in times of difficulty.
Maybe it’s the fact that, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once noted, “Nature never hurries.” Perhaps it’s because the outdoors help us remember our creator. Maybe it’s because a good dose of sunlight does the soul good.
Whatever the reason, get outside for a bit if you can.
5. Make sure you’re fed and watered
When I’m running on empty mentally, spiritually, or emotionally, often I neglect my physical needs as well. In stressful seasons, who has time for things like lunch?
Yet if we don’t stay well hydrated and fed, our wells will continue to run dry.
The meal doesn’t need to be gourmet, but do make sure you’re getting enough calories to make it through. Throw a multivitamin in there too, why don’t you.
6. Tap your encouragers
Sometimes I grab my husband and ask him to tell me something true. Hearing his words of affirmation help fill up my tank when I’m feeling insecure about a sermon, worried about a class, or unsure about a decision.
You know the friends and family members who build you up and those who tear you down.
That person who makes you bone-tired every time you talk on the phone with them? Stop calling. A soul with no boundaries will inevitably be a tired one.
Call on your team, your tribe, your crew. Tell them you need an uplifting word, a prayer, a coffee run.
7. Say no to everything nonessential
We all have seasons we are called to give and serve and seasons where we need to ride the bench.
When your well is dry, don’t sign up for allthethings. Say no. Say, “Ask me again in a month, six months, a year.” Say, “I’m honored to be asked, but I can’t right now.”
Say yes to Jesus, to the absolute essentials (food, water, sleep, grace), and no to everything else.
The world will keep turnin’. Trust me.
8. Let God renew you
Our family went to camp together for a weekend at Forest Home (FOHO!) this year for the first time. The theme verse of the week was Zephaniah 3:17 –
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (NRSV)
The up-by-the-bootstraps mentality only gets us so far. The rest is grace. When you’re at your end, let God renew you, rejoice over you, hold you, comfort and care for you.
9. Let the Spirit pray for you
When I’m at my end, I run out of words. This is when Paul’s words to the Romans about how to pray is manna for my hungry soul:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)
It’s okay to be out of words. When that happens, let go of the words and listen for God’s gentle whisper.
10. Don’t get back in the ring until you’re ready
I often rush back in before I’m truly ready. Then I’m surprised when I get sick or overwhelmed before the day is done. As my husband constantly reminds me, “You don’t have to do it all today.”
Like every good boxer knows, don’t get into the ring until you’re ready.
What do you do when your well runs dry?