Running on Fumes?

April 5, 2022 | Megan Schemenauer

I’ve read that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who fill the gas tank of their car at the halfway mark and those who wait until the needle dips dangerously close to empty. I am firmly in the first camp. Long before my gas light flashes on, I’m already searching for and comparing gas prices along the route. Why the obsession? Because I never, ever want to run out of gas on the road.

A thought struck me during the weekend service one recent Sunday. It had been another jam-packed week; you know, the kind where even a weekend is not enough time to recover. I realized while sitting in church waiting for the service to start that I’d missed my normal Bible time on Friday. Since we had shown up early, I used the extra time to catch up on my Bible reading.

As I finished 2 Peter, I felt a noticeable lift in my spirits. A calm settled over me, which only intensified during a powerful worship service. This is the moment the thought occurred to me: If I’m so conscientious about the gas tank of my car, why do I allow myself to get so precariously low on my spiritual gas tank?

I didn’t have a good answer then. I’m not sure I have one now. The only answer I can give is, because . . . life. When life gets busy, what gets cut out first? Bible time. Worship. Prayer. Serving others. Why?! Because sometimes in the midst of nonstop life, I forget a few basic truths.

Truth #1: Filling my spiritual tank is a necessity, not an option.

Just like a car without any gas is pretty much useless, I become a more or less useless Christian when I run out of “gas.” So what fuels my spiritual tank? God does! How do I get more of God in my life? By spending time with Him.

Isaiah 40:31, a verse I’ve often quoted on my early morning commute, says, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Not only can we become physically exhausted, but we can become spiritually tired as well. Fortunately, like everything else in life, God has a solution for this problem too. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63). 

Keeping a strong connection to the Spirit is the only way to prevent spiritual burnout. What has God been doing in your life lately? If you can’t answer that question, you may be suffering a little spiritual burnout yourself. It happens to all of us. When these moments arise, it’s time to refuel. But what I put into my tank is just as important as recognizing my need to refuel.

Truth #2: Nothing fills my spiritual tank but Jesus.

One of my most embarrassing moments actually involves a gas station. I was a fairly young driver and it was the first time I was gassing up my vehicle on my own. In New Jersey, where I come from, gas stations have attendants who fill your tank for you. Not in the Hoosier state, I learned. I pulled up to the first pump available, input my debit card, and attempted to fuel my car. For some reason, the nozzle wouldn’t fit into the gas tank. Flustered, I just drove away. (Remember, I’m the sort of person who gasses up with a tank half full. See? It pays off.) But I did learn that day that my vehicle can’t take every type of gasoline. In particular, diesel. 

This story bears a striking parallel to my spiritual gas tank as well. How many times do I attempt to gain my energy back by doing things other than seeking the Lord? Going on vacation, getting extra sleep, skipping a workout (or three), pursuing my personal hobbies and interests. Even noble activities like volunteering for a church event or serving others just don’t have the same staying power that a deep and ongoing relationship with the Father brings.

God promises in Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.” He is our strength, the Source that fuels our spiritual lives. And the best part about being fueled by God? He is an unlimited source! Jesus says in John 4:14 that “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” In a world where time is short and energy is precious, isn’t that what we all need?

Whether you’re currently half full or running on fumes, reach out to Him today. No one has to go through this life empty.