Empty Bench

What do you do when you feel empty inside? Do you retreat into a hole, waiting for someone to pull you out? Do you deteriorate into a TV junkie/couch potato/Facebook addict? Do you lash out at anyone and everyone who dares to enter your space, including the dog? Do you keep pressing forward, struggling with what feels like running through waist-deep water?

Busy-ness, parenting pressures, financial stress, illness, difficult people, or any of the other normal pressures of life can poke holes in your internal bucket and leave you with an empty soul. And if your internal level of reserve is already low, a larger-than-normal leak in your soul can quickly drain any remaining resilience you have. Your creativity evaporates, you don’t handle even minor stresses well, and you struggle to see anything positive in the world.

I’ve learned the warning signs that indicate I’m running on empty. I let small things really upset me, sometimes to the point of tears. I’m always embarrassed when I get to that point, but I’ve learned to see it as a warning sign that I need to get intentional about filling up.

When your stomach is empty you find something to eat. Sometimes it’s a quick snack – the healthier the better. Sometimes it’s a gourmet meal. Your body does best when you regularly eat a variety of good quality food.

But what you don’t do when you’re hungry is sit down and wait for someone else to feed you. Unless you’re in four-point restraints and in solitary confinement, you feed yourself. It may take effort. You may not be able to immediately get your favorite meal. There are an infinite variety of foods that may satisfy your empty belly. But you still have to feed yourself.

It works the same way with an empty soul. It may take effort. You may not be able to immediately get your favorite soul nourishment. There are an infinite variety of activities and thoughts that may satisfy your empty soul. But here’s the key:

You have to learn how to feed your own soul.   (Tweet that)

That doesn’t mean you create soul food out of nowhere, or that all soul food is equally nourishing. But it does mean that you are the one who must proactively choose to look for and intake whatever nourishment your soul needs.

Where to Find Soul Food

Your soul needs many different kinds of nourishment. It’s important to be aware of what nourishes you; it’s as unique as the kinds of physical food you like and don’t like. Here are a few categories to think about.

  • Stillness vs. Stimulation. Most of us in today’s world are overstimulated. We face constant input from television, smart phones, and social media. That kind of data overload drains your internal bucket. Going non-digital for an hour, an afternoon, a weekend, may revolutionize your sense of being refreshed.
  • Natural vs. Artificial. Our lives are often filled with everything man-made; buildings, cities, media, noise, pollution. Much of it is very good, some not so good. But when your soul needs to be filled up, there’s something about nature that meets a need nothing else can. The sound of rain, a bird song, the feel of sand under your feet – it reminds you of the Creator who made all that, and you too.
  • Inspiring vs. Entertaining. Most media capitalizes on the sensational, the superficial, or the scandalous. The entertainment value of it may keep you “vegged out,” but it won’t fill your soul. On the other hand, there are certain books, movies, music, or even TV programs that truly lift, fill, and enlarge your soul in a big way. You can tell the difference by the effect your inner heart experiences.
  • Earthly vs. Eternal. Things we can see, feel, and touch are important. God created the Garden of Eden as a very physical place. But you and I were created for more than this earth. We were created for forever. Time spent reading Scripture, in prayer, in worship alone or with other believers, or just being in silence in the presence of the Lord – these nourish the part of your soul that only God can fill.

Two Questions

You don’t think it strange when your body needs food, or that some foods lead to better health than others. So ask yourself these similar questions about how you nourish your soul.

  1. How do you know your soul is empty? What are your unique emotional signals? How do you behave differently when your soul is depleted? What tells you you’re running on empty?
  2. What soul food is most nourishing to you? When do you feel most alive, most refreshed, most creative? What people, activities, or places fill you up?

Continuing to run on empty will never turn out well. Notice the signals that indicate you have an empty soul, and learn to feed yourself with the nourishment you need. Notice what fills you up, and find ways to do more of that.

What signals tell you that your soul is running on empty? Can you name one or two things that provide you with soul nourishment? Leave a comment below.

Tweetables: why not share this post?

  • What signals tell you your soul is empty? What fills you up?        Tweet that.

P.S. Keeping your soul filled up is one of the aspects of taking charge of your own wellbeing that I talk about in my book Dr Carol’s Guide to Women’s Health. Check it out!

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