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The Dangers of Depletion…

Do you ever try to press on when you’re depleted? Do you ignore the warning signs of “being on empty?” Sometimes I do. It’s easy to pretend we don’t have limits. But we do. We all hit points and places where emotionally, physically, spiritually we are basically useless—running on empty. And these points render us weak, ineffective, frustrated, and even destructive.

The warning signs are simple:

1. Physical Fatigue—this is when your body is screaming “put me to bed!” Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all!”  Pushing past the point of physical exhaustion is always a step toward personal destruction or failure.

2. Spiritual Isolation—this is when your heart is wondering, “where did God go?” Sometimes He is quiet. Sometimes we have rushed past Him and ignored Him. Whatever the case, spiritual depletion brings you to a point where your heart is empty.

3. Emotional Emptiness—this is when you just want to sit and stare. You feel numb. You wonder why you don’t feel passionate about the things you know are right, etc. The energy required to “feel” just isn’t there. It’s like your emotions are shut down.

4. Intellectual Confusion—this is when you’re brain is thinking, “I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start—and I really don’t want to think about it.” It’s like your mind if in a fog and struggling to find a way out.

5. Social Avoidance—this is when your spirit has nothing left to give others. Suddenly any kind of social interaction is draining and demanding. Relationships are drawing more than you have to give, and it’s overwhelming.

Identify? Me too. We are all limited. We are finite in our ability to expend. Life was created by God to be a cycle of expending and replenishing. Breathing out, then breathing in. Nobody can exhale indefinitely. And nobody can expend and exert indefinitely. We’re all required to replenish.

But, if you’re like me, depletion sneaks up on you! My jeep tells me when I’m getting low on fuel. My heart, mind, and body don’t! Bummer! Wouldn’t it be great to have some gauges on our arms. I tend to run, run, run until depletion just sort of hits me like a wall. And when it does, we have two choices…

1. Try to press on, burn out, self-destruct and hurt others. Obviously not an option, though some try!

2. Recognize it, and replenish by waiting on the Lord (See Isa. 40:28-31). Step back, breath, rest, restore, and let God renew the heart, soul, mind, and body!

Life looks very negative and empty from a point of depletion. Depletion is YOU at your WORST. And the people in your life deserve YOU at YOUR BEST!

Depletion makes God rather unattractive through you. Nobody wants that God—the one that makes you (or me) grumpy, tense, anxious, and joyless.

Abundance makes God attractive through your life. When you are restored, you represent God well! Replenishing gives you joy, energy, strength, and contagious encouragement.

So are you depleted today? Recognizing it is the first step. Seeing it for what it is can be tough. It masks itself as other problems. When you’re depleted you see the world very differently. Your attitude shifts. Your energy is gone. And life doesn’t hold a sign up in front of your face–”HEY, YOU’RE TOAST!” That would make it easy!

Having the courage to address it is the next. Take a break. Rest. Restore. Maybe you feel that you can’t. There a lot of things that require perpetual attention. But God didn’t make us for perpetual motion. He created us to breath. Accept it. You’re not going to change the world in a day. And today’s issues will be waiting for you after you restore. (Only then you’ll be better suited to respond to them.)

Depletion is real. But it’s not the end of the world. You’re just on empty. Don’t try to run on fumes. Just take the time necessary to fill up.

Everybody in your relational world will thank you!

For more on “how to renew” read this post: 10 Ways to Renew Your Spirit.

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  • Thank you. Very good/helpful thoughts..

  • Appreciated this article brother, it was very helpful.

  • Brother Cary, I thank God for the insight he has given you. This is something every full time or volunteer in the ministry needs to take note. I personally have been so driven to get those things God has placed in my heart completed. That I found myself depleted, exhausted and overwhelmed. Again thank you for sharing the warning signs, I will use them in the future for myself and others as a guide to keep us from falling into the trap of being worn out for God.

  • Thank you! One of the most helpful truths along these lines that a lady shared with me from years of ministry experience is to seize small opportunities to replenish—especially during long seasons when it is impossible to take a couple of days to pull out of the current. I may not be able to take two days off this week, but I can carve out an hour or two somewhere to renew!


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