“When life is chaotic, take a spiritual time-out with God.”
Good-hearted people want to do good continually. Good-hearted people want to give all that they have. But when good-hearted people get tired, when their spirit is depleted, the giving can run them dry. If life is overwhelming, it may be time to take a spiritual time-out with God.
Recently a friend of mine asked to be released from some of her church responsibilities. This is not something that the members of my church regularly do. We view church responsibility as a privilege, a “calling” from God, and we take it very seriously. But this particular friend has an unusually heavy load on her shoulders. She is a single mother, a new empty nester, and she is completing her degree in higher education. She found herself stretched to the brink of emotional and physical exhaustion.
While church callings have the benefit of being uplifting in their focus on serving others, at this time in my friend’s life her callings added undue stress to an almost intolerable situation. On top of this was the strain of guilt—no one is supposed to ask to be released, or so she thought. Friends and family listened as she explained her dilemma. Then after taking the advice from her mother, church leaders, and friends whose opinion she valued, she decided it would be best for her at this time to lighten her load—to unburden herself of stress that was depleting her own spirit.
That’s when the miracle occurred. She was told, “It’s okay to take a break and focus on your personal growth right now. The Lord is there for you, too.” Not only did she hear this from her church leaders but it was confirmed to her through personal revelation from the Lord. This was exactly what she needed to know—it was okay to back off of doing for others when she was so empty herself. She was directed to replenish her own spiritual cup first, in order to have enough strength to reach out to others. She was able to start filling her cup again.
Service to others is a balancing act. How much do we give? When do we back off? How does the act of giving effect our spiritual bucket? What happens when we neglect ourselves in the process? It’s hard to discern sometimes when our spiritual cup is depleting, until it reaches empty. If it were as easy as opening the pantry door or watching the gas gauge in your car, we would never run out of spiritual fuel. But spiritual laws are discerned by the spirit, and not by the five senses alone.
Service is an uplifting experience, but it can be draining too. The times I was happiest were when I was not only serving, but I was actively refilling my spirit along the way. Service work replenishes your spirit— but more is needed to balance the drain. Prayer, scripture study, and church attendance are necessary to keep your cup filled. Likewise, keeping priorities straight and doing your best not to carry an overloaded schedule can help. But, if you are anything like me, sometimes you aren’t as diligent in these three areas as you should be. Or you go through the motions like a drone. Or life throws you a hook punch that no one can take on two feet. Sometimes you need a time-out with God.
There’s a prophet in the Book of Mormon who took a time-out with God. His name was Enos. While on a hunting trip, he felt an overwhelming desire to know his standing with God. It had been on his mind to the point where he was driven to his “time-out” moment. He put his hunting aside and began to pray. It was the kind of prayer that overwhelms you—where nothing else matters except you and the Lord—and he kept his focus on his prayer for the entire day. Imagine the dedication. He had other responsibilities; he had family and people to care for. But he needed time with God. Everything else could wait.
This time-out was not taken in vain. Enos received the answer he was looking for—he was forgiven of his sins. So sure was this answer, so strong this impression, it changed his heart completely. He felt of God’s love for him in a way that was more real than he had ever known. It strengthened his spirit so strongly; he continued his time-out with God, asking Him to bless his people with the same love, after which he asked God to bless his enemies as well. Enos’s empty spirit was filled during a time when he needed confirmation of his worth, allowing him to be a better prophet to his people, a better servant to the Lord.
You may not be able to take a day-off in prayer as Enos did. But here is one way a group of teenage girls in my church became closer to the Lord. A lesson was given about their relationship with God, challenging them to come closer to Him. At the end of the lesson, they were given a yarn bracelet with two beads strung on it—one bead represented themselves, the other was for the Savior. They were to wear the bracelet for twenty-four hours, doing their best to keep the beads together. Each time they looked at the bracelet they were challenged to think of the Savior being by their side. The next Sunday they were to return and report how their week went.
I was the teacher of that class. I, too, took the challenge. That afternoon I held the bracelet in one hand as I began to pray—to tell my Father in Heaven what I was hoping to feel by the end of the challenge. I wanted to feel my Savior’s love more fully. Immediately, I was overcome with a feeling of peace and comfort that wrapped around my spirit like loving arms. It was a definite answer to my prayer, as I had never felt such adoration before. As I continued to pray, I saw myself the way the Savior sees me—and I cried over the love He has for me. If I hadn’t have felt it myself, I would not have believed it. I then did something similar to what Enos did—I asked to see others with the same love. He opened my eyes to the divinity of each person I came in contact with for the remainder of the week. It was an incredible feeling, one that I will never forget. The teenage girls returned the next Sunday and reported similar feelings. It was a success for each one of us, in our own personal way.
We are so quick to recognize when a small child needs time to de-pressurize, to take a time-out. But we, as children of God, are not immune to this same need. Finding the right personal moment, whether it means stepping back from life’s demands or simply engaging in more meaningful prayer, is vital to our spiritual well-being. Since He is our Heavenly Father, His promise is sure. He will take the burden, He will lift us up, and He will fill our cup.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.