The importance of being physically hydrated tends to top the list of practical ways to maintain health. We’re encouraged to drink almost a half-gallon of water a day for our bodies to function at peak performance. When you don’t drink enough water, your body can experience dehydration, which drains your energy and can eventually lead to ongoing health concerns. Without any water at all, you couldn’t survive but a few days. In other words, filling your physical need for water isn’t just a preference—it’s essential for life.
In the same way, believers—and especially leaders—should have an essential daily routine for having their spiritual cup filled. This may be a combination of spending time with the Lord in Bible reading and prayer. It may include biblical community with others. When you consider the practice of all the spiritual disciplines, your soul is full and you can face the world each day. It’s why we often speak of being “fed” by the Word of God. After fasting for forty days and forty nights and being tempted by Satan, Jesus Himself responded in Matthew 4:4, “Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (CSB). And Jesus challenged the woman at the well in John 4 when He told her in verse 14, “But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again” (CSB). Leaders need spiritual food and living water. It’s not something to be desired, but something that is essential for survival.
This doesn’t mean that leaders don’t experience “dry seasons.” You may often feel the exhaustion and depletion that occurs after giving and serving without being spiritually replenished. Maybe you are going through the motions of reading Scripture and praying, and you still feel exhausted and spiritually dehydrated. You know the Source of living water but find yourself at the end of the day feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled in your calling. So, how can you fill your cup and break the cycle of feeling stuck in a spiritual wilderness? How can leaders fill their cups and be recharged? Here are a few reminders to consider if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
First, consider your physical well-being. You are body, soul, and spirit, and there are physical responses when you lead out of spiritual famine. Are you drinking enough water? Are you making healthy choices when it comes to eating? Are you finding time for exercise? Are you getting enough sleep? A combination of these can affect your ability to lead. When I’m physically rested, my time in God’s Word is sharpened. My ability to serve is strengthened when I’m physically strong. Don’t neglect filling your physical needs in order to be the leader God has called you to be. Even Elijah needed physical nourishment when he sat under the broom tree in 1 Kings 19 and the angel encouraged him to rest and eat.
Second, don’t trust your emotional feelings when it comes to spending time in Scripture and prayer. Who hasn’t had a day when you just don’t feel like reading the Bible or your prayer time seems empty? It’s on those days that consistency and steadfastness in spending time with the Lord is even more important. Maybe you read a chapter or two and your mind is distracted and filled with overwhelming needs and responsibilities. Trust that the Lord will use the consistency of biblical intake to strengthen you even when it doesn’t “feel” like there is progress. I’ve been a Christian for more than fifty years, and I guarantee you that the accumulation of spending time in God’s Word and in prayer has benefited me in ways I can’t understand. Besides, spending time reading Scripture reminds me that I don’t lead out of my own strength, but the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit who lives in me and through me. When D.L. Moody was once asked why he placed so much emphasis on being filled with the Holy Spirit, he said, “Because I leak!”1 As a leader, you must remember your first calling is to follow Christ and be obedient no matter how you might feel.
Third, when I feel spiritually dry, I consider ways to shake things up and try something different. This might mean purchasing a new Bible, journaling specific things I’m learning, or finding a new way to fill my spiritual cup. Leaders need to be learners, so consider new methods to your daily routine. Attend a conference where you are listening and not evaluating. Take a class in something new and learn a new skill that will energize you. Ask others about things they are learning, what podcasts they are listening to, etc. and discover what God is teaching them. During times when I feel spiritually dry, being around someone who is overflowing with joy results in benefiting from what one of my mentors once described as “splashing the living water.” I don’t always like sitting in the splash zone, but when I’m spiritually dry, I don’t mind getting a little wet!
Above all, remember intimacy with God is your greatest need. We can be leaders that resemble the deer described in Psalm 42:1-2a, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. I thirst for God, the living God” (CSB).
Kelly D. King is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for LifeWay Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide for Leading Women in the Local Church. You can hear Kelly at LifeWay’s You Lead events that are held in several cities around the country or listen to her co-host the Marked Podcast with Elizabeth Hyndman.
D. L. Moody, as quoted by Joel Comiskey, “The Filling of the Holy Spirit,” CBN, accessed July 2. 2020, https://www1.cbn.com/biblestudy/the-filling-of-the-holy-spirit.