Editor’s note: This month at GCD you will be seeing articles from our team of Staff Writers and other contributors on a handful of topics that Jonathan Edwards introduced in his own Resolutions. The aim of this series is to help you see how a gospel-formed resolution can help you flourish in your love for Christ and for others next year. Click here to see all articles in this series.
I could feel my eyes glazing over as she talked about how sick her dog was.
She was devastated, and I was really tired. I could feel my mind pulsing with each and every heartbeat. I was empty and dry, and at this point, any expectations of conversation would be like wringing out a dry towel. I knew my weariness was getting in the way of my attention at this benefit dinner.
I was still standing in this fancy dress and uncomfortable shoes only because I knew it was expected of me. On the inside, I was calculating every single moment in a process until I could leave and be in the comfort of my own home. I had nothing left.
When my car finally pulled into the driveway, I escaped to the haven of my room and turned on my floor fan, letting the cool air kiss my face. I turned on music to fill the empty space in my head. The air and lyrics filled my dry lungs with breath. Over the past few months, my eyes had become tired, drifting from the secure place of Jesus, and refocusing on my responsibilities. I was not dried out by momentary exhaustion, but exhaustion of the heart.
Can you identify with this kind of exhaustion? It’s when your own health and well-being becomes secondary to everything else. It’s the feeling that we have to sprint to even keep up, and breathing itself becomes a task.
The words “spirit” and “breath” are known to be interchangeable in Scripture. That’s fitting, because when we’re spending ourselves beyond our limit, typically we are not depending on the work of the Spirit. We’re short of breath and feel the need to anxiously count each one we take. We are limited when we’re not relying on the endless supply of the Spirit.
GIVE ME OIL
Throughout Exodus, God intricately instructs his people on how the tabernacle should be built. Every word has meaning, and every meaning has great purpose in pointing to Jesus.
One piece of furniture you’re probably familiar with is the golden lampstand (Ex. 25:31). I have heard about the lampstand, read about it, and seen photos of it. However, I was completely unaware of how much spiritual significance went into it.
When God talks about the creation of this beautiful source of light, he makes it clear that candles aren’t sufficient. Candles are wax, and wax burns itself. At the end of the day, a candle will burn its wax down until there is nothing left. The flame will go out.
In instructions found later in the Old Testament, God says “do not let the fire go out” countless times (Lev. 6:9-13). The symbolic flame found in this intimate meeting place was never to lose its light. It had to burn continuously.
Therefore, God asks for an oil-burning lampstand. An oil-burning flame doesn’t burn itself, but burns from an external source. An endless supply of anointed oil.
Similar to our source found in the Holy Spirit, God’s Word through this lamp echoes his everlasting sustenance given by the Spirit. His supply is our supply, and it is sustained only by intimate connection to his original source.
FUEL FOR YOUR STORY
God’s work in you is extraordinarily important. He created you with intention and detail. The working together of your history, your gifting, and his purpose becomes a beautiful thing called your story. It’s one of the most powerful tools used for salvation (Rev. 12:11) because it draws people in to listen to the sound of God’s marvelous grace.
However, we have to know how to steward these things. Our history typically holds some degree of brokenness and requires our willingness to stop, search, and be restored from past hurt or anger. Our gifting requires discipleship as we walk into situations and relationships where we’re asked to use these gifts to help someone else. Last, God’s fulfilled purpose requires both our patience and our trust. We have to walk willingly on a journey that is uncomfortable and unpredictable.
If you don’t lean into the strength and power of God for each of these things, you will burn out. Without the filling of the Holy Spirit, you are susceptible to resent your past, neglect your gifting, and ultimately miss God’s true purpose for you. You’ll lean into your own self-sufficient energy and burn yourself down. You’ll lose the brightness of your light, perhaps causing you and those around you to stumble.
3 WAYS TO CONNECT TO THE SOURCE
We don’t have to run ourselves into the ground, though. We can remember the source of our light through prayer, through biblical accountability, and the psalms.
We have to press into prayer, constantly checking our hearts. Is the gospel informing the way you live? Are you worried about things beyond your control? Does your life have margin for rest? Praying these questions and listening for God’s guidance can lead us towards deeper dependence on God, and less dependence on ourselves.
Biblical accountability is simply living along with people who can lovingly speak the truth when we need to hear it. If we’re walking in sin, it’s usually seen and felt by the people closest to us. Sin is easy enough to notice, whether it is rebellion, codependency, or self-sufficiency. But we need people around us who are willing to tell us they see it.
The Psalms have a way of speaking gentle conviction to our hearts, often saying the very things only our hearts know. The poetic crying out for rescue reminds us of our own need. I recognize what’s happening inside of me most when I read the Psalms.
We are called to have a light that burns in the darkest place, and that flame should continuously burn. If we are the fuel to the light we give off, we will burn down like candles and our light will go out. This makes us helpless to others and all ministry opportunities.
However, our flames will not lose their light if we are burning the inner fuel of the Spirit of God. This oil doesn’t run dry, and it radiates the most magnificent light.
Chelsea Vaughn (@chelsea725) is currently living in Nashville but has spent time in Texas, Thailand, and Australia. Obviously, travel is a passion, along with hours in the kitchen or across the table from good friends. She does freelance writing, editing, and speaking for various organizations and non-profits. She hopes to spend her life using her gift for communication to reach culture and communities with the love of Jesus.