Full Plate, Empty Heart: When to Be Still in a World of Busyness


We live in a demanding world full of busyness. There is always someplace to be and something to do. Always someone to text, email, call, Facebook, tag, Snapchat or...you get the picture. There are days when it is hard to keep track of all of the responsibilities, including the responsibility to feed yourself something besides coffee (maybe that’s just me). Our society has a tendency to glorify busy-ness, so we all fall into this trap. Our plates are full of responsibilities to school, work, friends, family and church. As Christ-followers, we are called to deny ourselves in pursuit of a Christ-like life. But we have a tendency to take this too far. We let all of the responsibilities fill up our plate and we run out of room to take care of ourselves. This can leave us feeling drained--mentally, emotionally and even physically. If you’ve been to this place before--full plated, empty hearted--then you know that acknowledging it and changing it are two completely different things.

You might realize that you’re running on empty, but then someone asks you to babysit at the last minute so you say “yes.” Or a friend is going through a breakup and needs to talk to someone, so you listen. Or there’s a big event at church and they need people to help set up, so you show up early and dedicate an entire Saturday. If we want to live our lives as set apart women, dedicated to serving the Lord in all of the ways he has called and empowered us, then we must learn to take care of ourselves. We must learn to care for ourselves as we do others. This isn’t just my idea...Jesus actually trained the disciples to do this. In Mark 6, just before feeding the 5000, Jesus has this interaction with his disciples:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. So many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat so He said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."(vs. 30-32)

The disciples had been heavily immersed in ministry and were about to be inundated by spiritually and physically hungry people once again. Jesus knew that taking the time to rest was essential for them to keep up their momentum, so he made them separate themselves and rest.

If your plate seems full and you don’t know that you have it in your heart to keep going, find a way to fill your soul. Maybe you have a “go-to” relaxation technique--taking a long walk, lying on your bedroom floor and blasting worship music, baking...or maybe you need to try something new. Here are a few suggestions to fill up your heart when your plate seems too full.

  • Observe the Sabbath. Read Hebrews 4. Several months ago, I came across this Scripture and felt heavily convicted. To me, Sundays were another day for work. Sure, I would go to church in the morning. But my afternoons were spent grading papers (I taught second grade), reading young adult novels (I also worked in the school library), and picking out recipes (and I ran an afterschool program where I baked with kiddos). My plate was full and I took every opportunity to try to do more work and make my life feel easier. But the truth is that the more time I spend working the less time I spend living and I forget what it means to rest in God. Once I let go of my “to-do list obsession,” I was able to savor the presence of God at church on Sunday mornings and let His presence permeate my day...and then my week.
  • Engage with Scripture. As you’re setting aside your Sabbath to rest in the Spirit, take some time to really dig into Scripture. Don’t just read the words and leave them on the page. Really read the Word of God and allow it to permeate your life. The more time you spend in the Word, the easier it will be for you to glean wisdom and comfort from it. And the more it will dwell in your mind. So instead of finding yourself constantly creating mental to-do lists, you’ll find your mind singing scripture to your heart.
  • Spend time in community. I’m hesitant to include this item in this list. Sometimes maintaining a social life can seem more like heavy weight on that plate we were talking about earlier. Other times, your community can pull you out of your head and remind you how to rest in God. Maybe your friend wants to get together so that he or she can buy you a cup of coffee and get a life update. Maybe they want to go sit in a park and read beside you. Or maybe they want to know how to pray for you...
  • Let others intercede on your behalf. Seriously. If you read Paul’s letters, you will see that this epic warrior for the faith had no shame when it came to asking for an offering intercession. In Colossians 3 he says, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message...pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (vs. 3-4). I pray that you, my friend, are surrounding yourself with a community that boldly intercedes on your behalf and allows you to do the same.
  • Set aside time to pray. This could go without saying...but I’m going to say it anyways. Take your burdens and give them to the Lord. Then, let him have them. Don’t try to take them back. I’m going to say that again: Give your burdens to the Lord and let him keep them. Trust that he can handle your weariness and frustration and that He will restore you.

This past Sunday, I was at this place. I didn’t really know it because I don’t like to allow myself to admit defeat. But I was feeling emotionally wrung out. My insecurities were prevalent in my mind and I couldn’t find worth within myself. So I am not giving you these suggestions as hypotheticals...but as actual antidotes to having a full plate and empty heart.

So, my friends, press forward in the ministry to which God has called you. Allow him to give you responsibilities that stretch you and make you grow...but also take the joy and peace which he offers.

Having trouble? Let me know. I’d love to pray for you.