This Is What You Need To Know When You're Running On Empty


We're at the end of the school year round here and I’m at the end of myself, too. I’m running low on energy for getting up in the morning. I’m running low on patience for tired children. I'm running low on enthusiasm for endless end of year administration tasks. It’s all getting a bit ragged round the edges. Tempers are short with the heat and exhaustion. Children are fractious and irritable. Teachers are weary and spent from a year of relentless work. We’re all running on fumes, with nothing left in the tank to give.


John’s Gospel tells the story of a couple who were also running on empty, trying to keep their wedding celebration going when the wine ran out. (You can read the account here)

In those days, it wasn’t simply a case of sending someone out to the local shop to pick up a few dozen bottles to tide you over. As Tom Wright explains:

Running out of wine was not just inconvenient, but a social disaster and disgrace. The family would have to live with the shame of it for a long time to come; bride and groom might regard it as bringing bad luck on their married life. (John for Everyone, Part 1, p. 22)

When we’re at the end of ourselves, shame can sometimes rear its ugly head.

I’m not good enough. I’m not doing enough. I don’t have what it takes. I’ve got nothing left to give. What must everyone think of me?

 Notice what Jesus does, though:

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:3-4)

Like all good mothers, Mary knows her son well. She knows that, despite his protests to the contrary, he will have compassion on this couple and help them.

When Jesus turns the water into wine, he turns a families' story of scarcity and shame into one of generosity and honour.  He makes sure that there is more than enough wine to go around and it’s better than anything the bridegroom could have provided himself.

The good news is, that when we are at the end of ourselves, Jesus is still enough.

When we’re running on empty he is compassionate and kind, generous and faithful. What he gives us is so much better than anything we could achieve by ourselves.

The key to this story lies in the servants’ obedience to Jesus. He asked for what they had – jars full of water – and he transformed it into what they needed – fine wine.

When we come to Jesus as we are, he not only accepts us without judgement, but turns our lack and emptiness into something rich and beautiful; something exceeding what we could have imagined.

We are invited into moments of rest, stillness and peace. We have our souls restored by noticing goodness, beauty and truth. We're reminded that we're held and known and loved.

We find that our capacity for patience and kindness is increased. We can offer encouragement and comfort to those who need it.

We are like water turned into fine wine.

If, like me, you’ve been running on empty, perhaps you’d like to borrow this prayer…

Jesus, I come to you as I am: weary, worn out and at the end of myself. Where I am empty, will you fill me up? Where I am lacking, will you provide? Where I feel like I’m not enough, I trust that you are more than enough. Thank you for your love and kindness; your generosity and compassion. Help me keep my eyes open to see your goodness. Thank you.


This summer I'm exploring the book of John. If you missed the first two posts, you can catch up with them here:

When the world is breaking your heart
When You're Full of Doubt, This is What You Need to Know