I am no Energizer Bunny. My personal drive rises and falls. In the morning I sprint, committed to seize the day. After lunch I slump, crawling to the nearest couch for a nap. Each one of us rides a different tide of emotional energy, but what remains constant is that we all eventually wash up on shore. Exhausted. Drained. Fatigued. In these moments – nay, before they ever come – we must learn to recharge our emotional batteries.
Fortunately, God’s word offers simple but profound guidance on how to recharge our emotional batteries. I’ve provided seven insights below to get us started:
1. See Emotions as Signals
Humans emote. It’s part of what makes us unique among creation. An emotion is a kind of thought, a preconscious reaction – a push or pull – to someone or something. Classical music pulls us in; country music pushes us away. This, in fact, is the main job of emotions—they are flags, signs, or warning lights to look deeper into ourselves. Anger may signal fear or hurt. Sadness may expose a growing sense of isolation. Happiness may reveal how you attach meaning to achievement. Invite God to show you what your emotions are signaling (Ps. 139:23-24).
2. Respect Emotional Complexity
Emotions do not work in isolation. They are tied to our physical health and social wellbeing. Sometimes our anger comes from hunger (i.e., hangry). Sometimes our depression stems from bad sleep or limited sunlight. A better mattress or SAD lamp may recharge our emotional batteries more than a counseling session. Sometimes our restlessness is nothing more than living in the digital age, constantly harassed with info, updates, and notifications; meanwhile, interpersonal connections remain thin. In other words, physical, social, and environmental changes may drastically improve our emotional weariness. Respect this complexity.
3. Express Yourself Biblically
Use the Psalms as a guide for healthy, God-directed emotional expression. This inspired collection includes dark depression (Ps. 88), angry tirades (Ps. 137), deep longing (Ps. 42), lingering questions (Pss. 13, 22), self-examination (Ps. 15), confident trust (Pss. 18, 23), and overflowing joy (Pss. 8, 19, 145-150). Pray the Psalms regularly; however, it is critical to follow their form. In the Psalms, God is the audience of our emotional expression. This goes against the grain of our digital age, where people default to social media as their emotional dumping ground. Trust God to hear your burden; he cares more than the faceless masses online.
4. Establish Patterns of Rest
The two toughest phases of my emotional life coincided with sleep deprivation: college and parenting infants. I never observed a consistent bedtime routine in college. I procrastinated, pulled all-nighters, skipped breakfast, and constantly battled sickness. As a result, I was depressed. Less than a decade later, my wife birthed two daughters into the world. Neither one wanted to sleep through the night until she was a year old. My nights comprised three- and four-hour stretches of broken sleep. As a result, I was angry. In the ensuing years, my wife and I researched sleep and adopted healthy routines (including naps, limited screen time at night, and, yes, a bedtime) to stay recharged. Moreover, we practice a weekly Sabbath, rarely letting any other responsibility creep into our Fridays together.
5. Monitor Your Schedule
“The busy person is a lazy person,” wrote Eugene Peterson. The comment shocked me, but his explanation made sense. The busy person has not taken time to claim their time but has given in to the whims of others. Busy people live in crises of the moment and urgencies of others. They spread themselves thin. They run behind. They disappoint. And then they crash. Monitoring your schedule allows you to plan times for praying, studying, creating, meeting, and administrative work. Whether using David Allen’s weekly review or Michael Hyatt’s focus grid or Peterson’s master calendar, the point is to guard against burning emotional energy on unnecessary tasks. A fixed, forward-thinking schedule nurtures emotional freedom.
6. Craft a Rule of Life
A Rule of Life gathers our patterns of rest, schedule, and spiritual disciplines in a single frame. Taken together, a Rule intends to keep our love for God and others vibrant, establishing what John Ortberg calls “a well-ordered heart.” While each person should experiment with her own Rule, some combination of prayer, Scripture reading, journaling, worship, solitude, silence, secrecy, confession, service, and giving brings our whole self – body, mind, emotions, and relations – before God. God may use silence and solitude to tame anxiety. He may use praise to tame despair and confession to tame bitterness. Eventually, a Rule of Life keeps unruly emotions from ruling life.
7. Be Fit, have Fun, and Build Friendships
Fitness, fun, and friendship lead to flourishing. Sadly, many Christian leaders are “all work and no play.” The idols of productivity and celebrity have lured them into a dull life—devoid of recreation, community, and wonder. A friend and fellow pastor once confided, “I have no hobbies. None. I don’t have time.” (At least he had a few minutes for me!) Emotional energy will flag when we skip workouts and cookouts, road trips and bike rides, game nights and weekend getaways. Our bodies want to move and flex and sweat. Our imaginations crave a diet richer than the Netflix menu. Our hearts desire personal interactions more than app notifications. Plan a date, tend a garden, do a puzzle, fix an engine, paint a wall, lift some weights—realize that regular self-care leads to prolonged emotional health and ministry impact.
Emotional energy is a renewable resource. God’s Word suggests ways of keeping emotional levels healthy through self-expression, tending our bodies, monitoring our time, ordering our hearts, nurturing friendships and having fun. When our battery light turns red and begins to flash, we would be wise to heed the signal and chose one of these ways to recharge.