How to evaluate your life for “fillers” and “drainers”

January 8, 2018

In our teens and 20s, we seem to have unlimited reserves of energy. Nothing stops us or even slows us down. However, when we get into our 30s and 40s, we notice that our energy supplies are not infinite as we thought. Some days we fly, but other days we flop. What makes the difference?

At first it’s difficult to figure out, but eventually we notice that some activities fill our tanks while others drain us. Then, we figure out that we have to balance fillers and drainers so that when we engage in a draining activity, we follow it with something that fills us; otherwise we’ll be running on fumes, which won’t last long.

Managing our energy consumption is as important as managing our money and our time. Pastor Greg’s words reflect on his wife Jeni’s experience of depression, but they are applicable to all Christians living long-term overstressed lives:

The life of a young family can be incredibly stressful, and I don’t think we really appreciate enough the weight of that day-in, day-out stress. And it doesn’t have to be a family that experiences some really traumatic event. It can just be the normal everyday life of a busy young family. If you don’t take precautions for physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, eventually you’ll just run out of gas and energy and you’ll crash. And I think it’s a real danger in conservative Christian circles that we just keep going, going, going, doing the Lord’s will, having all the spiritual rationale behind it, and then suddenly finding ourselves completely exhausted.

Managing our energy begins with identifying our drainers and fillers so that we can plan ahead and fill up when we’re running low. To help you identify yours, here’s a sample of mine:

Fillers: Bible reading and prayer; listening to Christ-centered sermons and participating in church fellowship; reading books (mainly biographies and nonfiction, especially Christian); reading blogs; time with David and family; good food; doing yardwork; walking by rivers, lakes, and oceans; fishing; catching up with friends over coffee and distant family on FaceTime; hosting my kids’ friends; seeing someone’s conversion to Christ; witnessing growth in God’s people; practicing gratitude; and laughing.

Drainers: Grocery shopping; handling family dental and doctor appointments; intervening in kid squabbles; over-stretching my to-do list; fear and anxiety; overcommitting; counseling; oversocializing; staying up too late at night; watching daily news; emailing; dwelling on my failures; negativity; and managing administrative tasks.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate your life for those things that fill and drain you:

Remember that we’re all different. What fills me may drain you, and vice versa. I’m more of an extrovert, while my husband is more of an introvert. We’ve learned to understand that what energizes me can be a major drain on him, and we respond accordingly. While grocery shopping drains me, one of my friends thrives on it and fights her husband to do it. Quite a few of my friends are refueled by singing God’s praises together at their weekly choir practice.

Also, these are just the everyday drainers and fillers—the kinds that we encounter in our ordinary, day-to-day lives. Sometimes, though, our lives are hit with major changes, such as the loss of a loved one, a family conflict, or a relocation. These punch major holes in our tanks, and we need to take extra-special care during such seasons.

Third, some drainers are so big and serious that they call us to reevaluate our situation. One pastor’s wife who had a terrible experience at her last church describes it this way:

We were in it, we were wholehearted about the mission of the church, but as the “behind-the-curtain” situation continued to be revealed to us, there was this constant sense of “there has to be another way.” Finally, we realized that “other way” wasn’t going to happen, and we needed to be the ones to leave and make a change.

Fourth, there are some activities that could go on both lists—what I call “double listing.” That’s because though some things fill us in one way, they may drain us in other ways. Although socializing replenishes me, it also depletes me. I love to spend an afternoon with other women and families, but by the time I get home to fix supper, clean up from the meal, and catch up with my teens, I’m mentally and emotionally good for nothing. That’s why, earlier in the day, I have to set aside time to just chill or do it early the next morning. I also have to pace my socializing and avoid putting a social opportunity on my calendar every day. Otherwise, I will spend my summer days running on low fuel and become emotionally fragile.

Fifth, while I’ve highlighted the most significant daily fillers and drainers, we need to remember that everything, no matter how small, has an impact on us. It can be a hundred little things that turn our energy tanks into sieves and slowly drain us dry. That’s why we need to refill every day, not just once a year on a short vacation.

Sixth, while we can try to eliminate or minimize some of the drainers, others are important responsibilities that are a vital part of our calling. We cannot and should not try to escape these, but rather make sure we compensate for them when they arise. None of us should feel guilty about filling our energy tanks if it’s with a view to serving God and others better.

Finally, I would add one essential filler: a daily, personal understanding of God’s clear calling for you and a whole-hearted, contented embrace of that vocation. Whether that’s in the home or in the workplace, view your calling as designed by God especially for you, with a view to maximizing your own spiritual growth and usefulness. That will keep you persevering through the tough days and fill up your tank when other energy supplies are scarce.

Content taken from "Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands" by Shona and David Murray, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

David Murray

David Murray (DMin, Reformation International Theological Seminary) is professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church. He is also a counselor, a regular speaker at conferences, and the author of Jesus on Every Page. Read More by this Author

Shona Murray

Shona Murray is a mother of five children and has homeschooled for fifteen years. She is a medical doctor and worked as a family practitioner in Scotland until she moved to the United States with her husband, David. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24