The Secret of Fulfillment
The word fulfillment literally means “to fill up”. If you are fulfilled, you are filled full. The real question is how do you define fulfillment? What makes you full?
There are many sources that can fill us up: food, relationships, possessions, accomplishments, experiences, and a few other personal favorites I’m sure you could add to the list. But if you’re looking for lasting fulfillment, it won’t be found in any of these.
It’s Probably Not What You Think
The secret to getting full is to empty yourself. Without a doubt, the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had during my lifetime are the opportunities I’ve had to pour into the lives of others. There is great joy in taking what’s been poured into my cup and pouring it out so that others may be filled up.
I learned this lesson very clearly during a mission trip many years ago. Our team spent months preparing to serve and teach others in an area just a few states away. When we finally arrived, we spent a week pouring ourselves out doing construction projects and leading programs for local children. It was exciting to see the tangible ways our team helped others and met needs. By the time that week came to a close, I’d never been more physically exhausted. But at the same time, I’d never been more energized. I realized that we gained far more than we gave.
After that experience, I remember asking, “Why do we have to go on a mission trip to serve others like this? Why can’t we do this all the time?” Those questions shifted my perspective and caused a significant change in my life.
Get Filled Up to Pour Out
If you define fulfillment as pouring yourself out, there is one very important qualification: you must have something in your cup to pour out. There must be an overflow that you can draw from to serve others.
Jesus set the example for establishing this pattern in our lives. Even though his days were full of teaching, healing, feeding and performing miracles, he made it a priority to connect with his Heavenly Father. Mark 1:35 explains, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed.”
The secret to fulfillment is twofold. You must regularly spend time filling yourself up and you must regularly spend time emptying yourself out. If you spend all your time filling yourself up, you’re lazy and selfish. If you spend all your time pouring yourself out, you’re exhausted and headed for burnout. The wise course of action seems to be finding a balance between the two extremes. In an ideal world you could find a place where you are spending exactly 50 percent of your time being filled up and exactly 50 percent of your time pouring out. In my experience, I believe finding a perfect balance is a myth.
Trust in God’s Abundance
A better approach is found in the principle of “spending out". In the financial world, when one spends out, they use up all available resources without creating a surplus. If you have budgeted $100 for groceries this week, you spend out by using the entire amount budgeted, because you believe that next week your grocery budget will be replenished. When you spend out, you trust in abundance.
This principle is true in spiritual matters as well. When we spend out by pouring into others, we trust in the infinite, abundant resources of Jesus, knowing that He will replenish all we pour out and more. It’s amazing that God actually uses the act of pouring out to refill us. Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38 remind us, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down shaken together and running over, will be poured over into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Are you spending out to find fulfillment? How are you being filled up? How are you pouring yourself out? Which do you need to focus on today?