The Love Tank

In this blog I should like to best describe what a love tank is; and what it is not.

One child psychiatrist said it this way, “Inside every child is an emotional tank waiting to be filled with love. When a child really feels loved, they will develop normally, but when their ‘love tank’ is empty, they will misbehave. Much of the misbehavior of children is motivated by the craving of an empty ‘love tank.’”                               – the late Dr. Ross Campbell

The need for a full love tank is not just limited to children; it follows us all into adulthood, into marriage, into life.  What’s in your love tank!? The ‘in-love’ experience of emotional euphoria eventually runs out when enough time and reality hits, causing people to come to terms with the truth that love is not a feeling, it’s an action, a choice, a verb. We needed love long before we ever ‘fell in love’ and we will need love long after the ‘in-love’ feelings fade away.

One husband said it this way, ‘I need to feel loved by my wife; it’s a central need and desire I have.  What good is a nice house, a nice car, the place at the beach, or any of the rest of it if my wife doesn’t love me? I want my wife to want me!’ This man’s love tank is empty.

Solomon said it this way, “A foolish son is the ruin of his father, and the contentions of a wife are a continual dripping (irritation). 14Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”                          – Proverbs 19:13,14

It doesn’t matter how nice your house is; if it’s shared with someone with an empty love tank, than they will be a constant irritant to you.  People who are bereft of love and passion will never appreciate the good things they have in life and others because they lack the ability to express genuine love.

“An excellent (woman of valor) wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.”                                  – Proverbs 12:4

Material things are no replacement for emotional love.  Something inside each of us cries out to be loved by another. God hardwired into each us of a desire to be intimate and loved by another person. The marriage covenant is designed to meet our need for intimacy; it’s God’s covenant plan which secures a family unit and platforms a life of love and community.  Suffice it to say, children as well as adults have emotional ‘love tanks.’ If this is true, than we need to check the gage on our love tank and see what it says. If the gage is low, than we need to fill it. If its full, we need to use it.  God never intended for us to keep our love bottled up inside of us; He wants us to share it with others.  Just like a gas tank on a car, an air tank on a diver suit, or an oil pressure gage on an engine.  When it’s low, we need to fill it up, when it’s full we need to use it up.  Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 -10, how full is your love tank?  Now ask yourself, is the number I chose consistent with how I feel? Has my lack of an ‘in-love’ experience caused me to misunderstand the gage on my love tank? 

Some people feel that when their ‘in-love’ experience has long been gone; they have two options: 1. Live a life of misery with their spouse.   2. Leave them and look for another to have an ‘in-love’ experience with. Stats show that this generation primarily chose the latter, but the previous generation often chose the former. 

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (incurably sick); who can know it? 10I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”                            – Jeremiah 17:9,10

God knows our heart; He searches our heart and mind and knows exactly how to reward each of us accordingly. If we want to better understand our heart, we must better understand God’s heart that is revealed in His Word, and we must allow His Holy Spirit to teach us and show us those deep truths about us that only God can reveal. One man said it this way, ‘The heart of every problem is the problem of every heart, and the human heart is as deceitful as it is incurable.’  Jeremiah uses the phrase, ‘desperately wicked’ which implies ‘incurably sick.’ 

Sometimes ‘heart-centered’ people say things like, ‘Well, if I know in my heart, or if I believe in my heart, or if I follow my heart’ than I will do this and such. The truth is, we don’t really know our heart; it can be as deceptive and emotional as it is flighty and unstable. This is why we never should base our life choices on how we feel (heart) so much, but by what we believe (faith) that God saying to us about a given situation or person.  We need to love real, and not tap out on a rocky relationship in pursuit of another. Statistics show that the divorce rate for a second marriage is greater than for a first.

“The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but it still has to be mowed.”

          – Dr. James Dobson

I should like to challenge you to discover the truth of the ‘in-love’ experience and see it for what it really s is, a temporary rush.  We are to pursue the real love experience by filling our love tank with some agape love. This, in turn, will help your spouse, or whoever you are loving, to fill their love tank too.  This involves an act of the will and requires discipline, focus, mental endurance, and a lot of what the other person needs most to fill their love tank.  As we learn to love in the language of our spouse, so we will fill their tank in an effective and efficient way. Our basic emotional need is to be genuinely loved by another, not necessarily to ‘fall in love’ with them so much, but to be loved by them.  Just knowing that your life will be better because you chose to love your spouse or parent or whoever the person is you’re supposed to be loving will give you a sense of satisfaction and obedience to God’s Word that will enrich your life like no other.

True love, God’s love, can’t begin until the ‘in-love’ experience has run its course. When we return to the real world of ‘verb love, God’s love, real love,’ than we will be in a better place to fill our love tank and help our spouse or others to fill theirs. Remember, emotional needs begin with emotional health.  If you’re sick in the head or broken in the heart, than you will have a hard time giving and receiving love.  Some people are so broken inside that for them to ‘love’ may seem impossible.

“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax (dimly burning) He will not quench (extinguish);”        – Isaiah 42:3

Just when we think that we don’t have anything else to give, Jesus comes along and strengthens us, heals us, and empowers us to love with His love; agape. This in of itself will fill your love tank because it comes from the very source of love, God Almighty.  When we fill up on God’s love, this empowers us to love.

John said it this way, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”                                                                              – 1 John 4:7,8

A person who fills their love tank with God’s love will be in a better place to help others fill their love tank with their love.  This kind of love begins with an attitude that says, ‘I am committed to you; I choose to look out for you, and I will love you in spite of this.’  People long to feel the love and support of trusted others; spouses, parents, siblings, and such.  We are more secure when we feel assured that people close to us accept us, want us, love us, and our committed to our wellbeing. This is not infatuation, it’s not euphoria, or even butterflies.  It’s the real deal baby, love in the verb kind of way.  It says, ‘Because I love Jesus and He loves me, His love is in me and I want to share it with you in the most appropriate and genuine way I can.’ Why?  Not because I am ‘in love’ with you, but because I love (agape) you. A person with a large capacity to love will show their love in ways that others around them will not.  Why?  Their love tank is full and they’re ready to give.

Barnabas was such a man; he loved the Lord and he loved God’s people, all of them. His capacity to love was tested when Saul of Tarsus returned from Damascus as a changed man. Saul went to see the disciples in Jerusalem, but they were afraid of him because of his former reputation.  Then Barnabas shows up with a full love tank and brokers a meeting between the newly formed apostles and the future great apostle.

“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.”                                                   – Acts 9:26-28

The name Barnabas means ‘Son of Encouragement’ and his act of taking Saul (later Paul) in and bringing him to the apostles was fueled by God’s love that came from a full love tank.

The Good Samaritan, although was a parable, happens all the time.  People who love a lot, give a lot, because their love tank is full.

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’          – Luke 10:33-35

The Samaritan man was able to care for the wounded Jew because his love tank was full and ready to give.  He showed compassion from a full tank of God’s love.

Mary Magdalene, she genuinely loved and showed it when others wouldn’t.

“Then one of the Pharisees asked Him (Jesus) to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.”                                         – Luke 7:36-38

We later learn the woman is Mary Magdalene and her love for the Lord is without exception. She loved Jesus because He first loved her, and He forgave her.  Christ’ interaction with Mary filled her love tank to overflowing which moved her to express her love for the Lord where others wouldn’t. Mary Magdalene was a real person, a real woman. She loved Jesus, but not in the way that secular movie makers portray her.  She was radically changed by the power of the living God; her love for the Lord filled her love tank to overflowing. In a modern context, Mary Magdalene represents anyone person who was radically saved and in love with Jesus!

The Apostle Luke continues, “Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 48Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”                                                                                                                – Luke 7:44-48

The phrase, ‘whom little is forgiven, the same loves little’ is rhetorical at best.  The implication Jesus is making here is that people who have been forgiven much, the same also love much.  So it is with our love tanks. We have been forgiven much; we must also love much; our love tanks must be full.

Speaking of women who loved Jesus, the Samaritan woman at the well is yet another example of a person whose love tank was completely empty.  This woman attempted to fill it with shallow relationships and futile attempts at love. She was, at the Eagles put it, ‘looking for love in all the wrong places.’

The Apostle John records this account this way, “So He (Jesus) came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”      – John 4:5-18

Let’s refresh the story a bit and highlight some of the obvious issues here.  Jesus is at the well at the sixth hour; that’s high noon local Samaria time.  Culturally speaking, this woman shouldn’t have been at the well at that time of the day: but this woman was.  Jesus engages the Samaritan woman in conversation pertaining to the ‘living water’ that references our salvation in Christ.  She responds favorably and asks the Lord for this living water; Jesus requests that she go and get her husband. She tells Jesus that she has no husband; He tells her she has had five husbands and the man she is with now is not her husband.  She perceives that Jesus is a prophet for knowing such things and Jesus is calling her out on her sin. While Jesus is not harsh with her in His words, He is bringing to light the sin in her life.  It makes you wonder what this lady’s story is; five husbands and the man she is with is not her husband.  This lady’s life is clearly laced with a parody of sorrow. The Samaritan woman’s love tank was empty; she was trying to fill it with men; but Jesus spoke of a living water that would fill her live to overflowing.

John continues, “The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”                 – (vs.19-24)

While the Samaritan woman embraced her spiritual heritage regarding the well, Jesus emphasized that the true worship of the Lord comes through the Jews.  The Samaritans had set up a temple and a sacrificial system of worship that was ‘unknown’ to them.  Their love tanks were empty, and their worship was strange; this is why Jesus came to Samaria in the first place.  He wanted to rescue them from their religion and welcome them into a life-giving relationship with Him.  The message to us, if we’re not worshipping the one true God, our love tank can never be filled.  God is looking for true worshippers who worship Him in spirit and truth; we worship the Lord in the Holy Spirit and we worship Him in His Word. The ‘living water’ Jesus spoke of is the salvation that comes through Jesus.

John concludes his account, “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.”                   – (vs.26-30)

The woman knew of the Messiah who is called Christ and she knew that He was coming; but the disconnect between knowing this and actually following God’s Law was her real problem. How true this is with so many people in the world.  They have a ‘form of godliness’ but they deny the Lord’s power, His ability, and His desire to save them.  The purpose for these examples is to show that our love tank can never really be full unless we have received Jesus into our heart as our Lord and Savior.  He is our true source of love and when His love is within us, we can and will love others with that same resource.  A clear indication of a full love tank is a spirit of compassion for the other person. The good Samaritan was ‘moved with compassion’ before he attempted to serve the injured traveler.

The Apostle Peter said it this way, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous (humble); not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”                                           – 1 Peter 3:8,9

The father of the prodigal son was moved with compassion,

“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”                                                                                 – Luke 15:20

The Lord told Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”              – Romans 9:15

Jesus even displayed compassion at a funeral He ‘crashed.’ “And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”                                                                                – Luke 7:12-14

The main point here is that we know our love tank is full when we are moved with compassion for those we are called to love, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, our family members.  This is the way of things.  People do all kinds of things to fill their love tank, most of them are as a futile as they are counterproductive.  As we learn to daily fill our love tank, we will be in a far better place to love others with the love the Lord has bestowed upon us.  I challenge you my brother (or sister), take a good look at what’s in your love tank and see how full it really is. I have found that spending some quiet time with the Master on a daily basis and walking in the path that He has laid out for me for that day can not only streamline my witness, but it allows me to love others in a proper and productive manner.  We can only do this with a full love tank.  Fill’er up.


Encouragemen is a blog written by Pastor Rob Lee, recently relocated to Southern Missouri.  He lives with his wife of 32-years, near their three adult children, their spouses, and children (their grandchildren).  Pastor Rob is an Ordained Assemblies of God minister, a former Lead Pastor (25 years), police chaplain, and community advocate.  He continues to serve, consult, and disciple men of God, including those who are in the ministry. 

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