What Does the Bible Say About Self-Care?
When we hear the term "self-care", our minds tend to jump to one of two extremes: either the "pamper yourself" camp or the "self-care is selfish" camp. Somewhere in between is the balance that God has laid out for us in Scriptural principles.
Why Are We Even Talking About Self-Care?
Living in a fallen, sinful world is exhausting. We suffer from the consequences of our sins and choices; we are harmed by others; we observe horrific events. Left to ourselves, we are tempted to fall into
- depression, hopelessness, despair
- fear, anxiety
- anger, bitterness
- denial, lack of empathy
- controlling behaviors
- unhelpful or destructive coping mechanisms
We do well to take these examples from Scripture seriously. We were never meant to handle life by "pushing through" in our own strength. We need refreshment, recharging, rejuvenation, and recreation.
Why Do We Need Self-Care?
It's long been said that you can't pour out of an empty cup. The same is true for ministry (parenting, being a friend, being a good co-worker, etc.): you can't give what you don't have. If you will be useful in God's kingdom, your personal needs must be met before you have anything to give to others.
We are fragile, finite humans. Our limitations are part of our human-ness, and are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it is a prideful person who thinks he/she can do life on his/her own without renewal.
We have instruction to take care of our bodies:
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?" 1 Corinthians 6:19
We have instruction to take care of our hearts:
"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverb 4:23
We have instruction to look to God for our source of strength:
"Be still [lit. "cease striving"], and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
"But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me." Micah 7:7
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29
What Self-Care Is
Self-care is meeting our personal needs because
- it is our own responsibility
- we are image-bearers of God with limitations
- we are valuable and worthwhile to God
- we acknowledge that we are dependent on God for strength
- we cannot meet the needs of others well unless our own needs are met
- we set an example to others that they are valuable, too
- nourishing our bodies with wholesome food, exercise, rest, and sunshine
- taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional selves
- enriching our spirit in communion with God
- providing for ourselves an environment of peace, beauty, and joyful things
- giving ourselves time to decompress with constructive, creative activities
- spending time investing in relationships that enrich our lives
Self-care is not indulgent, exorbitant, outlandish, irresponsible, or self-serving. It is not reckless abandonment of one's responsibilities, emotional eating, or entitled taking. It is not putting yourself over others in a selfish fashion. Self-care, done properly, is not arrogant or prideful. It is responsibly limiting yourself so that you can serve others better.
Self-Care Done Right
In order for us to grow personally and spiritually, we must be intentional about how we live our values. It's helpful to set aside a block of time to make a list of those activities that are most important to you in order of their priority, and take a realistic look of how you plan to accomplish them. Pray over your values and priorities and ask God if they line up with His best for you. Is there enough time and energy to do everything? If not, what can get cut from the schedule without diminishing your values? In what areas do you need to let others take responsibility? How can your life best be utilized for what God is asking you to do?
When you set aside time with God and include Him in your big picture, you are postured to live a life of peace and rest in Him rather than striving for temporal goals. You'll find time to address the needs of your soul, mind, and body so your Kingdom priorities may be maximized.
©2023 Julianne Knapp. First Published 1.24.23
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