These days, self-care is a widely encouraged concept. It sounds nice, so we Christians often encourage it. Exercise, long baths, and vacations are suggested as ways to take care of ourselves. While these aren’t wrong in and of themselves, we need to be aware of the society’s messages in regards to self-care. First, it seems self-care will cure us of our problems- anxiety, impatience, bitterness, etc. Second, it emphasizes a “me-first” lifestyle, claiming we should put ourselves before others.
Sisters, let’s look at Scripture for thoughts on self-care. As we do, we’ll see the problem lies with seeking a “me-first” life and looking to worldly things to “fix” us.
Will self-care actually fix us?
Society makes it seem the root of our issues is simply not enough “me-time.” If we could just take a long run or watch 30 minutes of TV alone, we wouldn’t be so snappy with our husbands. We like this mindset, because it takes the blame off ourselves. However, in Mark 7:14-23, Jesus teaches there’s nothing on the outside that can make us unclean, but it’s what’s on the inside that defiles us. Therefore, the lack of me-time doesn’t cause my impatience; it’s my sinful heart that needs the surgery only the Father can do.
Our biggest problem is our sin, and it’s so big, it can’t be fixed by a Netflix binge. The very best news of the Gospel, though, is God provides a way to defeat our sin. The Father loved us so much, that while we were sinners, he sent his Son to live a perfect life, die on the cross, and rise again. Jesus’ death made the way for our redemption, and his resurrection made the way for us to have eternal life with him!
For those in Christ, our biggest problem (our sin) has been fully paid for! It’s as if we never sinned! Though we’re justified in Christ, we still battle sin. This is where the very tough, but beautiful, work of sanctification comes. Sanctification is the process (that’s sometimes slow) of growing us in Christlikeness (2 Cor. 3:18). It’s transforming us into who God already declared us to be (learned through a SEBTS class).
While sanctification produces beautiful fruit for God’s glory, it often feels like a battle. It’s not easy to put to death our flesh and walk in the Spirit. It’s easier to justify sin with, “If I had more me-time, I wouldn’t be so impatient, unloving in my thoughts, etc.” However, these are ultimately heart issues, and, no amount of self-care will fix them. It’s the work of the Spirit through God’s Word that sanctifies us (John 17:17). Therefore, we don’t need long baths to grow in holiness, but heavy doses of Truth.
Self-care messages are exhausting. They claim we can do life in our own strength. However, doing that is when I feel burned out. Instead of self-care, let’s focus on soul-care. Here are some practical ways:
- Rest in Jesus, who’s gentle and lowly in heart (Matt. 11:28-30). While physical rest is wonderful, it’s often hard to come by. No matter how chaotic life gets, we can preach the Gospel to ourselves and be reminded of the true, spiritual rest in Christ.
- Study God’s Word daily. I don’t always have “me time” with TV shows or long baths, but (most) every day, I do take “me time” to study God’s Word. Our souls need Scripture far more than spa days.
- Connect with other believers. We need sisters in Christ to remind us we’re not alone. We need them to lovingly speak truth and point us to Christ. We also need them to encourage us and give us a laugh.
- Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). We need constant connection with God, not just one prayer a day. I often whisper simple prayers like, “I need you, Lord,” as I battle sin, discouragement, and tiredness. These 4 words remind me of my need for Christ, but also his constant nearness.
- Recognize sin, repent, and walk in grace. This brings freedom and assurance of salvation. Only those alive in Christ do battle with sin. Friend, keep walking in the Spirit. Through him, put to death those desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16-25).
Another problem with the world’s self-care message is its priority on self. Scripture, though, teaches to give priority to others. Through Christ’s example, Phil. 2:3-5 commands us to consider others more significant than ourselves. We’re also crucified with Christ, and it’s him who lives in us (Gal. 2:20). Instead of living for ourselves, we’re to live to glorify Christ by serving others.
In all things, Jesus is our example. He took moments away (Mark 6:46), but he also served others despite tiredness (John 4:1-45). There’s wisdom in both- learning our human need for rest, and laying down our own desires. Ultimately, we grow in wisdom by walking in the Spirit, but here are a few questions to help:
- Do we look to self-care for peace and satisfaction? If so, this is a red flag that we’ve created an idol out of whatever “self-care” we long for.
- Is our motivation for self-care to serve ourselves, or others? A right motivation is to recharge so we can continue the good works God has prepared for us.
- Are we spiritually poured into by others? As we disciple others (teach Bible studies, etc.), we need to be sure we’re being discipled as well.
- Are we prioritizing soul-care above self-care? If we take time to exercise, but not to study the Word and pray, we’ll forever feel tired, and discouraged. Only through prioritizing Christ can we find joy, rest, and satisfaction.
Friends, may we stop looking to worldly things to change us in ways only Christ can. When we long for a moment alone, may we rest in our Savior. May we rely on his strength to walk in a manner worthy of him on the best days, the hard days, and every day in between.
(p.s. This is a complex issue. We need the whole counsel of God’s Word, not just a blog post. If you’re truly burned out, depressed, etc., please seek godly help through a Christian counselor, pastor, etc. The aim of this post is to help us think about our priorities and what we’re trusting in for redemption and peace)