I have been seeing this new term pop-up everywhere, and something about it felt off. After many conversations with Nathan and also with a close godly friend, I’m beginning to understand why. The name ‘self-care’ seemed indulgent…motivated by inward-focus , self-pleasing, conceited desires.
The moniker may be new, but the responsible adherence is as old as creation. After all, rest was built right into the rhythm of life. Integral to creation are the God ordained cycles of work and rest. Rest is a necessary part of a healthy and balanced life: “Exercise and proper rest patters generate about 20 percent energy increase in an average day.” (Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands).
The 6th commandment, too, reminds us of the sanctity of life: “Thou shall not kill,” forbids us from killing, and requires us to take care, nurture and protect life – our life and that of our neighbor.
Here are some areas where we should thoughtfully consider if we are rightly practicing “self-care”:
the Physical – eating, sleeping, regular check-ups, fitness
the Spiritual – spending time in Scripture, listening to messages, prayer, journaling, singing
the Intellectual – learning, reading, engaging in something new, finding inspiration, creativity
the Social – uplifting friends, life-giving conversations, connection, serving others
the Emotional – dealing with stress, compassion
There can be a difference between this Biblical care of ourselves and what is so often promoted in the popular term “self-care.” That difference most often stems from our motive. I came across something Matthew Henry said that hits the nail on the head (even so long ago!):
“There is a self-love which is corrupt, and the root of the greatest sins, and it must be put off and mortified: but there is a self-love which is the rule of the greatest duty: we must have a due concern for the welfare of our own souls and bodies. And we must love our neighbor as truly sincerely as we love ourselves.” (Expositions of the Bible, Matthew 22:40)
Here are a few questions that might help us examine our motives:
Is a preoccupation with ourselves driving us to be discontent? Do you find yourself manipulating others to get what you want? Whining and complaining until our husband gives-in? Do we seek pity from others? Maybe looking to guilt-trip? Or maybe we say things like: “All my friends get their hair done, I deserve to look good too?” “Why can’t I ever get help when my friend has weekly help from her mom?” “Shouldn’t I go get a manicure since all my friends get massages every month?” “They go on dates all the time, I deserve to break the budget once in a while.” “I deserve this break after the day I just had!”
Demanding self-care is not the same thing that Jesus did during his earthly ministry. Jesus spent time serving with intervals of refreshment and prayer (Mark 6:30-32; Mark 1:35). In the same spirit, we need to retreat, refresh, and come back renewed. Our time, energy, mental and physical health are gifts from God that we are responsible to steward with thoughtfulness and care. He knows, he cares, and he will provide for our every need. We can trust that he sees our weariness. Our Father in heaven cares about our daily load and our emotions. God is bigger than our circumstances, and He’s got this!
It is important to recognize that some activities refill us while others drain our energy. We have to balance the things that fill us and drain us. It will be different for everyone, but learning our energy limitation is key to maintaining our personal health. Grocery shopping can be relaxing to some or draining to others. Same with socializing – some of us are filled up by spending time with friends and staying up late to talk, yet some feel drained by conversation.
If you’re like me, fight for a little silence! A time of quiet to know Jesus. A time of quiet to rest our minds. A time to chill and calm and recognize that He is God and not me. Just a few minutes in my bedroom have had great impact on restoring my sanity and recreating my joy in the Lord. God delights to see us thrive. Shona Murray, in her book Refresh says it perfectly, “By paying attention to rest and refueling, both physically and spiritually, we avoid extremes of energy expenditure followed by exhaustion. We learn to relax without false guilt; learn to view sleep, exercise, and healthy regular eating as Gods gifts; and lean to accept the help of others with humility when needed.”
with love, Damaris