Self-care” – it’s a big buzz word. Everywhere you turn, there are books, articles, podcasts, and conversations on social media addressing the topic. The problem is that these waters can be incredibly murky ones for the Christ-follower to navigate.
On the one hand, we know that following Christ and being His ambassadors is about living a life of sacrifice and service to others. Yet, on the other hand, we hear cases all the time of people reaching their breaking point because they are overworked, overwhelmed, and, in the process, have not taken good care of their bodies.
So, how is a Christian to approach the concept of self-care? What would be the Biblical approach to the self-care movement? If we were to ask ourselves the following 5 questions each time an opportunity for “self-care” arises, we would be well on our way to making our Biblical decisions in this area.
- What is my motivation?
Ask yourself why you’re wanting to pursue self-care. Are you wanting to avoid your God-given responsibilities and shirk those callings and roles? Are you wanting to escape reality? Are you wanting to ignore proper priorities by going off and doing anything but what you should be doing in that moment? Or are you wanting to be a good steward caring well for your body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19)? Are you wanting to fill yourself back up, refresh and rejuvenate yourself, so that you can be better able to pour back out to those around you in service and love?
- What would my self-care consist of?
If your self-care only ever looks like you going out to get a manicure because “you deserve it” or consistently shelving the responsibilities God has entrusted you with so that you can “meet your own needs”, then this is a clear red flag that your self-care is becoming selfishness.
The reality is that self-care, in its proper and Biblical context, is about so much more than merely caring for your body or doing something fun. It’s ultimately about caring for your soul first. It’s about nourishing your soul with the truths of God’s Word, seeking His face, meditating on the truths of the gospel and God’s love for you, and refreshing yourself in the knowledge of who you are in Christ. If you make time for these pursuits in your self-care regimen, then everything else will follow. You will be refreshed. You will be better able to serve others (for as they say – you can’t pour out from an empty cup!). And you will be more inspired to then care well for your body, as well.
- What would be the harm in not practicing self-care?
Something which can aid us in better understanding if our self-care is appropriate or has crossed the boundary into selfishness is to ask ourselves what the harm would be in not practicing it. Would we be more exhausted, more short and easily frustrated with our loved ones, more overwhelmed in our daily work, more burnt out? If so, then it may very well legitimately be time for some self-care.
- What would be the benefits of practicing self-care?
This is the other side of the coin to the question we just asked. What benefits could we derive from practicing self-care? Would we be more refreshed, built up, excited, inspired, and ready to pour out to the folks in our circle of influence? If so, then practicing self-care in this situation would not be selfish at all – in fact, it would be aiding us in our service to others!
- What would Jesus do?
In all of this talk of self-care, it’s important to ask the ultimate question: what would Jesus do? It’s become cliche, but it’s still important – He is, after all, our standard!
Interestingly enough, when you read the gospels, you see that oftentimes when Jesus was being approached by the multitudes, it was at that very moment when He excused Himself to go off, be by Himself, and commune with the Father. This tells us that Jesus, too, saw the crucial importance of having time to oneself, to be built back up so that you might be ready to build others up. But the key point here is that Jesus wasn’t going off so that He could go shopping or get a manicure (not that there is anything wrong with doing those things from time to time!). Instead, His primary method of “self-care”, if you will, was praying to the Father. This is precisely why it is important for us to remember to incorporate time with the Lord into any self-care routine we may take on.
Self-care is not about us “deserving” it. It’s about us doing what it takes to care well for the bodies, hearts, and souls God has given to us, so that we might better fulfill the callings He has on our lives. The truth, then, is that self-care doesn’t have to be selfish – it’s all in our heart motives and the methods we choose to implement.