How Should We Think About Self-Care?

 

white book page on brown wooden table

 

Self-care. This is a term that is used all the time; on social media especially, but also in the news, in popular psychology, and from health care providers. There is even a self-care club in my city!

How do we define self-care? Psychcentral.com defines it as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.

As Christians, how should we approach this topic? Upon reading this definition, it sounds pretty good, right? Taking take of ourselves so that we are healthy mentally, emotionally and physically, and so we can be the best ‘self’ for our friends and family. I can see how it can be very appealing, especially to the exhausted mother of small children, who is at the end of her rope, and wants some refreshment. However, if we look at this from a biblical perspective, I think we will find some issues with the concept.

First off, what are we commanded to do in Scripture? To love God with all our heart, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:37-40). Note that there is no command anywhere to love ourselves, or to care for ourselves first before caring for others. By saying that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, Jesus is assuming that we already do love ourselves! We don’t need to add any more love! How many times a day do you think about yourself? You feed yourself, dress yourself, work so that you won’t starve or be homeless, eat some more, sleep, and do it all over again! We are pretty good at looking after our needs for the most part.

The radical part of Jesus’ teaching is that he is commanding us not to put our needs or desires first. We are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). As we seek Him first, He will provide all that we need. We are not to be caught up in thinking of ourselves, but to be loving God, and loving our neighbor, caring for their needs, and laying our lives down for them (John 15:13).

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 16: 24). 

So here is what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that we should not take care of ourselves, or never take a vacation. Those things are good things to do! We were created for rest, and we can glorify God in that. But let’s ask ourselves these questions:

Am I working to rest, or am I resting to work? 

Am I living for the weekend, or am I excited to serve those around me with the energy and strength I’ve been given?

Am I thinking more about my own needs, or how I can love and serve my friends and family?

Do I spend more time on social media, or investing in those in front of me?

I’m preaching to myself here, folks! As a single person, it can be challenging to not be selfish with my time. But doing ‘self-care’ will never give us the satisfaction that our souls long for. So let’s remember to keep focused on caring for others well, because in doing so, we are serving Christ, and He is the only source of rest.

“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

Elizabeth Elliot