There is a war that rages within me – a battle of two voices, pining to be heard. One voice says, don’t forget to make time for you and take care of your needs. The other voice says, no, that’s not right, you must always put others first.
But where do these voices come from? Are they from God? Which one should I heed?
Discerning between how much I should take care of myself and how much I should do for others is difficult.
The world says: in order to love others, you must first love yourself.
The passage, Mark 12:31, says: “love your neighbor as yourself,” and is often used to support this concept of self-love.
So is self-care a selfish habit or can it actually be a holy endeavor?
God’s Word makes it very clear that we are to put others first.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
The definition of self-care, according to the Oxford dictionary is “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health… well-being and happiness.”
Self-care isn’t necessarily wrong; however, the problem lies within the cult of self-care.
When you become obsessed with taking care of yourself, you’re likely to exhibit selfish characteristics. However, the line that separates the two can be blurry, and if you’re not careful, you’ll fall into the trap of putting yourself first more and more often. You see, it’s easy to be tempted to obsess over self-care, leaving little time and energy for others.
“No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” 1 Corinthians 10:24
While the word “self-care” is never used in the Bible, the word “selfish” and references to selfishness can be found all throughout the Bible. It’s already within our nature to take care of ourselves. We are born selfish.
“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.” Ephesians 5:29
Rather than being directed to take care of ourselves, we are instead told to focus on others.
Fortunately, when we obey God by putting others first, He not only meets your needs, but He will often exceed them.
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Proper self-care is vital to having an effective ministry and living out God’s plan and purpose for your life, but we must be careful to avoid the type of self-care society promotes.
Jesus commissioned His followers to love others and to go out into the world and preach the gospel. As we pour into others around us, it’s essential to take care of ourselves, too, so that we don’t burn out.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out, and trampled under people’s feet.” Matthew 6:13
Yes, you read that right – we are the salt, but if we lose our flavor, then we will be worthless and people will walk all over us!
After 20 years of marriage and almost 18 years of being a mom, I still can’t seem to get it right. Somehow, I always come up short, teetering between how much I should take care of myself versus putting others first. But like anything else I struggle with, I turn to the Bible, and to our earthly example, Jesus Christ. When I do, I see three distinguishable approaches to holy self-care.
Seek God First
Every new day, every decision we make, and every new venture in life must start with seeking God. When we put God first in all of our situations and circumstances, it gives him the space to work in and through us.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
God longs to shower us with his blessings, but we must take that first step of seeking him. Next time you’re faced with a choice, no matter how significant, before seeking advice from friends or social media, read the Bible and search it for answers, and then spend time in prayer.
The responsibility of self-care is not for us, but for God.
We must trust that God is going to take care of us and that He will provide all of our needs. Trust is when we continue to move forward, in obedience, even when we don’t know the outcome, knowing that God’s plan always prevails.
He says, Come to me with all of your questions, all of your problems, all of your decisions; entrust me with them, and I will make sure that you are taken care of, and I promise that not only will I meet your basic needs (heck, I already do that for the birds and the flowers, so of course I’m going to do that for you), but I will go above and beyond your wildest dreams. So come to me first and let me show you what I will do for you.
Let Him Restore Your Soul
When we read about Jesus in the gospels, we find multiple occasions where he went to the mountains, or was found in the garden, often in the early morning, praying and talking with his Father. He took time away from the crowds, noise, and distractions to be alone with God, and He wants us to do the same.
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
Jesus is our example of how we are to live, including taking time to rest and be renewed, so we are always ready to serve others and do His work. Even God rested on the seventh day of creation.
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:9-11
Taking time to rest and renew our minds, bodies, and souls isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a command.
But know this, when we do what He says, when we walk in obedience, we are in the very best place we can be, which allows us to properly care for others.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Take Care of Your Body
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” I Corinthians 6:19-20
We are best equipped to do unto others when we take care of our health.
We are to eat right, control our alcohol consumption, get enough exercise, and get enough rest. It’s nothing you haven’t heard.
It’s simple – when you are good to your body, your body will be good to you, and in return you’ll be able to better serve and love others. Just like anything else God has entrusted to us, we are to be good stewards of our bodies.
Try It Out
I implore you to practice God’s plan for self-care. Stop worrying about making sure you’re taken care of. Set your needs aside. Seek God, trust Him to take care of all your needs and so much more, regularly find a solitary place to be alone with God, and take good care of your health.
Trust me, you will not be disappointed. When you give up your selfish desires and follow Christ, nothing is impossible. Get ready to be refreshed daily and watch the blessings unfold.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Psalms 34:8-10
This article first appeared on iBelieve.com on January 18, 2022. Check it out here: https://www.ibelieve.com/health-beauty/self-care-a-selfish-habit-or-holy-endeavor.html