By Brenna Fields Taylor
The term “self-care” has become a popular one as of late. I recently ran across a quote about self-care on Facebook that says, “Self-care isn’t always chocolate cake and trips to the spa. Sometimes, it’s meal planning, going to bed early or letting go of a bad friend. It’s forgiving yourself for not meeting your own impossible standards, and understanding that you are worthy. Always. Self-care isn’t just luxuries, but a means for survival.”
If we look at self-care as a means for survival, what does the Word of God tell us about how we can care for ourselves? Let’s look at self-care from a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual standpoint.
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul says this to the believers in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT): “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” In context, Paul is addressing a particular situation about sexual sin; he’s reminding the church that even though they came from a culture when the practice of being promiscuous was commonplace, as believers, the Corinthians should keep their physical bodies pure and ready for service to God. What does this have to do with us and self-care? We too should keep our bodies pure so that we can be physically able to be used by God. That means eating healthy foods, drinking lots of water (something I don’t do enough of) and exercise. The other day, I had a particularly stressful day at work, and I knew that, at some point during that day, I would need to get some exercise to relieve the tension I was feeling. Instead of working out at home like I normally do, I decided to take a walk. I walked about 4 miles, and as I felt the sun and the breeze blowing on this nice and peaceful evening, it was exactly what I needed to center myself again and relieve the stress I was feeling. So, what are you doing to take care of yourself physically? What are you going to do today?
Look at what the passage from Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) says: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (emphasis added). Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
What influences the way we think? What we feed ourselves mentally, what we allow into our minds is what influences the way we think. Have you ever considered thinking about what you think? In other words, have you ever considered paying attention to your thoughts? One scientist notes that, “We are aware of a tiny fraction of the thinking that goes on in our minds…The vast majority of our thinking efforts goes on subconsciously.” This scientist also says that the way to control these subconscious thoughts that come to the surface is to focus on something specific. For believers, what is that “something specific?” It’s the Word of God. The thing we focus on the most become bigger; it becomes a greater part of us. Paul says it in the verse from Romans 12: we can be transformed if we renew our minds, so we focus on the Word of God to do that. What are you doing to take care of yourself mentally? What are you going to do today?
When we think about our emotions, we think about our feelings. Have you ever heard the expression “being all in your feelings?” It means “overreacting, getting mad over something, or being distracted by one’s (usually morose) feelings.” Whether we realize or not, we can all get “in our feelings” at some point or another. What can we do to pull ourselves out of a negative emotional state? The scripture I want to highlight here is Hebrews 4:15-16 (KJV): “ For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” During His time here on earth, Jesus felt the same feelings and emotions that we do (He lived a fully human existence). He felt sadness, anger, frustration, impatience, grief, and disappointment. Because He felt the same emotions that we do, He can empathize with us, and can relate to what we are going through. So, when we get all in our own feelings, we can go to the One who truly gets it…that’s Jesus Christ. Yes, we can choose to reach out to a friend or family member (nothing wrong with seeking wise counsel); but they may be only able to sympathize with us, and not empathize with us. When someone can empathize with us, it’s more that just feeling sad for us, but it’s being able to really relate to another person’s experiences, because they have gone through it themselves. Jesus Christ can be that Person for us because He shares the same feelings we do. So, what are you doing to take care of yourself emotionally? What are you going to do today?
Again, looking at the example of Jesus, Luke 5:16 (NLT) says that “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” The word “often” means that He did this on a regular basis. He needed to seek God for direction and also for renewing and refreshing so He could continue in ministry. If we go back one chapter to Luke 4, we see that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted. He emerges from that experience ready to begin His ministry: preaching, teaching, healing, raising the dead. Yet, Jesus knew he had to take time to pray, to strengthen Himself spiritually. One commentator says this about this verse: “The Son of God had to hear the Father’s voice and determine where the Father was at work.” God has given each of us an assignment, and as we work our assignment, we must continuously seek God to give us the strength and direction we need to complete it. What are you doing to take of yourself spiritually? What are you going to do today?
I hope by now you can see that self-care is more than just a fad. For believers, taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually should be a way of life. My challenge to you is to look at your life: Are you taking care of yourself in these areas? If not, what can you do to make some changes? Because ultimately, this is not about us, but it’s about being the best instrument we can be to be used by God, so that He can get the glory for our lives and through our lives.