More Truth About Self-Care

Today is part two in a series that answers the question: “What does the Bible say about self-care?” There are ten principles we’re covering, so if you missed the first five, read yesterday’s post here. Also, we’re giving away another book today! Read this post, and enter the giveaway at the end to win a copy of What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. It’s one of my favorite books on serving God with your whole self.

As a quick recap of what we covered yesterday about self-care, here are the first five points:

  1. You are a whole person, not just a soul.
  2. Stewardship is an act of worship.
  3. As a human, you are finite, with limits.
  4. Limits are an opportunity.
  5. Life involves seasons.

Now, let’s dig into the the rest of what Scripture says.

More Biblical Truth About Self-Care

6. God’s gifts are to be enjoyed with gratitude, not idolized or abused.

Paul gives us the example of the Israelites. They took God’s good gifts—His provision for them in their wanderings—and used it as an occasion for idolatry and self-indulgence:

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. . . . Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Cor. 10:6–8, 11).

Let’s take this to heart. In our pursuit of caring for ourselves, whether through exercise or a bubble bath or Netflix, let’s be aware of our natural bent to take God’s gifts and worship them—trying to make them our god and savior, as Paul reminds us elsewhere (Rom. 1:18–25). And let’s also take hope in the rest of our 1 Corinthians passage. There is a way to escape if self-care has become an idol:

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry (1 Cor. 10:12–14).

He hears and forgives us when we repent of our idolatries (1 John 1:9), and He provides a way out!

7. Self-care is a privilege to be shared, not a right to be demanded.

The heart of self-indulgence cries out, “I have a right to this.” Contrast that to how Scripture talks about rights. They’re privileges to be given to others, not demanded for ourselves. We’re encouraged to, like Paul, surrender our own rights for the good of others and the glory of God (1 Cor. 9) Think also about the example of Jesus:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:5–8).

When we demand “me time” or insist that we deserve something in the name of “self-care,” we’re forgetting that Jesus willingly surrendered His rights for our freedom. We likely know someone in an extraordinary season or someone, like a little child or neighbor in need, that requires our attention. Sacrificing for them is right and good, even while caring for ourselves in appropriate ways is also good.

8. Caring for yourself involves others.

Just as we are dependent upon God, He has created us for community and family. Throughout the New Testament, we are called to rely upon and care for one another. Sometimes God cares for us through the person in the pew next to you, the caregiver at your child’s daycare, or the neighbor you hire to mow your lawn so you can have a free Saturday. Allowing these people to handle some things for you does involve trust. And that can be hard. But it is also a way to live within your limits and to give these people an opportunity to serve and help (as God desires them to do too!). Christ-honoring self-care will not push others away, but will welcome them into your life as “one anothers” who can serve you and as neighbors you can serve (Luke 10:25–37).

9. The goal of self-care is seeking God, not self.

When teaching on our tendency to worry and focus on caring for ourselves rather than trusting God, Jesus gives this encouragement: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). As we’ve already seen, taking care of our needs is something God sees as good but never as a means of serving ourselves. Rather we are to trust God, take times of rest, serve Him, and seek His kingdom.

10. Jesus didn’t burn out.

Our last point to consider is the pattern Jesus left us. He took time away often to pray and called His disciples to do the same. Yet we see Him gladly being “interrupted” by people in need, without hitting a point of burnout. Rest in His example:

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. [Note: A season of extraordinary service.] And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things (Mark 6:30–34).

It would be easy to think, Yeah, but He was God! Of course He could do this without burning out! But He was also fully human, with a human’s limitations of needing to eat, rest, and more. (Which He also took time to do.) In Christ, you have His Spirit, His empowering divine presence, living within you. He has given you all that’s necessary for what He calls you do to in life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). He will give you the rest you need yourself and the ability to love, even when your care of self gets interrupted.

As confusing and often contradictory messages about self-care continue to swirl, how can you put these truths into practice? Here are some ideas:

  • Repent of the ways you’ve been self-indulgent or self-neglectful, believe the gospel—that your sins are forgiven in Christ if you confess—and ask God for help in finding a redemptive balance in caring for yourself.
  • Embrace your limits, take appropriate and needed rest, and choose to trust God with what’s left on your to-do list.
  • Build ordinary habits that will prepare you to serve in extraordinary moments. (And if you’re in an extraordinary moment, celebrate the small moments of rest as a gift.)
  • Find ways to involve and love others in your pursuit of health rather than pushing them away.
  • And if you see someone who is weary from an extraordinary season, help provide care for them by asking questions, listening, and seeking out practical ways to help them care for themselves. (This may involve extraordinary, Jesus-like sacrifice on your part, too.)
  • Believe the Truth of Scripture that God cares for your whole self, and trust Him as you walk with Him in both sacrificial and restful obedience.

What are your thoughts about this post or the concept of self-care as whole? Leave a comment below, and enter the giveaway for a chance to win one of two copies of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next.

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About the Author

Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins is a biblical counselor based in northern Indiana who finds joy in helping people find help, hope, and healing in Christ. Reading, hiking, watching soccer, collecting records, and chatting over coffee are her everyday delights. Hayley formerly served … read more …

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