There’s a lot of talk in the world about self-care.
As the church, we’ve jumped on the bandwagon, no reason not to, the concept and premise is spectacular. In reality, our culture has been self-sabotaging and this new wave of fundamental health is refreshing! Even the church has lacked sorely in this area where we should have been leading the example in healthy practices of caring for our whole bodies…well, we haven’t been. Now we have an opportunity to set an example for a group of hurting people who are trying to self-medicate! However, we also have a temptation to give in to ungodly but seemingly good self-care practices.
Notice the phrase in its essence, self-care. Without taking up a religious or haughty spirit, shouldn’t we at least recognize that we can’t much take care of ourselves? Shouldn’t we be in the habit of promoting God-care? Putting that aside, let’s strip the stipulation or confusion and stick with the term self-care for simplicity’s sake. We are going to identify Godly self-care so that we can discern the difference between what the world is promoting for beneficial self-care and what God defines as self-care. Before we can be an example in this area or speak truth in love as leaders and light, we must know the black and white.
Scripture says, “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine and accurate instruction [that challenges them with God’s truth]; but wanting to have their ears tickled [with something pleasing], they will accumulate for themselves [many] teachers [one after another, chosen] to satisfy their own desires and to support the errors they hold.” 2 Timothy 4:3
Take note of those words in this translation: with something pleasing and to satisfy their own desires, to support the errors they hold.
Now, we aren’t out to condemn others for their “ungodly self-care.” Get the plank out of your eye, geez. That’s not our job. Heck, if the world is investing in some self-care instead of self-sabotage, they’ve got better chances of truth entering their hearts! Let’s see things rightly. We are talking about bringing clarity to our own hearts as followers of Jesus so that we will partake in what is good and beneficial, not permissible.
There’s a huge difference between the popularly trending self-care and righteous, God-honoring self-care. Alright, so what identifies Godly self-care?
Godly self-care yields fruit.
I have found this attribute to sum it all up pretty decisively. If it doesn’t yield fruit, I don’t care what it is, it’s not Godly. You are sowing something, unto life or unto death. Godly self-care ministers Love and Truth. We are always pointing to Jesus. He is Love and He is Truth. If you aren’t aligned with Love and Truth, you are wasting time and your self-care is actually self-sabotage.
If we are intentional to keep our hearts aware of our actions, and our attention on what God is speaking about the condition of our hearts, we will experience real, fruitful self-care. Often, what you think you need will reveal the condition of your heart and give you insight to what you are actually in need of. When you begin to plan your down time, ask yourself, “Does this yield fruit? Does it produce feelings of rest or feelings of anxiety?” Our actions should leave us with peace and rest, not restlessness or confusion. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a decision like this:
“I want to eat dessert.”
Is this real self-care? Does this yield fruit? Would this bring me joy and reinforce positive feelings about my identity in Christ? Have I been condemning myself and would this make me feel insecure or ashamed?
“I want to watch some tv for a bit.”
Is this real self-care? Does this yield fruit? Is it going to encourage and refresh me, or leave me empty and confused? Does this align with who I want to be?
“I want to set a boundary with this friend, or maybe even end the relationship.”
Is this real self-care? Does this yield fruit? Am I operating in wisdom and communicating honestly in love? Does this allow me to be the friend I want to be?
The above are just examples. There is no right answer to the questions. Each scenario in your life is given at a moment’s notice and your role is to give it to God.
I have often found myself in self-care that actually wasn’t self-care at all. Sometimes it takes more intentionality and attention on my behalf to assess what I really need. Perhaps we enter into subconscious escaping and indulging with self-care. Whether or not we are conscious of these actions, we may very well be using the name of self-care as a scapegoat to justify what the flesh wants. What I found myself doing was coveting or feeling sorry for myself that I couldn’t indulge in self-care practices the way I wanted to. You see, I put the kids to bed, did all the work for the day, and had an early morning to prepare for, but I wanted to watch TV and drink wine. The truth is I would feel much better about life and my responsibilities for the coming day if I would take my bath, spend time reading or journaling, and get to bed early! I wanted to indulge a little and feel sorry for myself that I didn’t have more time with less responsibility. What a shame.
“And when you do ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may squander it on your pleasures.” James 4:3
We have been deceived when we think that we are “getting more” by escaping from responsibility. It is more blessed to give than to receive and when we submit ourselves to the Spirit of self-control that God gave us, our self-care will be fruitful and meaningful for our hearts and our lives.
Often the greatest freedom is found in responsibility. Jesus chose His suffering. It wasn’t man that crucified Him, He laid His own life down. Count His gains.
As a disciple of Jesus, any aim at true self-care is aimed at sacrifice and surrender. Now, this is a hard pill to swallow. I don’t like what I’m writing! It means I’m constantly accountable! Ha. I’m constantly accountable to submitting myself to His rules and regulations. But we remember that there is so much freedom.
“Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans. If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery. I will never forget your commandments, for by them you give me life.” Psalm 119:91-93
We are under a new covenant with Jesus. We aren’t under the law. What we are under is Love and Blood. And we love everything about it. We are better for it. Can I get an Amen?! Like, geez my life is so much better in Christ!
Now we know that God wants us honoring Him in our self-care, but there are no specific “rules” for what that might look like, so what does this mean? It means that you can determine when to break conventional religious rules, and when not to. The joy for us being freed from the law means that our self-care aligns with grace and personal relationship with Jesus. We are allowed to reject religion and have room for error, but we are teachable and we aren’t condemned as we are being discipled. We aren’t striving, legalistic or afraid of messing up, but we are free to learn as we go and receive the correction of a Father. It is for freedom Christ set us free.
I’ve recently been hooked on a song called “Obedience”, by Lindy Conant. The lyrics say, “It’s more than words, it’s more than a song. It’s my life laid down, there’s action involved.”
Our love for Christ is often displayed in obedience, but we do at times struggle with obedience. Remember when the children of Israel didn’t want to keep eating manna? Remember what happened?
The Israelites were enticed to pagan practices and they were conjuring up their own desires for fresh meat when bread FALLING FROM HEAVEN was not good enough. *sigh, I guess we can’t throw stones…* Every time something of this sort occurred, God was displeased. He was angry and took vengeance justly. We live in a different time, and while Jesus stands in the gap for us when fire should be falling onto our heads, the picture and biblical message remain: He wants our hearts connected to Him.
“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalm 51:16-17
The point of Godly self-care is to reconcile our hearts to God.
We need to be restored, refreshed, given direction or wisdom, and He is worthy of our attention. That’s the bottom line. We love ourselves, and from this place of Christ-centered wholesome living, we take up residence in promise. From this place we yield fruit in our own lives, affecting those in relationship with us and those who should be in relationship with Christ. We set the example. Godly self-care takes on meaning: living sacrifice. Our self-care must be an expression of our love for Him.
Whatever your self-care looks like, you must submit it to Him, as your Shepherd and as your partner. He wants to show you how good He is at leading, and His ideas for your benefit and self-care are more fruitful than your own.You must invite Him and engage Him in your practice. What’s amazing about our freedom is that we don’t have clear cut parameters anymore. We aren’t obligated to conventional laws, but we have space for Him to shepherd us uniquely, and still in holiness and righteousness. Don’t take advantage of that, but hold it in high regard.
We must stay engaged in our freedom with powerful responsibility and self-control. Our goal in self-care is partnership with Christ. We recognize that we are in control, we are given an opportunity to partner with Christ and yield to His goodness, and we remember that we are powerful and responsible for our life and our life’s fruit.
We must be sober-minded, because the stakes are high. We are required by His law to ask ourselves this basic question for every “self-care” activity: “Does this yield fruit?” That question uncovers truth and leads you to an answer that will faithfully show you the condition of your heart if you allow it. We should be assessing ourselves in this way so that Jesus is free to be Lord as we live in our resurrection life.
”I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
If we resist Jesus’ Lordship with an unwilling heart, we are essentially forgoing our death in His burial.
Rejecting our burial and resurrection with Jesus – which happens inevitably when we are unwilling to give Him Lordship – means that we won’t change, but we’ll stay dead in our sin. We are obligated to realize ourselves dying in His death and raising in His life moment-by-moment.
If we tie ourselves to carnal ways, we’ll experience carnal deaths in everyday life, and in doing this, we aren’t receiving the many salvations He has promised each day. Forgoing your death and resurrection in His death and resurrection means that you’ll experience the lack of your flesh and the consequence of your sin when you don’t actively choose to engage and recognize your need for Him. Accepting His sacrifice daily and acknowledging your life in Him must be the number one expression of your self care! Examining that we are yielding care to the One who most cares for us ensures our care. Jesus has more for us. He has many salvations each day.
We can position ourselves in these truths with perspective by giving thanks. We can and we should make this our daily habit. In between the yielding, the asking, the receiving, the resting, the growing…When we feel lack, or when we have a need or desire, we come to Him with the requests and trust. Turn your heart back to thankfulness and when you’re feeling lack, ask for what you need and ask the Lord to comfort you. God wants you whole and He wants you to receive all that is promised in Him. The more that you submit each action to Him and practice Godly living day-by-day, the more freedom you will experience in all of your life and the more you will enjoy self-care. God’s commands lead to life and His plans for you are greater than you can imagine.
“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.” Proverbs 14:17
Real, Godly self-care should be powerful and effective in your life. It should demonstrate transformation. It may require that we humble ourselves just enough to let go of what we want or think we need, and allow His sweet spirit to give us wisdom about how to fill our cup. HE CARES FOR YOU – He is not going to leave you empty. He knows exactly what you need, all you need to do is ask and follow His lead. If we practice self-care in this way, we will remain in constant connection to God, transforming into His likeness, into our best selves.
As we transform into His likeness and into our best selves, the church will shine.
She will be beautiful, loving, adoring, and alluring. The body of Christ walking in the Spirit of Godly self-care, with fellowship in Jesus, will be burning brightly for His return and joining many to His heart for the occasion. Self-care takes on meaning – lasting, fruitful meaning for all of eternity.