In today’s world there’s so much talk of self-care. Maybe when you hear self-care you think of some physical discipline to better your days: getting to bed at a good time, exercising often, eating the right foods, etc. Maybe you think of things that help you de-stress and refill your bucket: taking a bath, reading a book, going for a run, or eating some chocolate. Or maybe you think self-care sounds selfish when you consider the others around you and the care they require.
Certainly, taking care of ourselves is good for us. But what is the problem with how the world tells us to prioritize self-care? What does God’s Word have to say about it? Is there even a place for it in a life lived for Christ? And if so, where do we start?
What’s the problem with “self-care”?
Whatever our notions are about self-care, I think we would all agree that at some point or another the self-care tips, blogs, Pinterest pages, and “treat yourself” encouragements fall short. Why is that?
Self-care is temporary and unsatisfying.
As women, we often turn to self-care when we are feeling especially exhausted or worn out after a long day, week, or season. While the quiet, peace, rest, or refreshment of something that we do is comforting, we know it won’t last. We’ll end up tired or stressed or worn-out again, and we’ll come crawling back to something temporary to fix it.
Self-care is more like a bandaid then a true solution.
The things we do for self-care don’t typically fix anything; they just make us feel better for a time. I’ve found that just doing something relaxing or rejuvenating doesn’t mean I’m really taking care of myself. Instead, I’m avoiding the things that actually need care and attention by telling myself “you need a break” or “you deserve this”.
Self-care persuades us that we are the best and only ones to care for ourselves.
Self-care literally means taking care of ourselves. The danger of self-care is not in doing good things that meet our needs, it’s in thinking that it’s all up to us to meet our own needs. It can be isolating, it can be prideful, and it can be selfish. Many of the self-care practices we participate in are not wrong in themselves, but they’re not done in a spirit of vulnerability with others or in a spirit of reliance on the Lord.
Self-care can make us the center of our world.
When we become fixated on being our best selves or living our best life, then we are living with ourselves at the center. While many things we do for self-care are good for us, the idolization of them makes us full of ourselves.
What does God’s Word tell us is true?
If self-care is temporary and unsatisfying, then what is lasting and fulfilling? If it is just a bandaid then what’s the real solution? Where do we go and what do we do when we’re feeling worn and weary? How do we know our needs will be met? What should our mindset and heart posture be? God’s Word is clear.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good…for those who fear him lack nothing…those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”—Psalm 34:8-10
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’…For when I am weak, then I am strong.”—2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”—Psalm 90:14
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…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
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”—Romans 8:32
“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
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”—Philippians 2:3
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”—Psalm 119:105
Is there a place for self-care?
Every need we have is met in Jesus. Every question our soul searches for is answered in Him. If we know that we have been crucified and now live for Christ, if we know we are to humble ourselves and to consider others as better than ourselves, then is there any need or room for self-care? As leaders, we know that if we’re not doing well, then we can’t take good care of those who have been entrusted to us.
The problem with the self-care anecdotes of the world is that they aren’t getting to the heart. When I feel the most tired, frustrated, stressed, anxious, worn-down, and out of sorts, I find that I’m most in need of a heart check. David, the man after God’s own heart, cried out to the Lord, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). He cried out for a right heart and a renewed spirit. More than better care for our bodies and minds, what we really need is better awareness of where our hearts are.
Where do we need to start?
Let’s start with our hearts, and to start with our hearts means we need to know where our hearts are. As women and as leaders, we’re good at asking other people questions (How was your day? How are you feeling? What are your plans?). We often neglect asking ourselves the questions that our hearts need to answer. Here are a few to start:
- How is my reliance on the gospel?
- How is my prayer?
- How is my time in the Word?
- How is my worship?
- How is my patience with others and compassion toward others?
- Are my actions bringing glory to God?
- What fruit of the Spirit do I see growing in my life?
- What am I trusting God for?
- What am I thanking God for?
- Who am I sharing Christ with?
Instead of running to temporary bandaid cover-ups for our deep heart needs, let’s first turn to His Word and the truth it brings to mind. Let’s be women with hearts that run to Him in need. Let’s be women that know the best care for ourselves is the daily meeting with our Father. Let’s be women that cry out as David did, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.TM
Melonie Wagner has the joy of serving full time on staff as the Student Ministry Associate at First Baptist Mt. Juliet in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Her passion is to see girls come to know and love Jesus Christ through the local church. As a born and raised Tennessean, Melonie enjoys all things outdoors, the coziness of a good book, and quality time with her people. Connect with Melonie: Instagram.