By Cortni Marrazzo, Crosswalk.com
‘Self-care’ can be a confusing topic in Christian circles. We often assume that as Christians, we are supposed to put others’ needs ahead of our own. But the Bible doesn’t tell us to neglect ourselves to meet others’ needs. Quite the opposite: if you neglect taking care of yourself, you actually impede your ability to help others.
Let no one seek [only] his own good, but [also] that of the other person. – 1 Corinthians 10:24
Self-care is not “treat yo-self” in the sense that many in today’s culture joke about. It is not vegging in front of the TV, spending large amounts of money on your physical appearance, or eating all your favorite junk food (although these things in moderation are not bad).
Self-care is actually all about doing the things that will help you be in better health—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. – 3 John 1:2
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What Does Self-Care Actually Look Like?
Eating nutritious food and exercising:
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. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Taking time to process your emotions and not allowing them to bottle up:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; – Ecclesiastes 3:4a
Giving yourself space to connect with God and unwind and prioritizing time with God over other things like TV or social media:
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray [in seclusion]. – Luke 5:16
Doing things you enjoy and having fun:
And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. – Ecclesiastes 3:13
On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. – Genesis 2:2-3
Practicing self-care actually sets you up to be able to better bless others by bettering three key areas of your life.
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1. Physical Health
When you don’t take care of your physical body, you are very likely to experience constant fatigue. When you find yourself tired every day, it’s incredibly difficult and sometimes impossible to do some of the very things the Bible encourages us to do:
Get up early in the morning (or stay up late at night if you are a night-owl) to read your Bible and pray and hear from God about who He is asking you to help.
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. – Mark 1:35
Jesus was such a great example to us in that He made sure to regularly get up early to have focused time to pray to God and hear from His Father what He was wanting Him to do.
Take someone dinner or have someone over for dinner.
Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. – 1 Peter 4:9
Bringing a meal to someone who is sick, just had surgery, just had a baby, or someone who is having a rough time in life, is a great way to bless people. Inviting someone over for dinner to your house is another great opportunity for you to connect with and serve them and give them a break from planning and cooking dinner that day, which can be huge blessing in itself!
Serve in your local church or in your community.
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. – 1 Peter 4:10
God has called each one of us to use the gifts He has given us to serve others and when we do, it brings such fulfillment and joy to our lives and enables us to help those who need our help.
Spend quality time with your friends and family
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. – Hebrews 10:25
Because God made us to live in fellowship with one another, spending time with those we love and enjoy is a privilege and something that really fills both our souls, and the souls of those we spend time with.
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2. Emotional Wellness
When you don’t take the time to work through your emotions and process your frustrations, fears, anger, etc. with God in prayer, this most often leads to sweeping these emotions under the rug and stuffing them down. But what goes down, must come up, and when you become emotionally unhealthy, it will show up in your life in multiple ways:
Energy: You become “too tired to people.” In other words, you don’t have the emotional energy to talk to and interact with anyone, let alone encourage them, edify them, or help them.
That evening the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves. But Jesus said, "That isn't necessary - you feed them." – Matthew 14:15-16
By instructing the disciples to stay feed the people in this story, He was showing them the importance of spending time with people and helping meet their needs. Jesus valued people and the opportunity to love them and teach them about His Father.
Feelings: Instead of extending grace to hurting people in your life, you get angry at them for their actions, or lack thereof.
And "don't sin by letting anger control you." – Ephesians 4:26
When we are experiencing emotional health, we can show the people in our lives compassion, look past their hurtful actions, and realize those actions and attitudes are likely not even about us. Then we can give them grace for their poor decisions and pray for them instead of becoming bitter towards them.
Fellowship: You are too consumed with your own feelings and struggles that you can’t listen to and support others who are going through struggles of their own.
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
Living in fellowship with one another is all about going through life together and sharing experiences, both positive and negative. When you are able to do this with the people in your life, it brings you together and strengthens the bonds of your relationships like very few things can.
Patience: You are very easily irritated at anything and anyone.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Emotional wellness brings peace to your life, and when you are at peace, it is so much easier to let little annoyances and silly things slide off your back, which then keeps you in a peaceful place.
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3. Spiritual Nourishment
The lack of spiritual nourishment is spiritual apathy, which is characterized by a lack of passion and motivation to move towards God and His Word and to grow spiritually. In this state, it’s easy to become numb to the Bible and hearing from God.
When you stop moving towards God, you are no longer tapping into His voice that prompts you who and how to help, and His Spirit that gives you the motivation and strength to carry those things out.
Here are some warning signs that spiritual apathy is a part of your life and thus preventing you from helping others:
Fear: You succumb to fear and negative thoughts as you focus on the circumstances in your life and in the lives of those around you, rather than speaking God’s Word over them and believing what He says.
For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
When you have a regular dose of spiritual nourishment in your life, you are able to focus on God and His Word more than the things that are happening to you and around you. This helps your faith stay strong and enables you to be an encouragement to others.
Cultural Influence: You become heavily influenced by culture and the world around you and you stop renewing your mind to God’s Word.
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. Then you will learn and know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2
Spending time seeking God enables you to become more like Him and live out His plan for your life. It helps you to stay more aware of and attuned to opportunities in your life that God is leading you to and people He wants to you to help.
Lack of Intentionality: You start to mentally “float through” your days and weeks and years and it becomes really hard to be intentional about becoming more like Christ.
Staying in tune with God in your life enables you to live intentionally and with purpose. Years down the road you will be able to look back and see how God was directing you and moving you in your life and you will see just some of the ways He has fit seemingly random things in your life together for a greater good.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34
Your life as a Christian is all about following Christ and loving those around you like He loved (and continues to love) you. When you take care of the body, soul, and spirit God gave you, you become a stronger and more powerful vessel for His love to flow through and bless others.
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