There has been a lot of debate when it comes to self-care. Isn’t it selfish to take care of myself? Doesn’t the Bible say to love your neighbor as yourself? These conflicting messages can leave us confused and unsure of how to respond to our self-indulging culture.
First, I want to clarify that self-care does not equal self-indulgment. Commercials bombard us with messages such as “You deserve to treat yourself.” This is simply not biblical. What we deserve is death (Romans 6:23), but Christ paid for that on the cross. I for one, am incredibly grateful that we don’t get what we deserve.
This doesn’t mean we are to deny all pleasures and passions and live as Buddhists do. Instead, we are to enjoy the gifts God has given us and we are to be good stewards so that we can be used for His glory. So what does that mean when it comes to self-care?
Jesus showed us how we can serve God while taking care of ourselves. Throughout the New Testament, we see examples of Jesus taking time to get away from the crowds to either rest or to spend time with the Father. Jesus didn’t indulge in sinful delights in an effort to refuel. He focused on being still. God knew that we would grow tired and weary and that is why he created the Sabbath.
We live in a culture of busyness. We don’t really know what it means to be still. I believe as Christians, we can best take care of ourselves by living the Sabbath. Our bodies require rest. Our souls crave time with God. We need to get away from others and practice the spiritual disciplines.
In seminary, one of my professors assigned us to spend six hours alone with God. SIX HOURS! Honestly, I kind of dreaded it because what would I do for SIX HOURS. That time with the Lord was the sweetest ever. I prayed. I sang, and read the Word. I listened. I hiked and marveled at God’s creation, and even more at the Creator.
Self-care involves practicing the spiritual disciplines and making time to rest. I teach my counseling students the importance of self-care. I can only hope that they will prioritize stillness as a necessary part of their mental healthcare.
Dr. Natalie Ford is Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science at TMU, author of Tears to Joy: Finding Hope in the Presence of Bipolar Disorder and Suicide and freelance writer on her website Tears of Joy.