For some, the word self-care conjures up images of spa days and shopping trips.
For others, it looks more like prioritizing mental health over unhealthy relationships.
What may seem like common sense necessity for one person, may come across as over-indulgent for another. For Christians, it can be particularly difficult to know where we balance our families, our callings, and our ministries with our health. Some Christians even go so far as to say self-care is selfish and unbiblical.
While Jesus was on earth, He set an example of living every minute in service to God and others. There’s no mention of frivolous spending or removing “toxic” people (note Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial). Is there room in a Christian’s life for self-care?
Jesus didn’t focus so much on self-care.
But He did make space in his life for Spirit Care.
The defining point between how Jesus exercised self-care and how we have come to view it is that His acts of self-care were, in truth, a way for Him to better care for others. We all know how it feels to be “running on empty.” God knows this happens to us and, through Jesus, has made a way that we can be filled at all times. There are even examples in Jesus’ life of how to care for our spirits so we can better serve our Father and others.
Don’t worry about other people’s expectations.
From the time Jesus was a young boy, He was busy breaking the norms. It certainly worried his mother (Luke 2:41-52). It also didn’t make the religious leaders of the time too happy (Luke 11:37-54). Jesus wasn’t concerned with what others thought of Him. He was free to do the work and to live the way He was meant to.
When we focus on what others expect of us, we put ourselves under pressure we were never meant to be under. When we listen to God’s expectations, He tells us what we should be doing and how we should do it. Prioritizing God’s desires for us rather than other people’s gives us the freedom to be and do what we were created for with no stress or anxiety.
Don’t give into lies or manipulation.
Those same religious men who didn’t like Jesus marching to the beat of His own drum also weren’t too keen on His teaching. When they tried manipulating Him (Mark 12:13-17), He had a perfect way of dealing with it. He told the truth.
Toxicity comes into relationships wherever there are lies. People who run on fear rather than truth often try to twist conversations or circumstances into shapes they’re more comfortable with. But the Bible affirms that truth sets us free. When we hold fast to the truth, nobody holds power over us. We have peace. With that peace, we can love others and better discern God’s guidance.
Form close connections.
Among Jesus’ thousands of followers were a selection of friends. In that group were twelve disciples. Of those twelve were Peter, James, and John. These three men were the ones Jesus spent the most time with and trusted the most. They were with him during His transfiguration (Matt. 17:1) and in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:37). Even though Jesus was perfect and His friends were clearly not, His closeness with them showed us our need to connect with others.
We were put on this planet to care for each other. As we gain and lose friendships, it’s easy to build up walls and keep people at a distance. It can be tempting to want to maintain a certain persona and avoid authenticity. But the closest people in our lives are there to encourage, counsel, and can even kick us in the pants when we need them to. In a culture that values image and numbers above all else, we need people to truly know us and lift us up.
Store up treasures in Heaven.
Jesus never had much—even going so far as to say He had no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). In Matthew 6, He tells us about storing up treasures in Heaven—putting value in God’s purpose for us rather than in possessions or prestige. Jesus spent some time highly honored (Matt. 21: 8-11), but by the time He went to the cross, He had nothing but a few remaining followers. His treasure wasn’t on Earth. His treasure was in His purpose. His purpose was His love. And His love was for us.
The most fulfilling thing we can do for our spirits is to remove our focus from what we possess and planting it firmly on God’s purpose for our lives. Like Jesus and His disciples, sometimes that can look like giving up comfort or even dignity. But we gain our true purpose and value. Instead of chasing never-ending desires, we can rest in what we were made to do.
Don’t be anxious.
One of my favorite images of Jesus is when He was asleep on a tiny boat in the middle of a raging storm (Mark:35-41). While His disciples scrambled with the sails, they called out for help. Jesus rose, then maybe He yawned and stretched before He told the sea to quiet down. It did.
This image of Jesus tells us two things. First, whatever storms seem to be blowing, God has them well in hand. He clothes the flowers (Luke 12:27); will he not clothe us? Worrying won’t add a single day to our lives (Luke 12:25-26); so why bother? He never leaves nor forsakes us (Deut. 31:6). He is with us in all of it. He comforts. He teaches. He quiets the wind and moves the mountains.
The second thing this story illustrates is that God listens. When we tell Him our fears and ask Him for help, He does. Help doesn’t always look like or come in the time we hope for, but we are always in good hands. By releasing our fears and choosing to trust a God bigger than our storms, our peace can’t be taken.
It’s okay to get away sometimes, as long as you’re not alone.
Jesus had a lot of people around, crowding Him, reaching for Him, tugging on his clothes, and begging for help (What parent can’t relate?). He loved them. He gave Himself constantly, even to the cross for them. But Jesus also took time to himself (Luke 5:16). He would withdraw from all the chaos and noise, stepping away from the needs of others to pray.
It’s okay if we get tired. It’s okay if we need some time to ourselves—but not in neglect to those who need us. Our spirits need to be alone with God, to reflect on where we are, to cast down our burdens, to ask forgiveness, to be encouraged, to gain wisdom, and to remember who we belong to. Without the vine, the branch withers (John 15:4). For some, this may look like a spa day or a vacation, or even a few extra moments in the bathroom. Whatever it takes, time with the Father is what we need most.
When we are cared for, we can care for others
Our culture’s need for self-care often stems from burnout. We’re working all hours. We have kids and responsibilities. We spend hours browsing, scrolling, and comparing. We forget we have the freedom to rest at Jesus’ feet, that we have true purpose, and that no lie or anxiety has power over us.
More than anything, Jesus never forgot who He was. The Son of God. The true King. On the cross, He was able to endure and even forgive because He knew truth. Selfcare isn’t in what we can do for ourselves, but in what we remember God does for us.