What is Self-Care Supposed to Look Like?
Guys, I have wrestled with this question for years. Honestly. It’s a thing. Some of the questions I’ve asked are: is self-care selfish? Is it necessary? How am I supposed to pour out onto other people when I’m empty? How often should self-care be put in place? Again, is it selfish?
I think I finally have an answer. “Self” care is a very tricky thing. There’s a hard balance here, and I want to make it abundantly clear. And just to clarify, this applies to Christians only.
Yes, self-care is selfish. There we go. I said it. Self-care is selfish.
How can that be when so many ministries and Christian leaders encourage self-care? They say that we can’t only look after other people all the time, we’ll just get burnt out! And then it’ll be impossible to love and serve other people.
Listen, I don’t claim to be an expert here. I don’t know all the ins and outs, the ups and downs, or the t’s and i’s. But I do know this: we are not meant to focus on ourselves. We are not supposed to be self-reliant. We do not have the ability to make ourselves happy.
Self-care has deeply rooted itself in the Christian community, for all the reasons I’ve provided and more. It sounds very promising and encouraging when put in the light of “I can serve so much better when I’m filled up.” This may be true, but ultimately, who is the center of focus here? I’ll give you a hint, the answer is not other people. Something I’ve noticed is I cannot get enough of self-care. The more I take care of myself, the more I only want to take care of myself. It takes my gaze off of God and others and onto myself. It then becomes an excuse to not serve. (Ellie can testify to the truth of this!)
I have not found a verse in the Bible that says to take some time to care for yourself. Actually, it says the opposite. It says that we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19); it is no longer us who live but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). We cannot use our freedom to serve ourselves, but through love, serve and seek the best for one another (Galatians 5:13). And it says God will give us the power and the desire to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13)!
“But He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
When we live on the edge of our own power, it forces us to rely on God. When we operate totally outside of our own abilities, that’s when God’s strength is revealed in our weakness. God gives us the strength to do all things, even serve and love when we are emotionally burnt out. And there is sweet, sweet unity with Christ when we live this way! We can be blown away by the power of God working through us! When we allow that to happen, we become more focused on God, who then focuses our attention on others.
That is what should make Christians stand out! We are able to keep going when no one else can. We can serve and love in the midst of total burnout because it is not us, it’s God. We never focus on ourselves, we count others’ needs as more important than our own. What an incredible testimony to the love and power of Christ! Glory be to God!
Here is where the balance is, though. The Bible does say that we should take some time to rest and spend time with God. He created the Sabbath for us to do just that (Mark 2:27)! He encourages us to draw near to Him (James 4:8), to abide in Him (John 15:4), and to cast all of our anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7).
Self-care should not be us focusing on us. That only makes us more self-reliant. True self-care should be reflecting on who God is and His power. It should be spending time with Him and asking Him for strength. We do need to take a break and rest, absolutely. However, we need to recognize that it is not us taking the time or the self-care things we’re doing that re-energize us. It’s all God.
Is there anything wrong with doing things we enjoy and feeling satisfaction in doing them? No, not at all! But it’s when we think we need those things in order to serve God that it becomes wrong. God is all we need. He has the power. He has the strength. He has promised both to us when we come to Him and rely solely on Him.
“And if you offer yourself to [assist] the hungry
And satisfy the need of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”