In 2018 I did a lot of healing. It’s a vulnerable thing to admit. There was a lot of self-evaluation, reprioritizing, goal setting, and evaluating Christian self-care. I had become a different person, and it was uncomfortable to admit.
We all go through seasons in our lives and it’s healthy to take time and evaluate how we got there. Are we are thriving? Do things need to change? Along my journey, I realized that I had let go of many things that made me ‘Rachael’. I was not thriving. I needed to learn to cultivate again the things in life I used to love.
I had stopped eating healthy. I had stopped reading. I had stopped doing daily devotions. I had stopped gardening. I had stopped hiking. I had stopped exercising. I gave birth to my son at 253 pounds. I was miserable. All the above-mentioned things had been replaced by things I thought were more important. As I evaluated, I concluded that I had let go of the things that were most important to sustaining my inner core.
I realized I had let go of self-care.
Even as I write that sentence, I cringe.
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I hate the term self-care. Not because it is not needed, but because it’s often elevated to a place of such importance that it becomes the ultimate. The ultimate is not us. The ultimate is Jesus Christ. The ultimate is turning my affections, my life, and my dreams toward the sustainer and redeemer of my life.
When we focus on self-care with the intention of finding rest in ourselves, we will eventually fail. It may not be right away but finding rest in ourselves will not fulfill us because we fail. We sin. However, if we practice self-care for the purpose of finding rest in Jesus Christ, who is the only and ultimate rest, we will find rest.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”1 Corinthians 10:33 ESV
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”Matthew 11:28-30
The Best Christian Self-Care Tip
The greatest Christian self-care tip I can give myself and others is to draw upon the ocean of God’s sustaining grace. The self-care movement seeks to draw into and find fulfillment in one’s self. However, the Bible is very clear that we cannot fulfill ourselves.
The world is not a healing place. In fact, it is just the opposite. Even science will agree that every living creature is in a constant state of decay. The daily grind of life wears on us. The world practices self-care because there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we practice our days.
The world grinds us down to the point of exhaustion. Therefore, we are told to take some time to practice self-care. Get a massage, listen to a meditation track, exercise, and focus on yourself.
The mission of self-care is to take care of yourself so your daily grind can again wear you out and therefore you must practice self-care again to replenish your drained reserves. Do you see the backward cycle?
Let’s stop for a second because I know some of you are frustrated with me. Self-care is not in and of itself a bad thing. But when our intentions are so focused on bettering ourselves, we forget our purpose in life is for the glory of God.
So where do we find self-care? Where do we turn when our lives seem to be falling apart? Do we just keep pouring into others and letting life drain us? Of course not.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with thanksgiving let you request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
Finding our Self-Care in Gratitude
Do you want to lower your stress levels? Practice gratitude. There are numerous studies that indicate that gratitude has a positive neurological and physical response. One study from the National Institute of Health (Zahn et al, 2009) indicated that when practicing gratitude subjects had higher levels of activity in their hypothalamus. I had never heard of the hypothalamus, so I had to do a little research. The google definition is
a region of the forebrain below the thalamus which coordinates both the autonomic nervous system and the activity of the pituitary, controlling body temperature, thirst, hunger, and other homeostatic systems, and involved in sleep and emotional activity.Google Definition of “hypothalamus”
Interesting that practicing gratitude has such a fundamental effect on so many systems. I had to revisit the word homeostatic and realized it simply is referring to the body’s ability to provide balance and stability to its cells.
That totally made sense to me, not because science proved to me a new fundamental, but because science backed up a scripture passage, I already knew and loved. Funny how what the bible has been saying for decades is, science will eventually back up. Let’s revisit Philippians 4:6-7 and pay attention to the last part.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
Science tells us that when we practice gratitude, we will reap benefits because our hypothalamus engages and as a result, our stress levels and body will benefit positively. The Bible tells us that when we practice prayer and communion with God, the peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds.
Sounds like God’s all-sustaining grace is our equilibrium. Notice that when our hearts turn toward God our self-care is taken care of by the power of God.
Practice gratitude daily. It’s simple. Just take a moment at any point to pray and give thanks to God for all he has given you. Bam. Self-care. But instead of inward centered it’s upward.
How did Jesus do Self Care?
Did Jesus practice Christian self-care? I think we can safely say yes. However, nowhere in the Bible does the phrase ‘Christian self care’ appear. Unless I have missed a major part of the Bible! However, there are many stories and instances where self-care seems to be practiced. Jesus lived a life of gratitude. He spoke words of gratitude to his Father in heaven on a daily basis. This is one of the great Christian self-care examples from Jesus that I personally see.
Something else that I think Jesus did well and we don’t often talk about it, is creating boundaries and saying ‘no’. Gary Thomas talks about this in one of his newer books called “When to Walk Away.” His insightful conclusion that Jesus did in fact set boundaries for himself has helped countless people understand that it can be healthy to take care of ourselves and it is not in fact a selfish practice if done correctly!
Christian Self Care Habits
Anything that we practice can be a means to joy if it is centered on the all-sustaining grace of Jesus Christ. Do you remember in my introduction all the things that I had ‘let go of’ that made me ‘Rachael’? I had let go of habits that brought me joy.
They brought me joy because they were the habits that God had gifted and created in me to glorify him. The things that bring you peace and joy will be different than mine because God created you uniquely and beautifully different. He created you.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2 ESV
When I go on hikes, I love the exhilarating rush of excitement by being in nature. There is a certain euphoria I get by breathing in the creation of God. That is always how it has been. From the time I was little, I had an ingrained need to enjoy outdoor exercise. God created me that way. By practicing the things that God created in me not only am I replenishing myself, but I am glorifying my creator.
Do you see how simple self-care really is? Self-care is simply practicing the habits and gifts that God has placed in us. By those means, we take care of ourselves and glorify God.
Three Tips for Christian Self Care
It’s that simple.
- Find joy in enjoying the habits, talents, and gifts God has given you.
- Give gratitude back to God
- Rest in his peace
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.1 Peter 5:7-9
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.Psalm 139:13-14
Have you struggled with self-care in the past, but would like to embark on biblical self-care? One of my favorite resources is Undoubted Grace. Ashely specializes in offering self-care tips to busy moms. She recently released a self-care journal on Etsy that I think is stellar!