I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile, knowing “self-care” is a trendy topic in mommy-circles and beyond.
As a pregnant mother running after a toddler, I totally relate to the yearning for stillness, quiet, and relaxation!
And yet I wrestle with it.
The word “self” in the term has taken me aback a bit, because of its potential for cultivating a selfish mindset. In many portions of Scripture “self” is used with a negative light – i.e. don’t be self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5), self-indulgent (Mark 7:22), and do exercise self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
“Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” Psalm 119:36
With this said, this article is less about the term “self-care” and more about addressing the attitude behind it.
I’m not trying to guilt-trip all you hard-working and exhausted sisters out there. 🙂 As always, I want to be REAL and grasp the freedom we have in Jesus.
The truth is, yes we should pursue proper sleep, hygiene, nutrition, and fellowship with friends so we’re refilled and faithful to God’s calling in our lives. As complex creatures, we have to minister to physical and emotional needs in addition to spiritual.
Sometimes we are in survival mode seasons – like the newborn days or when taking care of a ailing relative. In these times we especially have to admit our limits and call upon our limitless God for added grace.
Yet I want to draw a distinction between a worldly view of “self-care” and what God intended true rest to be.
The rest we can find in the Lord is far richer than any bubble bath, journaling, or Netflix night.
Don’t get me wrong – these are little blessings! And while these activities are not outright sin, there is a subtle pride and self-pity that can sneak behind what many call “me time.”
“Me time” or “self-care” can quickly become an idol in our life if we’re angered by the lack of it or constantly preoccupied with it.
I think the true, heart-revealing question is not “can I have a spa day away from the kids?” but “am I seeking biblical rest? Am I resting in the Lord right now?”
If we think rest is simply doing what we like when we’d like, we can miss out on a much more beautiful definition – to enjoy the most important commandments to love God and love others.
With God, our rest can be more than a temporary break – it can be eternally meaningful.
The reality is it’s OKAY to stop and put our to-do list down not because we “earned it” but because we need Jesus.
We need to entrust our tasks to His hands and be reminded that our life runs on His power and perfection not our own.
If we want to rest biblically, and truly be refreshed to live by God’s Word for God’s glory, we need to take the lens off ourselves and onto Him.
Sister, that’s the best care there is – His!
Wisdom from the Sabbath
As New Testament believers we are not held to the Sabbath (Colossians 2:16-17), but God’s unique directive to the Israelites has much to teach us about the significance and purpose of our rest.
Consider God’s original instructions in the 10 commandments:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates.
11 For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11
Later God instructs Moses: “Tell the Israelites: You must observe my Sabbaths, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, so that you will know that I am the Lord who consecrates you.” Exodus 31:13
The Lord instituted the Sabbath for profound and wonderful reasons:
To set apart a specific time for Israel to worship.
To set Israel apart from other nations by ceasing work and relying on God.
To establish a day for Israel to remember God’s work in their lives.
To have Israel reflect on God being Creator and Sustainer.
It was also communal.
Does this define your rest? Think of it this way:
Rest is time set apart to worship.
Spiritual rest – not striving – sets us apart from the world.
Rest is the chance to remember God’s goodness.
Rest is acknowledging once again that Jesus is Lord.
Rest can involve fellowship.
God took these Sabbath commandments seriously, cautioning Israel about disobeying them numerous times. Why?
Here’s the amazing truth: Rest offers us the opportunity to remember. God ordains rest to nurture contemplation of Him in our hearts.
Israel had to stop their pursuits and wait upon the Lord in obedience each Sabbath. In doing so, they affirmed, “God is first and God is to be trusted. The work can wait.”
Likewise, by purposefully pausing to worship, we admit we cannot do it all. When we drop everything to worship in our rest, we drop our pride…our self-sufficiency. We humble ourselves and seek Him.
In our productivity-driven culture, this biblical concept is good news.
It’s good to rest, because it allows us to intentionally revere and exalt God instead of ourselves.
Opportunities to Rest + Letting Go of Expectations
This is why Sundays at church can be so revitalizing! Setting aside any labors we’ve pursued all week, we can join other believers in admiring the greatness of Christ. We can wholeheartedly seek His throne and lay our spiritual burdens upon Him.
This rest can also happen everyday or at anytime, aside from communal worship on Sundays. Whether you call it “self-care” or “quiet time” or “praying to Jesus while watching my kids play time,” rest is truly about pausing and relishing the spiritual rest you have in Christ. This even includes sleep!
Because of Jesus, you no longer have to strive in this world, because your life is not based on what you do, but on who He is.
Rest is holding your agenda with a loose hand, and reorienting your heart back to the cross and what matters.
We have to let go of preconceived, culture-driven notions that rest is only isolation or indulgence. In fact, great rest – maybe for those extroverts out there…and I challenge the introverts too 🙂 – could be a smores night with families at church or the neighbors next door.
Rest could be sitting down with the Bible, but it could also be letting the laundry sit for one more hour to read books with my daughter.
It could be humming hymns during the daily house sweep.
Rest is about treasuring Christ in the ordinary, and about halting the madness of life to love Him and others.
Like I said at the beginning, it’s not pedicures or mommy night outs that are the problem…we are free to do and enjoy those things!
As always, it’s about the heart. About seeking to embrace this verse in all we do:
“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20