What the Bible says about self-care

When I was a little girl my Grandma used to sing an old Sunday School song about Joy. I can't remember it all exactly, but it basically said that to have a life of JOY you had to put Jesus first, Others next, and Yourself last. While there is some truth to this, putting yourself last all the time is just a recipe for burnout, not joy. 

Stress and burnout are not God's plan for your life. Here are seven truths the Bible says about self-care. #selfcare #stress #burnout #mentalhealth

Self-care is a biblical principle that is God honouring. Selfishness is different to self-care. Being the healthiest, strongest and best version of ourselves is what God desires for us. Here are 7 truths that build a biblical foundation for good self care.

  1. Take a day off

On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy.
— Genesis 2:2-3

From the very beginning of creation, rest was part of the plan. God didn't rest because he was tired, he put a pattern of work and rest in place so that we would be able to thrive and live our lives to the full. God knew that our lives would be like a never-ending treadmill, and without time off to rest, worship and trust in him we would get caught up in a trap of ambitious self sufficiency that would overwhelm us.

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work.
— Exodus 20:8-10

When God was giving his people the 10 commandments, rest was number 4. Think about that for just a moment. When God gave his people the top 10 principles of living well, rest was number 4, right alongside do not murder and do not steel - take a day off. Under the law, failing to take a day off each week was punishable by death. Now, we no longer live under the law, we live under grace, but no one could argue that the 10 commandments are no longer sound godly principles to live by. Try it. Take a day off, and do no work.

2. Spend time with God

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
— Psalm 23:2-3
Be still, and know that I am God!
— Psalm 46:10

The Psalmist knew about the importance of stopping from the worry of life and sitting quietly with God. There are many more examples to choose from - I just picked 2 of the most well known. There is a restoration that takes place when we spend time with God and remember, he is God and we are not. 

3. Don’t worry

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
— Matthew 6:25, 34

Jesus knew we would struggle with worry. There are 15 verses of the Sermon on the Mount about worry. Jesus reassures us that he's got our back - he will provide what we need, and he will never leave us alone to work it all out on our own. It's interesting that Jesus specifically mentions what we wear and what we eat. I don't know about you, but these are huge for me. What will I wear ("Does my bum look big in this?") and what I will eat ("Mum, what's for dinner?") are top of the list of insecurities of my inner world. 

4. Rest

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
— Matthew 11:28

Jesus invites those of us who are weary and burdened to come to him - not for a lesson or a reprimand - for rest. What a beautiful invitation! I think that "weary and carrying heavy burdens" accurately describes the majority of the people I know. Jesus doesn't want this to be our description! He wants to give us rest.

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.
— Luke 10:41-42
Jesus took time out to be alone in the quiet of the early morning to pray. If Jesus needed this time with his father, how much more do I?

When Jesus visited the home of Mary and Martha there was a lot of work to be done, and Martha got right into it. She wasn't just working hard to prepare the meal, she was worried and upset. Sound familiar? Mary, on the other hand, took the opportunity to sit and listen to Jesus, soaking in all of his wisdom. She made a choice to sit at Jesus feet, and Jesus commended her for it. It was an inconvenient choice. There was work to be done. But, there is always work to be done. A woman's work is never done! Sometimes we need to choose to stop work and sit at Jesus feet for a time.

5. Pray

Jesus took time out to be alone and pray. I love my bed. I love sleep. Getting up early is never an easy choice to make for me, and all too often I ignore the prompting and stay in bed. But, when I do manage to get up before the noise and spend quiet time getting my heart and mind in the right place before the day starts I never ever regret it. 

6. Don’t be anxious

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
— 1 Peter 5:7

This is one of my favourite verses! God knows the struggle with anxiety that we face, and he wants to help us, because he cares for us. What a gift! Some days when I feel like I'm drowning in anxiety I literally recite this verse out loud over and over. Usually in the car, or on a walk. Sometime sitting at my desk or working in the kitchen. I picture myself 'casting' (throwing with all of my might) my ball of anxiety to Jesus who is standing at the opposite end of the field calling, "Kick it to me, kick it to me!" 

7. Ask God for Help

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
— Hebrews 4:16

Another absolute favourite verse. I love that God's throne is described as "the throne of grace," and that we are encouraged to go there for mercy and help. There is no fear (go with confidence) no guilt or condemnation, but mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.

Wow! Over and over again God calls us to rest, to stop worrying, to give him our anxiety and to come to him for help. This sounds like a God who cares! But, all this stuff doesn't automatically happen on its own when we put our faith in God. We have to intentionally build self care into our days and weeks. We need to look after ourselves so that we can do all that we are called to do.

These disciplines become easier as we spend regular time with God. Read about the benefits of spending regular time with God in Abide with me and the importance of rest in Be still.