Stephanie was considering what self-care looks like for an expectant mother of six. You moms know how she feels. To help work through things, she put her thoughts onto paper. She shared it with me and said I could share it with you.
What do you think of when you think of self-care? Do you think of coffee with a friend, a hot bath and cup of cocoa, time to do projects like scrapbooking or reading? Maybe exercising or eating healthy?
Well, self-care is just that. Care of self. It’s just another way of saying Me-time. Time for Me. Time to do things that I want to do. I… Me… Self.
Do those words sound like they should be the focus of a Christ-filled heart? Self-care is an affluent mentality of entitlement.
Over the years, I have tried different methods of self-care. We have six children and are expecting another, ages nine to zero. No twins, just careful, intentional spacing for a close-knit family. But this has meant that I have felt overwhelmed quite often in the last ten years.
From what I heard others talking about and what I had read, I thought that if I would make sure to take time for myself and things I love to do, then I would feel rested and content to serve my family and give them the care they need.
Exercise is important, everyone knows that, so in order to have the energy to care for my children, I needed to take time to walk or do strength training. In order to feel fulfilled, I needed to find something creative to do to keep my mind healthy. Are these truly biblical principles for a godly mother to follow?
Let’s look at what the Bible says about self-care.
““Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.””
1 Timothy 4:8 NLT
“Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
Luke 9:23 NLT
“She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.”
Proverbs 31:15, 27 NLT
What do these verses mean for my everyday activities? Am I never to have time for myself? Well, what did Jesus do when he needed time alone, away from the crowds of people who wanted his attention?
“After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”
Mark 6:46 NLT
“One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.”
Luke 6:12 NLT
“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.”
Mark 1:35 NLT
“The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them.
Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
He talked with His father to get the strength to keep doing His Father’s will. But sometimes the crowds followed Him into His quiet place. Did He always send them away? No, He had compassion and love for them.
Where should our strength come from? A good novel that has unrealistic characters? A good heart-to-heart with our best girlfriend to unload our discontent? Or should we be filling up with the wisdom and spirit of the One who made us and has everything we need to meet our duties cheerfully and willingly?
A Christian’s calling is to die to self. Is dying fun? Or relaxing? How can we kill our fleshy desires and take up our cross and follow Christ, when we NEED time to do our own things?
What is my job as a mother? Or an oldest child? Or a grandma? We’re each in a different stage of life and have responsibilities and jobs that can drain our strength and cheerfulness. How do we face each day with a smile and a song, ready to bless those we come in contact with?
God calls us to serve. Whether you have one child or a dozen or none. We cannot give if we are empty. So fill up with the one thing in the world that will never run out!
Spend time with God, meaningful time. Praying for others takes our mind off our own struggles and puts our lives in perspective. Singing a hymn keeps our thoughts on the One who watches over us.
Getting the children singing keeps them happily occupied and gives our minds a boost. Ask God for wisdom and peace and strength and joy and all the things we lack so much of.
“The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”
Galatians 5:17 NLT
If we are filling up our Self with leisure and the things that the world around us is promoting, we will be empty of anything worth giving. Does that mean we shouldn’t take a relaxing bath or have coffee with friends or go on vacation? No. Are there times where we need a break? Yes.
But the Bible says that anything that comes between you and your relationship with God is an idol. The importance we put on our self-care can draw us away from the Source of all care and strength. If we want to be effective Christians we are to be Spirit-filled, not focused on our selves.
“Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”
Romans 13:14 NLT
Our rejuvenating needs to come from time with God. If I feel anger getting out of control, or feel panicky at how much I need to accomplish in a couple hours, it is helpful to step away from the situation to pray and think objectively instead of emotionally.
A friend of mine likes to take what she calls minute-vacations. For example, step outdoors to admire the sunset and praise God for the beauty of creation. Pick a bouquet of flowers and give them to your neighbor. Text someone and tell them how much you appreciate them. Step out of your routine to do something for someone else.
Thinking of others is a wonderful way to break the selfish cycle. God will bless you and take care of you far better than you can.
For myself, taking a nap is very important to my emotional health. I take time while the children are sleeping to lie down for half an hour so that I do not feel so drained in the evening. But there are days when a nap is not an option. If I’m not careful, I can excuse any cranky behavior because I didn’t rest.
I can feel entitled to that half hour. But we are not entitled to anything in this life. Do we need those times alone to be happy? If we cannot be content in our place and willingly sacrifice for our families, we are saying that we are more important than the calling of God.
Our purpose is to bring glory to God. And He gets more glory by showing Himself strong through our weaknesses. If we are always strong enough by ourselves, He can’t work in us.
“Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”
Psalms 55:22 NLT
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.””
Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
1 Peter 5:6-7 NLT
Jesus calls us to lay down our overwhelming situations and the cares of our hearts and accept His rest. Have faith in His ability to take care of you. And if you have opportunity to sit and chat over coffee, thank God for His care. Search your heart and ask God to show you how to be a blessing and how to keep self from being an idol.
“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
Romans 8:6 NLT