I’ve struggled some to write about self-care. I know it’s good. I know that practicing it leads to rejuvenation so that I have something to give. But a friend recently asked me, “Where is self-care in the Bible?” With this question, my friend put into words and pinpointed what I’d been having qualms about. It is clear that the Bible asks Christians to care for others even to the point of sacrificing from ourselves (John 15:13). It’s also clear that we are to love God with our whole being (Luke 10:27). But where does the Bible address self-care?
Well, I really haven’t found it yet. As I scanned the Scripture in my head and reviewed narratives of the Bible, I couldn’t come up with anything that directly addressed the topic of me taking care of myself (but I’m open for commentary on that). However, I couldn’t get past why it rings so true. I know and believe that when we are spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy, we are best able to love and care for others, and have a mind and body that is ripe to love and serve God.
Then Psalm 23 came to mind. “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” (Ps. 23:1 HCSB) What if self-care isn’t really about us taking care of ourselves, but rather, us receiving the good things the Lord has provided?
“He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:2-3
There is an overwhelming sense of care and comfort from the Lord throughout this Psalm. True self-care is is not striving to find ways to do the things we like, escape from the world for a moment, or me even looking out for myself. Self-care is being attuned to the moments the Lord gives me for rest or for restorative activity and embracing that moment.
How to be attuned.
#1: Know what Holy Spirit’s voice sounds like in your life. I really think this is somewhat unique to each person. However, there are some good studies out there that might help you hone in on this if you’re confused. Discerning the Voice of God by Pricilla Shirer is one that I’ve done twice about 10 years apart. It was helpful both times in knowing how Holy Spirit guides us and me personally.
#2: Know what is restful and rejuvenating for you. For some it might be a good book or an episode of a good show. These are fine when not used to numb and avoid. For others it may be coffee with a good friend or going out to a party. I think for everyone it includes both down time and active time. I am personally discovering that cleaning my house a little bit at a time in available moments is rejuvenating and allows me to truly rest when the kids are napping or asleep.
#3: Watch out for the urge to escape. This is often disguised as rest, but is really an avoidance effort. For me escape often looks like mindlessly scrolling through social media going from picture to picture barely even taking the time to look. When I come out of the vortex, I don’t feel rested or relaxed. I feel frustrated that I wasted that time.
So if you’ve ever felt guilty about self-care in the past:
I hope that redefining it in this article has helped you shake off some of that guilt. The Lord wants to take care of you. That word “lead” in Ps. 23:2 has a connotation of leading with gentleness and care. Another place that it is used is Isaiah 40:11:
“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.”
How sweet it is that the Lord wants to tend to us like a nursing ewe!
Be attuned to the little moments and the nice big long ones. Trust that the Lord will give your rest for what you need to accomplish next. I wrote a little about this in Lessons Learned in Labor .
So maybe instead of calling it self-care–as in care I administer to and receive care for myself–we can call it “attunement to and reception of the Lord’s provision of rest and rejuvenation”. That’s SUPER CATCHY! But for real, what would you call this redefined definition of self-care?