Over the last few years, I’ve heard a number of people emphasize the importance of self care. The idea used to be foreign to me, yet I’ve come to see that self care is a key factor in how many people schedule their time. And for good reason.
Self care is an application of the biblical principle of rest. We see rest incorporated into the design of creation in Genesis 2 and into the Law of God in Exodus 20. Jesus elaborates on the intention behind God’s design when he tells the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), and he shows how the design is applied when he calls his disciples away from the crowds to rest (Mark 6:31).
Rest, biblically, is an act of faith. We cease from our work for a time because we know the faithfulness of God to ultimately accomplish his work in and through us. The success of his mission depends on his ability through us, not on ours alone. Such truths bring peace to our anxious minds and troubled hearts, allowing us to do our work with joy as we remember that our God is in control. As my friend Montray describes it, self-care is also an act of loving the Lord with one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27). We take care of ourselves so that we may serve the Lord to best of our abilities, knowing that he gives rest to his people as they engage in his work, as it is written,
“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
So whether you write or sing or exercise or read, whether you steal away to a quiet place by yourself or spend time with friends and family, your care for yourself helps you to rest in the Lord, to Sabbath well. Self care, then, is a very good thing.
As in all of our pursuits, however, we face the danger of corruption here. As the flesh may distort love to incite lust or may distort religion to become legalism, so the flesh may distort rest to become laziness. We can grow to love sleep too much, moving beyond healthy rest to unhealthy inaction (Proverbs 6:10-11). We can begin to focus more on our desires for fulfillment rather than actually finding provision through God-ordained work (Proverbs 13:4). Practically, this may simply mean that we devote more time to leisure than to the Lord, more time to pastimes than to the pursuit of his glory. When self care becomes an excuse to avoid the work to which God has called us, we need to reevaluate our priorities and test our hearts before the Lord.
In Christ, however, believers are freed from sin to live to God. As Paul warned the Galatians, “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh” (Galatians 5:13), a call Christians can fulfill because sin no longer has dominion in our lives (Romans 6:14). Be aware of temptations to turn rest into laziness, remembering that God will always provide a way of escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). And rest well, caring for yourself as you learn to walk as Jesus walked.
This week, take some time to rest in the Lord. Trust that he is still in control even when you cease from labor. And rejoice in a God who gives rest to his people in the midst of their busyness.