Jesus and Selfcare
1 Kings 19:7, "Then the angel of the LORD came again and touched him and said, 'Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you'” (NLT).
Self-care. Some churches are embracing it. Others are bitterly renouncing it by declaring it selfish and ungodly.
While I agree that some secular forms of self-care can encourage ungodly behavior (the kind that focus on trying to find satisfaction and fulfillment through luxury and pleasure, indulging to the point of lustful entitlement; following whatever desires enter your heart at any time, etc), I also believe God has called us to be good stewards of our own bodies and that responsibility requires some forms of self-care.
Rest is not ungodly. Jesus went off to be alone with God. He took naps. He reclined and ate with His friends. He also expressed concern for the crowds of people who came to listen to Him, insisting that they take care of themselves by eating a good meal before they left. He said in Matthew 15:32, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way” (NLT).
Selfcare is also found in the old testament. One of my favorite stories is about Elijah when he's wandering in the wilderness suffering from deep depression. What does God do? Tell him to snap out of it and get to work? No. God tells him to eat food, drink water, and rest. And after he rests God tells him to eat again. He says, "Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you."
There is a journey ahead. And that journey will require sacrificial love, humble service, bold acts of faith, and many other valiant godly things. But that journey cannot happen until something else happens first: selfcare.
God created our bodies to need rest and selfcare. He made us fragile on purpose. When we take the time to care for our own minds and bodies we are, in fact, acting in trust towards God.
By resting we are admitting we are weak and fragile and we can't do it all on our own. By taking care of our bodies we are admitting that the journey ahead will be too much for us on our own strength. Resting in God means surrendering our inclination to fix it all by ourselves and trusting God to be God in our absence from the situation.
Isaiah 30:15-18 has some strong words to say about the importance of rest. It says, "This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.' But you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt. They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’ But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you! One of them will chase a thousand of you. Five of them will make all of you flee. You will be left like a lonely flagpole on a hill or a tattered banner on a distant mountaintop.' So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help" (NLT).
Trying to do life on our own without resting in God and taking care of ourselves in the ways He instructs us to is ungodly. And it will be our ruin. Working and striving. Strategizing and planning. Coming up with all kinds of ways to save ourselves or to make things the best they can be. And all by our own strength. And beneath that so-called strength is a streak of pride and self-sufficiency.
On the other hand, resting in God is true godliness and requires humility, worship, and obedience. Humility to admit how small and frail we are and how inadequate we are for the task ahead. Worship by recognizing that it is God who gives us strength, and that He is in control of the situation. And obedience by doing what He tells us to do... and one of the things He tells us to do is to take care of our minds and bodies.
In Romans 12:1 Paul says, "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him" (NLT).
You want to worship God and bring Him the utmost glory with your life? Take care of your body. You want to be able to do whatever He wants you to do, as well as He wants you to do it, for as long as possible? Take care of your body. This might mean changes in nutrition or exercise. It might mean long naps or going to sleep earlier instead of staying up all night trying to solve the worlds' problems. It might mean walking away from the crowds of people vying for your attention and your assistance and getting alone with God instead, trusting that He is capable to take of them while you rest in Him.
Question: How has this week been for you? Have you been able to rest and take care of yourself? Or do you feel like you've spent all your strength trying to keep things together?
Matthew 11:28, "Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (NLT).
Matthew 11:29, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (NIV).
Psalm 37:7, "Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes" (NLT).