Jesus and Self-Care
Are we missing something?
As Christians, you would think we’d be ahead of the curve when it comes to self-care. So many directives for taking care of our bodies and minds can be found also as biblical directives: Where self-care focuses on ways to eat well, sleep and exercise, the Bible tells us that we are the temple of the living God and to take care of that temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20); where self-care focuses on developing strategies and discipline to centre and ground ourselves to discover hope, healing and stability from some place within, we have the Holy Spirit within, who counsels and guides us and makes us feel whole and loved (John 16:13); and where self-care strives to manage and eliminate stress, we have the commandment to cast all our cares on him (1 Peter 5:7). Frankly, with the God of the universe on our side, we should be smashing it in the self-care game! (Rom. 8:31)
In case you need a little help, a quick Google search reveals a full quota of books and articles pointing the way. Christian authors demonstrate the biblical imperative to care for your “self” and help you tackle the taboo of focusing too much on your own wellbeing. The litany of steps, habits, biblical secrets, keys, promises and attitudes all point you in the right direction to achieve that breakthrough: better thoughts and attitudes, greater discipline and happiness. If you need still more help to show how ahead of the curve you are as a Christian, don’t worry, there are also several Christian and secular aps that will blink, beep, record, track, monitor and remind when and how to “self-care.”
These resources highlight how faith can be an invaluable resource to help us manage the stressors of life. They contain sound, biblical counsel and indeed offer good advice on how to apply the key principles of the Christian faith to life. They are great tools – when used appropriately and not simply adding another task to our already lengthy to-do lists.
It seems the taboo of “self” in self-care has turned a corner for Christians. Christian self-help books seem to be declaring in unison, that finally, we too can self-care and do it guilt free if approaching it from a perspective of faith. And with the God of the universe behind and ahead of us, it seems certain that Christians have schooled the self-care movement. It is said, afterall, that those who are religiously active are the happiest, according to a study by the Pew Research Centre. Faith, it seems, is an invaluable resource to help us manage the stressors of life.
So, how’s it working for you? Are you a beacon of light in self-care?
If you hesitated to answer or think you may not be doing so well, you’re not alone: 76 percent of Christians say they wished they had a closer relationship with God, according to CROP, a research and consulting firm based in Quebec. And it’s no secret that even pastors show high rates of stress, depression, burnout and being spiritually undernourished.
The authors within the Christian self-help movement point out we are not gaining the benefits of self-care because we are not fully applying the key principles of faith to our life. But is our relationship with God really only reliant upon “fully applying principles” of our faith?
A more critical point is this: the absence of Christ. It’s not that Jesus is not mentioned amongst the self-care gurus. There are more than enough scriptural references and pointers about what Jesus says and expects of us in the how-to guides. However, amongst the tips and steps of self-care, there is very little mention of the transformative power in the name and blood of Jesus. Couple this with an increasing trend by Canadians to believe in a force that connects us to nature (according to CROP), the universe and everything in it, rather than the power of God and the sacrifice of Christ, and a very different picture of the self-care movement for Christians comes into focus.
If the transformative power of Christ is not active in our lives, then attempts to care for ourselves become just another tool to buoy our faith.
If we believe in a force in the universe, in addition to (or, for some, in place of) God, then we diminish His power and search for other ways to change.
“If God had a ‘thumbs up’ button, I’d know how things were going everyday – it would be like knowing what God thought, but straight away,” reflected a young friend of mine, when I asked how her relationship with God was going.
“Yeah, I ask Alexa [the virtual assistant powered by Amazon] to give me motivation each day, some scriptures or something, that helps me stay focused,” her friend added.
When pressed further about what God was working on in their lives, the women listed their prayer requests: a new job, a place at university, a relationship, better health, better quiet time, more discipline. Eagerly waiting on God for an answer that God was working in their lives.
Only 22 percent of those who are religiously committed told CROP they believed in the God presented by the church, and 35 percent say they have constructed their own image of God.
Perhaps it’s time to consider whether we have adopted a secular approach to self-care afterall, reducing our relationship with God to a list of guides and steps and merely put a Christian label on it. Have we reduced Jesus to an external motivator? Have we side lined Jesus as “the help”?
Christ promised salvation and as part of the package, He delivers a transformed life. However, a transformed life does not come from behaving, it comes from beholding. If we are to make the shift and take Jesus off the sidelines and make him central to the game, we need to engage in a true relationship with God. Rather than viewing Christ as a kick in the pants every now and then to take some time to have a bubble bath, go for a walk, or read a book under a shady tree, we need to learn about and seek who God is.
God’s way of relationship and change is different to the world’s. A transformed mind cannot be achieved merely through self-care; but, a transformed mind will lead you to new habits and thoughts that ultimately alter the way you care for yourself and others.