“Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good healthy physically just as you are spiritually.” — 3 John 1:2 (HCSB)
There is a story of a woman who was overheard saying, “Tom, stop your whining right now and get in the car or we are going to be late for church!” The response came, “But I’m too tired. I don’t want to go! They don’t even like me there!” With one hand on her hip and the other hand pointing to the car, the woman stomped her tiny foot decked out in it’s Sunday’s best heels as she said, “But you are the pastor! Get in the car!”
Overworked and underpaid. Too busy and too tired. These phrases are the mantra of people in ministry and helping professions. It just seems there is not enough time in the day or energy within our bodies to give to every need and every person that requires our attention. We open the Word of God, looking for that next message to give to His people and wonder where the excitement went that we once felt. The sad result is people God has called and set apart to serve Him are getting burned out or they experience compassion fatigue and they have nothing left to give – so they give up and walk away from the calling God has given them. When they walk away, how many people may end up dying lost and without Jesus, because the sermon that wasn’t preached or the conference session that wasn’t given, or the book wasn’t written, or the Sunday school class wasn’t taught that would have been the moment that person said yes to Jesus? Burnout and compassion fatigue not only carries a cost on those it attacks but it also has a higher cost on the people around those who suffer from it. For them, it could be an eternal cost.
The sad result is people God has called and set apart to serve Him are getting burned out or they experience compassion fatigue and they have nothing left to give – so they give up and walk away from the calling God has given them.
— click to tweet
Revitalizing your calling begins with a revival of your own heart, but also through self-care practices. When someone mentions the concept of “self-care” what do you think about? Take a moment and think about how you would answer.
Some people have a difficult time with the concept of self-care because they see it as being selfish or indulgent, particularly in a ministry or helping profession. Self-care is not wasteful spending on expensive bath products, luscious chocolates, high-end name brand clothing, and high-thread-count sheets.
Christians who struggle with the idea of self-care believe that they are called to care for others and others should come first rather than indulging self. They may look to Scriptures like Philippians 2:4 which says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others.” Or they turn in their Bibles to 1 Corinthians 10:24, which says, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” Yes, God calls every Christian to:
- Carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
- Love one another with brotherly affection (Romans 12:10)
- Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10)
- Encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31)
- Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another (Ephesians 4:32)
The reality, however, is that we cannot meet all these characteristics of caring for others day after day, again and again, if we do not take care of ourselves too. How can we be mentally, physically, and spiritually ready to take care of others if we are stressed out, burned out, and ready to walk away? Every Christian is called to care for others, but because God has called us to a ministry or helping profession, we bare more of this responsibility and it can take its toll.
Is Self-Care Biblical? Can we find in the Bible that practicing self-care is Biblical? Because we are created by his hand and we are his temple, we are to bring Him glory and God expects us to take care of ourselves. Consider the following verses:
- Psalm 139:13-14 – “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.”
- Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
- 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 – “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Let me ask the question another way: If someone asked you, “Do you take care of yourself?” what would your response be? You might say that you try to eat healthy, exercise, shower daily, brush your teeth, get an annual physical, and get enough sleep. If you were thinking spiritually, you might also add that you read your Bible and spend time in prayer every day and attend church every Sunday. Are there other things you do to take care of yourself? If so, what are they?
All of these things are ways we take care of ourselves, but as the infomercials say, “But wait! There’s more!” In a nutshell, self-care is any deliberate action we take to help maintain a healthy spiritual, sensory, emotional, physical, and social well-being. It’s about being as kind to yourself as you would be to others. It’s knowing when your resources are running low and taking time to step back to replenish them rather than to keep on giving of yourself until you have nothing left to give. It is making a daily, active choice to engage in self-care practices that will help you maintain an optimal level of empathy, energy, and servant’s heart to keep on keeping on in your ministry field.
Self-care is any deliberate action we take to help maintain a healthy spiritual, sensory, emotional, physical, and social well-being. It’s knowing when your resources are running low & taking time to replenish them. — click to tweet
Good self-care is the key to improving and revitalizing the ministries to which God has called us. By practicing self-care, we can improve our mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and either avoid burnout and/or compassion fatigue or find recovery so that we can continue doing the ministry to which God has called us.
Practicing self-care does not mean that we will never feel stress. Rather its about keeping ourselves at the “top of our game,” always ready to serve when God places another person in our path that he wants us to minister to. Self-care allows us to better manage the stress, trauma, and demands that caring for others brings.
Since God created us, He understands the limitations of our human bodies and minds. The prophet, Isaiah, wrote, “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11). Paul wrote in Hebrews 4:9-11, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Each one of us needs rest from time to time. When we find ourselves in a season of “scorched places” we need to take time to step aside and be replenished and then our ministries will become well-watered once again. By continually practicing self-care, we can be like that spring whose waters do not fail. Our bodies often tell us when we reach this place of “scorchness” but if we are listening to the Holy Spirit, he will guide us and let us know that it’s time we practice self-care before our bodies experience the result of stress and the physical ailments that stress brings.
Paul told Timothy not to neglect the gift he had been given (1 Timothy 4:14-15). God does not want you to neglect your gift either. When burnout and/or compassion fatigue strikes, the result is neglecting the gift and calling that God has given you. If your doctor tells you to not neglect your health, what he is telling you is to take better care of yourself. God wants us to take better care of the gifts and callings He has given each one of us. Just as caring for our bodies requires discipline to do the hard and sometimes even boring things that are good for us, so does practicing self-care for our spiritual, sensory, emotional, physical, and social selves.
If we are to not neglect the gifts and calling God has given us, then we also need to see that self-care is not something we do just when life gets crazy. Instead, if we continually practice self-care every day, every week, every month, every year, then we are more likely to see the “well-watered garden” with the spring that doesn’t dry up that Isaiah was talking about. It’s ironic that by practicing self-care we are better able to care for others. Self-care enables us to be in a much better place to give more of ourselves to those that God places in our care. Self-care enables us to do the work God has called us to better and without burning out and walking away from the calling He has given us.
Part of understanding self-care is knowing that there are different “selves” that make up who we are. We have a spiritual self, a sensory self, an emotional self, a physical self, and a social self. Each of these areas need to be tended and cared for if we are to experience the “well-watered garden” Isaiah wrote about. If we neglect just one area, it will affect all the other “selves.” For example, if we neglect our spiritual self, we may not be “tuned-in” in sense when the Holy Spirit is directing our paths. Emotionally, we may be less empathic to the needs of others. Physically, we may be more tempted into some area of sin because we have not been spending time in prayer and Bible study. Socially, we begin to avoid others out of shame or because we don’t want them to point out that we’ve slipped once again.
Practicing self-care, then, means that we are tending every part of who we are so that we do not neglect the gift and calling God has given us and so we are better prepared to use our gifts and callings to help and minister to the people that God places in our path.
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Julia is CEO of Wellspring Christian Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people and couples develop a passionate relationship with God. A public speaker, conference trainer, event planner, and blog writer, Julia is a two-time graduate from Grand Canyon University with a bachelor in Psychology and a masters in Professional Counseling. Saved as a child and raised in church and in a Christian home and private Christian School as a Pastor’s kid, Julia has taught Sunday school, led music, played the piano, served as Children’s Director, and engaged her gifts in many other areas of church life. Previously employed with the Florida Baptist Convention, Julia organized events and led conferences for church ministry assistants.
Julia enjoys sharing her journey as a growing Christian with others looking for a deeper connection with God. Through Bible study and her own life experiences, God has given Julia a passion to help couples understand God’s design for marriage while they learn to place God first in their marriage, cultivate meaningful relationships, build intimacy, and address the tougher issues that come in every marriage so that they can experience a marriage that honors and glorifies God. Julia also loves mentoring, teaching, and working with women to help them learn to live as Godly women.
With her history and experience growing up in both small and large churches, Julia enjoys bringing top level quality events to churches of all sizes. Her father largely pastored small churches and therefore she understands that these vital parts of the believing community need to be good stewards of the resources God provides them with. This knowledge inspires her passion for being available with a fresh perspective for those who want to provide their congregations with meaningful spiritual growth opportunities.
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