With the start of a new year, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter are flooding with ways people can make self-care a priority in their lives. Self-care is the idea that a person can deal with the stresses of life with easy, practical habits. Ways to practice self-care are simple: eat well, exercise, sleep eight hours a night, talk a walk, slow down, read a book, reduce stress, call a friend, write your feelings in a journal, do what you need to do to unwind, take time for yourself etc.
Now, I am a huge fan of self-care. I have spent the past six months learning how important self-care is for me, accepting my emotions, and fighting for health and stability on a daily basis. I have two auto-immune diseases that need attention and healthy habits for healing; I take a pill every day to keep my anxiety and depression in check and taking a walk helps when I feel it creeping in. I meal plan, exercise, and get a full night’s rest because I know that is what I need. Self-care is a vital part of my life.
But I take a slight issue with self-care. It forces a person to look for healing and hope out of their own strength. It forces us to ignore the issue of the heart and fill the void to get our mind off what the heart is needing to deal with. It is keeping focus on ourselves instead of the Lord. It is practicing filling the void with everything except the Who is the only One who can fill the void. Self-care can be used as a medication. It can be used as a distraction, it doesn’t offer a cure from the deeper issue.
Stress comes into our lives and it is unavoidable. I am a recovering control freak, the hottest of messes if you will, and one major thing I learned about stress this past year was this; when I react to stress typically I am reacting to a lie I believe about the Lord or to a lie I believe about what the Lord has said about me. No amount of self-care is going to change that, what is going to change the stress is soul-care.
A long walk may shake the feel of anxiety for a moment but will never give the peace in a heart that Jesus knows what tomorrow brings. An exercise plan and eating healthy does wonders for a person but it will never match knowing in your heart that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Getting lost in a good book or Netflix will mask the pain for a while but will never satisfy like knowing that Jesus heals the brokenhearted. Caring for yourself is easy, caring for your soul may be the hardest battle you will ever fight.
The care we need is not found from something we can do, it is found by opening our Bibles and inviting Jesus to transform us. The care we need to believe with all we have what the Lord says about His character and what He says about His children. We need healing, redemption, and grace that only comes from the Lord who is stronger than anything we could ever face.
This is where self-care and soul-care can work together. The practice of self-care has to be about balance. Need to go on a walk to calm anxiety? On your walk listen to scripture or spend the time in prayer. Need to read a book? Pick up the Bible and get lost in how God’s hand has been present since Genesis. Need to hash it out with a trsuted friend? Ask them to point you back to truth. The soul can only find rest in the weariness by laying the burdens down at Jesus’ feet (Matthew 11:28-30). The heart can only find peace when the mind and hearts are in Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Every self-care decision needs to be rooted in Scripture and bring us closer to knowing Who Jesus is. Practice mindfulness but be mindful of how the Lord has provided before and how is love is took Him to the cross for our sins. Be mindful of His sovereignty and practice thankfulness. When I practice self-care, I fight the tempation to focus on the circumstance. Self-care will not move believers to freedom and victory. When a believer starts with soul-care Jesus is found every time and we learn more about His character and who we are in Him. The more Jesus is found the more opportunities He has redeem the heart. Let the words of Jesus calm your heart and cling to the truth that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).