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As Christians, we often talk about self-sacrifice – becoming more loving, more giving, more helpful, more faithful. But we often forget how important it is to take care of ourselves too. After all, when someone needs help, God values our “yes” much more than our “no,” right? Let’s look to Scripture for a better understanding of self-care:

Why does it matter?

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38 NIV

When we give someone a gift, we pick out something special that will truly bless them – not something that’s broken or faded or used. When Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, He’s calling us to offer our very selves as a gift to our Creator. He’s not suggesting, Do a whole bunch of things for God; He’s saying, Offer your whole self—that’s the greatest gift you can give! We do that by offering the very best of ourselves – and that means taking care of us. Holley Gerth says, “Part of loving well is resting well.” When we regularly nourish our hearts, souls and minds, we have more love to share.

What does it look like?

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 NIV

The answer is different for each of us. For Mary in this passage, it was sitting at the feet of Jesus, soaking in His presence. What might it look like for you today? Begin by simply asking the Lord, “How do I most need to care for myself right now?” For some of us, it’s care for our bodies – maybe taking the time for healthier cooking or exercise. For others, it might be a date to a coffee shop with Jesus and a journal, reading a book or watching a movie that inspires us in a new way.

No matter what, making the choice to pause for some self-care can be surprisingly difficult. We’re so used to today’s fast pace that slowing down feels wrong somehow—we may feel guilty or anxious about it, afraid that others will think we’re lazy or selfish. It may have taken a lot of courage for Mary to pause while Martha worked. But she trusted God’s leading over others’ expectations.

How do we start?

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16 NIV

Set some healthy boundaries. Jesus had them, and we need them too. Yes, He was often surrounded by people in need, and freely gave all He had to help them. But He also “often withdrew” from the crowd to be alone and pray. He knew that in order to say “yes” to what the Father was calling Him into, He had to say “no” or “wait” to what was happening in the moment. Does that mean He was selfish or didn’t care? Of course not! It meant that He knew what He needed in order to be refreshed—to connect with His Father and prepare for the journey ahead.

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God…” Hebrews 4:9 NIV

So take some time to cozy up with a warm blanket, your Bible and a cup of hot cocoa soon. Don’t feel guilty about not making the potluck this Wednesday or not volunteering at that church event. Make a plan to infuse some rest and rejuvenation into your life—whether it’s a weekly Sabbath, a daily quiet time, or a rhythm that’s all your own. We can all benefit from times of prayerful reflection and personal refreshment.

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