How do you view rest? What comes to mind when you think about it?
I can picture it now…a cozy blanket, Pride and Prejudice (the old one), a creamy cup of coffee and yarn and hook in hand. Maybe for you it’s a nap or a book and some hot tea.
Whatever it is, most humans enjoy a little time alone to physically slow down.
These things are blessings but are they necessary in order to love and serve others? Some would say so. But I wholeheartedly disagree.
Selfishness and Sensuality
Self-care is a popular trend in many circles, lately. You’ll find it in the conversations of anyone from hyper liberals to traditional conservatives. It truly goes hand and hand with the culture we’ve built, centered around self-esteem and personal happiness.
While it’s definitely important to eat, drink, bathe and clothe ourselves, we often take self-care to a level of selfishness. Scripture shows us that we typically don’t need articles to remind us to take care of ourselves.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it… (Ephesians 5:29 ESV)
Self-care has become the Christian woman’s go to idol. We’ve been fed the lie that in order to be a good mom, wife or friend, we have to spend a certain amount of time getting pampered and thinking about our desires first.
Last week, as I scrolled through my Pinterest feed (which is filled with Christ claiming women), I saw multiple articles and info-graphics providing ideas on how to achieve a life filled with “self-care”. I have to say, I was truly disheartened.
The world is seeping in at our weak spots. The run down mom is being told to ignore the basic needs of her family until she’s had her “me time”. The single gal in her 20’s is encouraged to fantasize about her crush and call herself “sexy” while she looks in the mirror and does shameful things I don’t want to name in this article.
The world calls selfishness and sensuality good, and Christian women are drinking it down more quickly than the wine they drink while watching the Bachelor.
Before you start marching to my house with torches, I want to clarify.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy things we deem restful (as long as they are not sinful). We all need to take a breather. If God Almighty, the Creator of all things, rested, surely we, as humans, need rest. But when self-care routines take precedent over our God-given priorities, or our idea of rest becomes a treasure more dear to our heart than Christ, we are in trouble.
Last week, I found myself pouting on the floor of my closet with a heart fuming with anger as I hung clothes. It was 9PM, and I wanted to be cozy on the couch with a book by then! But the clothes in the mountain on the floor weren’t going to jump up onto the hangers themselves. I was so mad I could have punched a wall.
Why? Because the idol in my heart was springing forth all kinds of nasty. In that moment, my time of rest was elevated above God and that is what is so dangerous about a high focus on self-care. As humans, our natural bent is toward self.
Our attitude when we don’t get that time to ourselves we’ve been dreaming of can reveal if the idol of self-care is lingering in our heart.
Christ and Self-Care
Remember that time where Christ said he needed some “me time”? Yeah, me either.
Some will say, “But he would go away to retreat.” Yes, Jesus retreated to be with the Father in prayer, not to hide from the world and take a bubble bath.
Jesus constantly poured himself out to the needy. He “had no where to lay his head” and yet he brought healing and rest to the dying world before him (Luke 9:58). He showed us that rest was not found in a quiet corner with a book, but at the feet of the Father, and ultimately in himself.
He is our refuge. He is our rest.
You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114 ESV)
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 ESV)
You’re right, we do need actual physical rest. It’s called sleep. But we don’t need “me-time”. It’s great to have time to ourselves but it’s not a necessity of life. What we truly need is more time alone with God.
Have you ever taken a day to purposefully do nothing only to still feel the desire for more rest? Maybe what your soul actually craved was a spiritual rest not found in just physically slowing down.
Jesus spent his life and death pouring himself out on our behalf. He never placed himself before others. God the Father and those who would be saved were at the forefront of his mind. And when he needed rest, he prayed. Likewise, following in his footsteps, the apostles risked their lives to continue his work. They were beaten, imprisoned, and stoned, all for the sake of getting the gospel to all nations. Yet, here we sit, talking nonsense about how “we need to put ourselves first in order to serve others.”
Our calling is no different from those in the early Church.
We are commanded to put others needs before our needs. We have it so backwards, friends!
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:12, 17 ESV)
How did Jesus love us?
He “emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant…and humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8). He “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). He serves us (John 13:14). He intercedes, or prays for us (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34). He forgives us (Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 1:7).
All of this and more points to the obvious fact that Jesus loved us with pure love. He placed our needs above his own, giving his very life in our place.
Following the Example of Our Savior
What an example Christ has shown us. What if he would have told those in need of healing to come back after he was finished resting? What if he would have decided that rather than going to the cross, he needed to take care of himself first?
Oh friends, don’t let self-care get in the way of gospel work. It may seem rewarding in the moment but there is nothing more rewarding than fiercely loving others as Christ did.
And there is nothing more restful than resting in Christ to do so.