Biblical Self-Care for Women
by Jess Olivito
Many Christian women, like me, think that they’re exempt from the need for self-care.
We just can’t imagine how to fit anything else into our overflowing schedules or,
believe that serving others is more important - convincing ourselves that self-care only takes time away from more “important work.”
As the Church, we’re supposed to follow Christ’s example, laying down our lives for our friends. Self-sacrifice is a fiber of our being as Christians, as it very-well should be.
Yet I pause at the idea of stepping back for some “me” time …. to focus on my own body, mind, and soul. I quickly fall into the distorted thought pattern that self-care isn’t Christian because it’s “not directly serving someone else.” (almost like I forget about my own existence)…. It’s very bizarre.
I’m pretty sure that the Holy Spirit is trying to change my mind. Why? Because God calls us to be stewards. At its core, self-care is ALL about being good stewards…. of our bodies, minds, and souls…. in order to become the best version of ourselves. In Genesis, God commands us to take care of all His creation. And guess what? That includes ourselves! We are His handiwork, and He wants us to flourish and thrive in beauty and love, not be tossed aside or neglected.
Secondly, we can’t give what we don’t have, and this remains true when it comes to serving others. There are so many demands on our time and attention - especially as women—family, work, children, friends, volunteer work—and if we don’t take the time to tend to ourselves, our well will dry up rather quickly. We will have nothing left to give.
When it comes to things we care about (like our family and our work) none of us aim to give the last bits of ourselves. Rather, we desire to give the very best of ourselves. So when we take care of ourselves, we are filled up, renewed, and restored so we can offer the Lord (and the people around us) the very best of who we are.
And while this all makes sense in my mind, there seems to be a disconnect with my heart. Day after day, I repeat the same pattern….putting my own needs last. So, I would say that deliverance is needed for me, first and foremost in this particular area of not finding enough rest. I am believing my confession to others will set me free and will put me on the path to healing.
But because I wasn’t fully “getting it”, God gave me another opportunity. And this is what I felt:
“Usually when I think about Jesus, the man who gave the ultimate sacrifice, I only think of Him as a man who died on the cross, God’s son. I usually don’t reflect on ALL the other stuff He did besides die on the cross. (I know, I know...shallow perspective).
So, as I continue to REALLY STUDY the details of His daily life (not just the last days he lived on earth), I believe that Jesus DID understand the importance of self-care. I believe that because:
Many times throughout the Gospels (especially in the book of Mark) Jesus retreated from everyone else to rest alone or to pray by Himself (Mark 1:9-13, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:30-32, Mark 6:45-46, Mark 14:32-42).
In Matthew, we know that Jesus took time to sleep, even when it was inconvenient (Matthew 8:23-27).
We know that Jesus encouraged others to rest, like when He told Martha not to be anxious about the housework, but to come and relax with Him (Luke 10: 38-42; see also Mark 2:27).
And When His Apostles were in the midst of major transition (wrapping their heads around Jesus’ death and Resurrection), He showed up on the shore, fed them breakfast and hung out/comforted them around a fire. (John 21:5-14).
These moments of self-care are a part of Scripture for a reason. If Jesus is the Way for us, then that way includes making time for these things. The Lord loves us so much, He desires only our good, and this means stewarding our whole health.
From the beginning, we were created to rest in God. In Genesis, we learn that God rested on the seventh day. God made the day holy, ordaining a rhythm of work (and rest) for all creation (Genesis 2:2). Why would our Creator need to rest, unless He was teaching God’s “image bearers” (Genesis 1:26) an important lesson? It’s just starting to sink in that we are actually created to find rest in God.
As I attempt to understand “biblical self-care”, I come to understand that it really isn’t self-care at all, it’s actually a surrender to divine care. And I’m learning that this divine rest is not optional for me anymore, just like breathing isn’t optional. Sure - I can try to ignore it (just like we are free to ignore God) or hold our breath until we’re blue. But the only true rest we will EVER find for our souls is in God.
Our Father wove rest into creation itself.
He embedded it in the ten commandments (Exodus 16:22-31),
He let the nation of Israel experience the consequences of not seeking rest in God (Leviticus 26:34).
And we know Jesus himself sought rest in the presence of his Father (Luke 5:16).
AND Jesus invited his followers to do the same (Mark 6:31).
God shows us through Scriptures what this “surrender to divine care” really means. It’s a Sabbath rest, an outward sign of obedience and requires a practice of discipline.
I learned that Sabbath rest is less like sleep and more like renewal.
Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4 ESV).
And, with that, I will leave you with this final thought:
We rest when we are in relationship with the life-giver. We abide so that we may bear fruit. Self-care is required to bear good fruit. Meditate on God’s ancient system. Work then rest. Grow then harvest.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).