5 ways to care for ourselves with God at the centre

5 ways to care for ourselves with God at the centre

Happy publication day to Liz Carter, whose book Catching Contentment is published today. 

Here, for self-care week, she shares her thoughts on how we can better care for ourselves. 

The phrase ‘self-care’ can throw up all sorts of issues. Some of us may think that as Christians, part of the idea of ‘dying to self’ is putting every single thing involving our ‘self’ aside, and any other way of looking at it is self-indulgence (it’s that word again!) For others, we may feel that we don’t deserve care; self or not, we’re not good enough. Caring for others is great, and what we are called to do as followers of Jesus. But self-care? No. We’re not worth that.

But self-care doesn’t have to be rooted in an attitude of selfishness or egotistic conceit. Instead, we discover in the Bible that God has created us with loving, tender delight, and loves us with great passion. We are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), God’s children (John 1:12), and we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139: 14).

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul reminds us to honour God with our bodies. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, he writes. He reminds us that because we have given ourselves to God, all that we are belongs to God. That’s quite a difficult notion to grasp, isn’t it, in our very self-autonomous society? Yet it becomes so evident throughout scripture that honouring God in every way we can - with our minds, bodies and spirits - draws us to fulness of life like nothing else. And caring for ourselves in mind, body and spirit is of vital importance within that narrative of surrender to God and living for God. When we take care to self-care, we are offering worship to God - when that self-care places God at the centre.

5 ways to care for ourselves with God at the centre

1. See yourself as God sees you: In Ephesians 2:10, the word ‘workmanship’ translates as something closer to ‘work of art’ or ‘poem’ You are God’s poetry! Often we have picked up a kind of ‘script’ which we believe about ourselves, which plays itself through our mind on repeat. This script can be negative, formed by words said to us over our lives, and God longs to reverse these negative words and transform our view of ourselves. We are God’s beloved children, holy and righteous in his sight.

2. Time to retreat: Having accepted your value in God’s eyes, take time to let these words and ideas sink into your soul and become a part of who you are. Taking a retreat - even just for a day - can be an immersive way to contemplate God’s joy in you, and let the peace beyond understanding God promises settle in to your mind and soul.

3. Rest is vital to wellbeing: God instituted the idea of Sabbath for a good reason - if we never take time to be, to come away from all that calls upon us, then our minds become increasingly crowded and our bodies increasingly exhausted. For me, rest is a strange word, because much of my life is taken in what looks like rest, living with chronic illness. Yet even within my life-of-rest I need to take some time to find soul-rest, away from all that crowds in on me. Rest doesn’t always have to look like lying down in a quiet room, either - you’ll know what rests your soul.

4. Look to the good: When we concentrate our mind on all that is good, all that is pure, lovely, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) - we are caring for ourselves at the deepest of levels. If we allow ourselves to dwell on things which drain our spirits, we are injuring ourselves instead. Looking to the good doesn’t mean only ever looking at holy things, but at anything which makes our spirit sing.

5. Take your eyes off you: Ironically, looking away from ourselves and pinning our gaze on Jesus is the best self-care we could possibly carry out, because when we place Jesus at the centre of who we are we are soothed at the deepest places of who we are. It’s in taking our eyes off ourselves we are launched into the fullest expression of ourselves.

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