“Where’s my shoe?”
“Mommy, can you read me a story?”
“Have you seen papers I need.”
“Could you teach this class?”
“I need wiped.”
“Would you mind _________?”
The demands of motherhood, marriage, ministry, and friendship can be overwhelming. As you walk through each day meeting the needs of others, you may find yourself being depleted—longing for solitude as voice after voice calls out to you with requests and demands you are expected to fulfill.
What’s a mom supposed to do?
Some would say, “Schedule in a little self-care. Don’t let anything get in your way. You deserve some time off. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.”
While there may be some truth and wisdom in those statements, the problem is that they focus solely on self, and we are called to lay down our lives for others. We are called to serve others—to love them with the same attitude as Christ.
6 Lessons on Self-Care the Jesus Way
As I have been studying Matthew along with the kiddos in our church’s Wednesday afterschool program, I’ve noticed a few things about self-care from Jesus. In fact, as I was reading Matthew 14, I felt I could relate quite a bit to Jesus.
Seeking solitude and rest is not wrong
Having just received word his dear friend and cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded, Jesus climbed in a boat and sailed away seeking solitude and rest to grieve and replenish his soul. (See Matthew 14:13)
Whether it is grief or just exhaustion from meeting the needs of others, we all need to withdraw from time to time. There is no shame in needing to take a break, seeking time alone, or sequestering yourself away in solitude. We need to take time to fill our own souls so that we can pour out into others.
Other people still exist and cry out for our help even when we intentionally seek solitude and rest.
The crowds followed him. As Jesus sailed across the Sea of Galilee, rushed around the shores to follow him. (See Matthew 14:13-14)
We don’t live independent lives, others depend on us to meet their needs and care for them. As much as we may want to crawl under the covers and read a book or escape out the door for a night out with friends, we still have people who depend on us, needs us, and will make requests of us. Most often, they will not realize or perhaps not even care how you are longing for solitude and reprieve.
We are still called to serve others
Jesus had compassion on the people gathered on the edge of the lake. He served them by healing their sick. When evening came, his disciples urged him to take the easy way out and send the people home. Instead, Jesus provided a meal for them. (see Matthew 14:14-21)
Rather than choosing the easy route, the quick route to self-care, Jesus had compassion—he felt in his heart the pain of the people—and took it upon himself to meet their needs. Jesus could have ignored the crowds or sent them away, but instead, he gave of himself to them.
Sometimes friends and other voices can deter us from doing what is right. Jesus didn’t let the other voices sway him to put himself first. Instead of listening to his closest friends, who thought they knew best when they urged him to send the people away, he did what he knew was right.
Dismiss the crowds and send the disciples away.
Once the people’s needs had been met, both for healing and for nourishment, Jesus sent his disciples out in the boat to cross to the other side of the lake, and he dismissed the crowds so that he could finally have some solitude. (See Matthew 14:22)
Jesus didn’t give up on his time alone; it just happened later than planned. Sometimes taking the time to continue serving doesn’t mean we won’t be able to have the solitude we long for or the self-care we need. Answering the calls of others just means a delay in our solitude; that delay may be the length of time it takes to get the toddler a snack or it may be several days or weeks as sickness runs rampant through your household.
Sometimes, you have to tell others you are taking a break. Ask for help if you need to. But do take initiative to make self-care happen when the immediate needs have been taken care of.
Spend some of your solitude in prayer.
Jesus went up on the mountain alone to pray. (see Matthew 14:23)
The best way to fill your soul is to spend time with the One who made you. Let him pour his Living Water into you as you spend time in his word and prayer. That’s not saying that other modes of self-care are bad, but our souls will not truly be refreshed if we leave out time with the Lord.
Rise and get back to serving.
Jesus spent the night alone, but then he went back to his disciples and began teaching them again. (see Matthew 14:25)
As great as self-care and solitude are, we cannot take up residence there. We are called to a life of service—first to the family God has given us and then to whatever other ministries he has called us to. Go back and let the refreshment and encouragement you received pour out over the ones you serve.
We are not called to a life of ease, we are called to a life of service. Matthew 16:24 says, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’” There is no better example to follow than Jesus himself. As we think about self-care and refreshing our souls, let us keep in mind the example Christ gave when he had compassion on the crowds—healing and feeding them—on his way to self-care and be willing to delay our own self-care in order that we can show the love of Christ to those we serve.