Is Self-Care compatible with Christian Death-to-Self? This question is especially important in a culture where self-care is preached as the solution to every problem and depression is still at an all time high. Are we just not doing enough “self-care”? Or could dying-to-self actually be the solution to life?
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25
Death-to-Self as the Source of Life
Our God of paradox has quite the sense of humor. Talk about hard.
But then again, God’s truths often seem hard to us…
“Master, this teaching is hard: who can accept it?” – John 6:60
The point is, the more important a particular truth is, the more desperately the Enemy tries to attack it with His lies. His tactic is simple: allowing us to see and accept 92% percent of the truth and either encouraging us to accept that 92% as the whole truth or, derailing it completely to an incompatible end. He has us convinced that if we reject his version of the truth, we are rejecting the 92% of good that we see there as well… which is why we have such a hard time rejecting the lies. It’s like he wants to vaccinate us against God’s plan by offering us a counterfeit version.
Unfortunately, it is working.
We need a counterrevolution, one where we start to realize that accepting that last uncomfortable 8% isn’t about rejecting the first %92 percent, but rather the key to unlocking its full potential!
Am I saying that self-care is bad?
No, but I AM beginning to feel like I need to fight against it’s prioritization as the end-all-be-all of human existence.
I’m not saying that self-care is BAD, I’m only saying that self-care cannot become an idol, just because it is obviously important.
I’m saying that we have to be willing to do what is right and necessary even at the “expense” of self care.
I’m saying that running to vacations, food, entertainment, friends, and even coffee and exercise could POSSIBLY be less than good for your overall wellbeing if you are seeking them over God.
I’m saying that some of those self-care practices you love, that you might be wrapping your identity in, whether it be a job, a hobby, or even parenthood, might need to be stripped or scaled back from your life so that you can see them with more perspective. Are they rightly ordered with the priorities He is asking us to have? Are your “healthy boundaries” possibly helping you justify saying “no” when God wants us to say “yes”? Is your sense of self-preservation telling you to leave, to run away, to quit, or that something is impossible, when God says, “stay”, “lean in”, “you can”?
But what about the “important” things?
We hear the invitation to go deeper, to give more, to do that “impossible” right thing, but then we start to hesitate and make excuses.
Let me first go and bury my father… I just married… I just bought a field… -Luke 14:18-20
What will people think? What will my family think? What about shelter, food, and clothing?
Do I really need to worry about making sure I have a home, clothes or food on the table first and foremost when God explicitly says, “The son of man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58) and “consider the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:25)? Does that make a home, food, or clothes bad? Does that mean we should not have them? NO. It merely means that following God’s plan takes precedence over worrying about even those things and everything else “will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
And what if it doesn’t go well?
It’s NOT going to “go well”! (at least, at first, and at least not by your standards) Let’s just get that out of the way. That’s kind of the point, and why it is called “death-to-self”. It will require an element of intense self-sacrifice, and almost always uncertainty and trust. It means letting go of everything we thought we wanted, in order to surrender to whatever God wants! (Granted all He wants is for you to be happy so you don’t have to worry too much – He will take care of you!)
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life”. – Mark 10:29-30
How can Death-to-Self impact my happiness?
Death-to-self must be complete and total. There is nothing held back in death. You can’t just “half die”.
This means you can’t bare-minimum your life. You can’t just go through the motions and do that important thing you “hate” – No, even attitude matters. In fact, attitude might make all the difference between true death-to-self and false, from needing more “self-care” and finding your strength in that very moment. You must do that thing you are called to with your whole being. We must find a while to smile through the burn and act with total surrender, finding ways to truly mentally embrace what you were so afraid of – without restraint, without self-pity, and without seeking praise or pity from others.
Death is being broken and lavishly poured out like perfume at the feet of Our Lord. It means that everything must be 100% and 92% is NEVER good enough. The more we focus on filling ourselves, the more empty we find ourselves. True Self-Care must be focused on pursuit of God… meaning, always somehow solely for the purpose of becoming person He created you to be and NEVER for the sake of personal enjoyment or self-preservation.
Does that mean you can’t enjoy self-care? NO!
Does that mean it doesn’t preserve you? Again, NO.
We HAVE To stop thinking that when we reject the 92% of truth that the enemy offers us that, that we somehow we lose out everything that attracted us to the lie.
No, we get everything that attracted us, AND THEN SOME!!!
I know… this is super hard to take in. It’s totally fine not to understand it right away. But, I beg you, Put it in your bag of skeptic memories. Take it to prayer. See what He says about all this and then Just do your best to trust. Now might not be the moment you are meant to put it into action, but one day, in His perfect time, it just might all make sense.
What do you have to lose?
If this topic of Self-Care vs. Death-to-Self interests you, be sure to check out the rest of the posts in this series. This is such a big topic and I just can’t seem to stop talking about it. I’m sure you will find what you are looking for – or else I’m working on it!