A few years ago my friend, Eliza Huie, came to me with an idea.
“Let’s write a book about biblical self-care.”
As a counselor, the concept of self-care was instilled in me throughout grad school. It came up often in trainings and conversations as I pursued licensure, and I observed the cost of neglecting self-care at several counseling centers where I worked. It sounded like an important book to write.
When Eliza approached me, self-care was also an essential part of my life as I tried to manage chronic pain and chronic illness. Except, in that context, I didn’t really think about self-care in terms of the word “self-care.” It was more of a necessity. A means of a surviving. It was a requirement for me to rest, set boundaries, and constantly care for my physical needs if I wanted to keep going.
Self-care. It’s controversial in some Christian circles, but I can’t say it has ever felt that way to me. Self-care didn’t feel controversial for me on those days when attending to my needs was the only thing that got me out of bed in the morning. It didn’t feel so controversial when I considered how not setting boundaries in my schedule could leave me physically incapacitated for a week. I was good at self-care because I had no other choice. I didn’t like how much time and energy I had to put into caring for myself, but I didn’t feel bad about it. I was intrigued by the idea of writing about self-care from a biblical perspective.
So, I said yes to her idea. For months we thought and planned and wrote proposals. We found a publisher. We wrote separately and we wrote together. The book started to take shape. It was submitted, edited, edited again, edited once more, and finalized. And now it releases in two weeks.
We called it The Whole Life: 52 Weeks of Biblical Self-Care because we want people to consider what Scripture says about caring for all parts of ourselves. We divided it into 52 short chapters on various self-care topics because we wanted people to dive deep into these practices over the course of a year.
After many months of work, it releases in just two weeks on July 26th. As we prepare for launch day, the idea that self-care should be controversial keeps coming up. When I see this suggestion, it always leads me to pause because it’s hard for me to relate. I get where the concern comes from. We aren’t meant to live for ourselves or on our own terms. Jesus calls us to a life of self-sacrifice, not constant self-comfort. We are encouraged to not grow weary in doing good and instructed to give to everyone. This is all true. But none of these truths negate the necessity of self-care.
Concerns that self-care may not be biblical often have less than biblical roots. These concerns sometimes arise out of legalism. Other times, they surface out of a feeling that working more makes us worth more. On still other occasions, these concerns arise out of false guilt, savior complexes, or because we feel uncomfortable at the mere thought of not constantly being productive.
Self-care is biblical. Practicing self-care is how we respond to Jesus’ invitation to experience both physical and spiritual rest as we follow him. In our weariness he urges us, “Come away to a quiet place and rest for a while” (Mark 6:31). In our legalistic attempts to please him, he invites us, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). It would be a mistake not to accept.
I’ve made some physical improvements since we first started writing The Whole Life. Through exercise and rest, the tissues in my back have become more resilient to everyday stressors. I’m not quite as tired. I can sit and stand for longer periods of time. Work became more accessible for me over the pandemic. As I’ve improved, it’s been interesting to see how much easier it is to slip away from self-care practices now that I have more of a buffer. One wrong move isn’t as likely to set my body off for weeks or months. I’m thankful for the improvement and I’m holding on to the lessons about self-care I learned when my body was more temperamental.
I don’t have to wring every last drop of work out of my tired body, mind, and soul. I can rest and take a break before it’s absolutely necessary. Setting boundaries in my schedule is good for me, my family, and those I serve. Doctor’s appointments can be annoying, even awful, but they are necessary. Exercise is a privilege. Hydrating is essential. Scripture is healing. Medication is a tool. Spending time outdoors is therapeutic. And self-care is a gift. Through self-care, we accept Jesus’ invitation to care for our bodies, minds, souls, and relationships so we can experience a life of flourishing and share what God has given us with others.
If you would like to join us, we think The Whole Life is the perfect guide.