Which is Better: Self-Care or Self-Abandonment Side?
Mainstream messaging has been talking about the importance of self-care for years now. We’ve realized that running full throttle trying to “chase the American dream,” is exhausting. We can’t have it all. So, we need to take care of ourselves or we’ll fall apart. Maybe if we put ourselves first, we’ll be more successful? So, employers add mental health days. People are more apt to take all their allotted vacation and sick days. We live in the here and now instead of thinking too much about the future.
But there’s another side where others talk about the importance for self-abandonment. We’re told as Christians that we have died to the old way of life and embraced the new way in Christ.
“But that is not how you came to know Christ, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus, to take offyour former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.” Ephesians 4:20-24
It’s no longer about our desires, but Christ’s alone. So, many of us strive to serve Him in all areas of our lives. We give of our time, money, possessions, talents, and interests for the sake of others. We deny ourselves rest for the cause of ministry.
To which category do you most relate?
Which one do you feel is correct?
You might think that the two are the same question, but how you relate, and what you feel is correct, can be different.
Perhaps you lean more to self-care and are very protective of your time, but feel convicted when the church asks for more volunteers, in areas they are desperate. Or, maybe you’re more the self-abandonment kind giving everything you have, but are exhausted and wishing you could have a little “me time.”
With these two warring sides, it’s hard to know where to land. You may feel you’ll be judged if you take either side. My question to you is – do you have to take a side? Isn’t it best to land in the middle?
Everything leads to the heart of man and of God.
Let’s start with creation:
“So the heavens and the earth and everything in them were completed. On the seventh day God had completed his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation.” Genesis 2:1
What does the Sabbath have to do with this discussion? God created rest. With intentionality and focus, He worked for six days. Then on the seventh, He rested.
Okay, but is that really important? Jesus didn’t have a problem healing the sick on the Sabbath (John 5:1-18), so it can’t be that big a deal. This thought could be used either way:
Self-Care – Rest is important. If God did it, so should you.
Self-Abandonment – God was dedicated to important work, and would go out of His way to heal those who are sick on the Sabbath so I shouldn’t stop either when there are plenty of people in need.
Something I discovered while reading through the Gospels is that Jesus found both of these things important, but from different perspectives.
What’s the heart behind “self-care” and “self-abandonment?”
The way you view them may be different than another, but the key word in both is “self.”
Self-Care – If you’re so focused on doing anything you can to better your situation and protect your time and assets, what you’re really saying is that you take pride in yourself and what you feel you’ve earned in your possessions. You want to gain more knowledge, more physical strength, more ________, for you.
Self-Abandonment – If you’re focused on self with abandonment, where are your eyes in this? There can be a fine balance between dependently and obediently serving Christ as He leads, or on secret pride hoping God and others give you praise for all the work you’re doing and the sacrifices you’re making for the good of God and His Kingdom.
Ouch. Both of these hurt. I feel it writing the words. Personally, at times I’ve looked for both.
Let’s look at what Jesus did:
“They went into Capernaum, and right away he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach. They were astonished at his teaching because he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not like the scribes.
…As soon as they left the synagogue, they went into Simon and Andrew’s house with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was lying in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. So he went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she began to serve them.
When evening came, after the sun had set, they brought to him all those who were sick and demon-possessed. The whole town was assembled at the door, and he healed many who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying. Simon and his companions searched for him,and when they found him they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
And he said to them, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.” Mark 1:21-22, 29-38 (Underline added)
Jesus taught, healed, and then was restored by the Father in time of prayer. He worked hard when necessary to fulfill the Father’s plans. Then, when able, He took time to be restored. But He had to fight for that time of rest.
There will always be people and needs to attend to. There’ll also be many temptations to distract you from your mission. Opportunities to focus on yourself and your own wants and needs. But what you and I need to do most is to come to the Father for direction in everything.
When you choose to put your faith in Jesus Christ, believing wholeheartedly that He came as God and Man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to pay for your sin and death, then resurrected again to earth and then ascended to heaven, you have been given a certificate of freedom. This certificate lifts the debt you owed God for your sin and shame and erased it before the Righteous Judge. Because you realize the immense sacrifice of Jesus Christ, your heart should want to passionately pursue the Lord in everything you do, knowing that everything in life is all part of His greater plans, not just your own.
Jesus didn’t do anything for His own selfish, prideful gain. He did it for the glory and love of God. He knew His greater purpose. Focused on the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2), He laid down His own selfish wants, knowing He had a far better future with a great reward awaiting Him in Heaven.
Jesus welcomed others, giving them His time and attention. He didn’t heal every single person in all of Israel. He didn’t go to every single tribe and village across the continent to share His good news. That wasn’t His mission. He taught those He came to teach and healed those whose stories were needed for God’s greater story at the time. But, being human, He also couldn’t sustain Himself constantly giving to others. He needed rest, and He knew the best place to get it from was in spending time with the Father.
In missions, I learned the importance of serving and being served. If I constantly serve others, but don’t allow others to serve me in return, I’m robbing them of the blessings God wants to give them for loving His people. If I constantly take from others without giving of myself, I rob myself of those blessings from God and become a burden to everyone else.
You and I need to seek the Lord in everything, and by doing so, will learn when to serve and when to let others minister to us. Spending time with the Lord and learning to listen to His commands for you will help take your eyes off yourself and fix them onto Jesus, who will provide all your needs.
Peace and balance in this topic will come when you put yourself in dependency to Christ and submit to His will for your days. So let go of figuring out which way of self is best, and turn to Jesus.