Elijah and Self Care
When I was in Bible college one of my professors read us the following passage of Scripture:
“(Elijah) went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ’It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life for I am no better than my fathers’. And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat’. And he looked, and behold, there at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.” – 1 Kings 19:4-6 (ESV).
He told us that sometimes when we feel like we cannot cope with life anymore that we need to consider taking time to rest (particularly to sleep) and to eat well.
In the secular world over the past several years there has been a trend known as “self care”. People taking time for themselves so that they can rest and recover (or make sure that they have the energy to even start). Taking time to look after themselves as they may at other times care for other people.
Personally, I do believe this can be taken too far. We live in a selfish world where we are continually encouraged to be more selfish by people with a lot of influence. We are told that we need to take more time for ourselves, take care of ourselves first, learn to put ourselves before others and to not allow other people’s needs to dictate how we live our lives. I don’t believe that this is what Jesus had in mind when he said ”Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, NIV), or Paul when he wrote ”Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
However, I do believe that there is some value in the self care movement.
The first half of this year has been rough for me and I have had to deal with a lot of emotional and spiritual pain. While going through all of this I have continued to work my jobs. I work in childcare and I love it so much, but if I am honest, it can be so draining to continually pour myself into the children I work with. I have found myself at many times feeling like I have no more energy left, for work or social gatherings or church or even things like writing or reading. Because of the rough beginning of my year I have been in a place where I have felt like I am barely able to keep my head above water; and if I am honest I may have even at times felt myself going “It is enough now Lord”.
But I have learned that the best thing to do during this time is to get time to myself to rest. Whether this be a few minutes, a couple of hours or a weekend. I do my best to schedule rest into my life as often as I can.
During these times of rest I have noticed that some of the feelings that were planted over the past few months have surfaced and I have felt them in a very real way. I have allowed myself to cry and feel and work through the many emotions that I have had. I am grateful because I think it is allowing me to get to a place where I can better move forward. I have noticed the difference that this time is making.
When I look at Elijah and I consider self care, I feel that there is a time and a place for biblical self care. I don’t think that we should take time to be selfish but I do believe that we should take time to rest. God encourages rest throughout Scripture and I think it is rare for us to actually take the time to rest that we need to. When we rest we are able to work through our “it is enough” moments. We are able to sleep and eat and get the energy that we need to keep moving forward.