It had been a long day with the kids, and they hadn’t exactly been their most endearing. I needed a moment of sanity and if I’m honest, escape.
This doesn’t describe a single moment in time, but a feeling I experience almost daily. There are times when my proverbial cup is empty, and I feel like I can’t pour into my children any more until I fill it again.
According to Forbes.com, self care “is crucial for our physical, emotional and mental well-being…[it] is necessary to remind yourself and others that you and your needs are important too.”
My physical, emotional and mental well-being are often compromised in the extra long hours of motherhood.
Health and wellness advice across the globe echoes Forbes’ emphasis on the importance of self care to maintain a sense of peace and happiness in the midst of the grind of life, but reminding my 4 and 6 year old that “my needs are important too” doesn’t get me very far.
Don’t get me wrong— a warm bubble bath, the best smelling candle on the planet, and uninterrupted hours of Netflix are all wonderful gifts. But the moment I hear the word “mommy,” my snippy response is indicative of the void self care fails to fill.
Self care is a blessing but it is not a life-preserver. I need something better.
The message at the heart of self-care is: joy and rest can be found or carefully maintained, if we tune into ourselves and make time to nurture our interests. The truth?
Apart from deep-rooted joy in Christ, self care is a glorified hamster wheel.
No amount of golf, mani-pedis, or yoga will bring lasting joy in the innermost parts of your soul—that glory is reserved for God alone.
Nothing else will satisfy like Him. God created it that way. He was not being stingy, He was ensuring that we would find the way to supreme joy.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”Psalm 16:11 ESV
Incomparable, all-satisfying, real joy is found in knowing and delighting in God.
If we’ve yet to experience the permeating joy of knowing God, it is not due to an insufficiency in Him. Owen Strachan identifies the cause of this joy-deficiency is in us. The problem, namely, is a small gospel. Strachan writes:
“A small gospel is a spiritually limited gospel. It can tweak aspects of a person’s life, but it is largely unable to transform…When it comes to the suffering of this world, the deep trials, it tries to comfort and console, but can do so with only limited effect, leaving the hurting soul with the theological equivalent of some nice words and a tissue. It is well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective.”
In contrast, he describes the gospel we find in Scripture as:
“performing a kind of spiritual quadruple bypass so that sinners who once muddled along could experience the power and joy of the good life…it is not a small-sized faith, neatly compartmentalized, that makes for the happiest existence, but a large, pervasive, scriptural gospel that conquers our sin, satisfies our hearts, and allows us to live the good life prepared for us by God Himself.”
When we allow the power of God’s word and way to scope every area of our life, the Holy Spirit begins the careful and thorough procedure of removing everything that infects and hinders us from living in the freedom and joy of our new identity in Christ.
As our minds are renewed, we begin, little by little, to delight in humility, service, and sacrifice. This is counter-intuitive. The path Jesus walked (and calls us to follow) sounds like exhausting work, but in the upside down kingdom of God, this is the path that catapults us into vivid joy.
“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who… emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave… He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name.”Philippians 2:3-9 HCSB
In Philippians, the apostle Paul invites us to walk with him as he aims to mirror the sacrificial example of Jesus as the route to ultimate joy.
“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.”Philippians 3:10-11
This kind of radical commitment to sharing in the fellowship of suffering and death (in my case, daily, little deaths) requires faith. This is no small thing.
To embrace the hardest path and believe it will lead to the greatest joy is a commitment that depends greatly on faith— faith that God is true to His word.
I love that we can see this faith at work in Paul’s words “assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection“.
Don’t misunderstand. Paul’s faith wasn’t a que sera, sera (whatever will be, will be) faith. A man doesn’t willingly endure the kind of suffering Paul endured without certainty that the end result is worth it. His faith was sure and certain (Heb 11:1), bolstered and nourished by His intimate relationship with Jesus.
Pauline endurance is the product of eyes that are fixed on the supreme treasure and worth of Jesus.
The covenant people of God forgot this repeatedly and fell into idol worship, and so do we. Hosea’s admonition should be amplified for us today: “Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him” (Hosea 6:3 NLT)
Pastor John Piper does not mince words about our responsibility in this matter:
“[Jesus] is a real person. A fact. A fixed, unchanging reality in the universe, independent of our feelings. Our feelings about him do not make him what he is. Our feelings about him reflect the value of what we think he has. And if our knowledge of him is wrong, to that degree our enjoyment of him will be no honor to the real Jesus. Our joy displays his glory when it’s a reflex of seeing him for who he really is”
This kind of seeing cannot be manufactured, it is a work of the Spirit. However, we can cultivate an environment that fosters the growth of this Spiritual fruit.
As we diligently pursue a relationship with Jesus, we can consciously exercise faith that anticipates what already is, and prayer that hungers for what is not yet.
Faith that anticipates what already is.
Prayer that hungers for what is not yet.
Faith believes we are at peace with God and He is not holding out on us: the way has been opened, access granted, for us to experience soul-satisfying joy (Eph 1:3). By faith you can anticipate the gift of joy and position yourself to receive it by drinking at the streams where this joy bubbles forth— the presence of God— in worship, prayer, Christian fellowship, and the attentive study of Scripture.
Prayer longs for taste after glorious taste of the joy of Christ that we will know in full when we see Him face to face. Prayer is the practical, persistent request for God to satisfy our spiritual longings again and again. Our attention span is short and our appetites are easily glutted at world’s table (Psalm 119:36-37). Prayer wrestles against our flesh and all the ways we are derailed from feasting at the table of lasting delights.
Contrary to what the world proclaims, true and lasting joy is not found in a list of ways to treat yourself.
If you are looking for unshakable joy, and rest independent of circumstances, come to Jesus. He promises an easy yoke and a light burden (Mt 11:30). This promise finds its ultimate fulfillment in eternity.
We must “hold on to the… confidence of our hope…[and] make every effort to enter that rest” (Heb 3:6, 4:11). That is what we are living for, by faith.
This world is broken, so the rest we experience, even spiritually, is a shadow of what we will know more fully in heaven. To get there, to hold on, to endure, we need to be repeatedly captivated by the pervasive beauty of Jesus.
“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”Isa 53:4-5
Jesus sacrificed His physical, emotional and mental well-being so that we might experience spiritual well-being.
I can’t tell you how you’re going to be gracious to your family in your fourth month on 4 hours of sleep with that newborn of yours, or how you are going to keep loving your
enemy husband by returning the thousandth unkind word with one more patient and kind one, or how you can squeeze one more minute of mental energy from your work or school-fatigued brain so you can tend the things that need tending.
But I can tell you
When your cup is empty, drink deep the water Jesus offers.
The water He gives you “will become a well of water springing up within [you] for eternal life” (Jn 4:14).