“This is your life. Are you who you want to be?” Switchfoot
The only way to live an authentic life is first to take time and focus on yourself. If you’re not healthy spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally, how can you move beyond yourself and invest in others? At first glance, this may hit you as a bit self-centered, another excuse for self-absorption in a me-first culture. Like anything taken to an extreme, self-care can become a license to never grow beyond ourselves and our needs. Yet, loving ourselves is a biblical command. Jesus Himself said this in identifying the greatest commandment. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’” (Matthew. 22:37-39, TLB) Most of us understand that we are to love God first and that we are to love our neighbor, but we miss the last part of this message: we are to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. Jesus indicated that, before we can really love others and make a difference in their lives, we have to first love ourselves.
This message can be used to justify selfishness, but the reality is just the opposite. You have to first take time to get healthy so you can impact the world around you. In fact, until you learn how to love yourself, you can never really learn to love and care for others the way God wants you to. You cannot teach someone else that which you haven’t learned.
God wants us to cultivate energy spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally. We’ve examined the spiritual connection yesterday. Let’s look at the other three areas and consider what it means to care for your body, your emotions, and your relationships.
Like it or not, how you treat your body has a direct and lasting impact on the quality of life you enjoy. If I can’t honor God with my body, how can I honor Him with my heart? Listen to what God says about our bodies. “Have you forgotten that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you…, and that you are not the owner of your own body?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, Ph). What an amazing truth! God lives in our bodies as Christ followers. Your body is the temple of God, and that’s why it’s so important to take care of yourself and cultivate physical energy.
The next crucial area is our emotional lives. A huge part of maturing is learning to experience our emotions without being controlled by them. It’s not like we can flip a switch and turn off our fear or push a button and be happy. We may not be able to control what we feel, but we definitely can control what we do with those emotions – how they affect our thoughts and behavior. Since our feelings can fluctuate based on our mood, circumstances, physical health, and other factors, it becomes essential that we go back to our primary source – our spiritual connection to God. As we endure the ups and downs of life, God’s truth serves as an anchor point, no matter what emotional storm we may be experiencing.
It’s important to realize that a healthy emotional life doesn’t mean you hide your emotions. No, we are created as emotional beings. We just have to express our emotions without being controlled by them. Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions that any of us feel; yet, He never sinned. Jesus got angry, cried, and laughed. Clearly, He experienced all the emotions we do, but He didn’t allow them to control His thoughts, behavior, or interactions with others.
As we look for ways to improve our physical and emotional lives, we will experience the benefit in our relationships as well. When we are healthy, we are better able to help others. God designed us to live in community with others. If we knew we were facing only a few weeks to live, we would want those we cared about to know our truest selves, to know how grateful we are for them. We would want to give them our final heartfelt messages. We would want to leave behind a relational legacy of enduring love and ongoing faith.
No matter how many calendar pages we turn in our lives, we must still realize just how short life is. We ask God to teach us to number our days and help us understand that time is limited so we can spend our time the way He wants us to. Only then can we fulfill the purpose for which He created us. Fulfilling our purpose as His creation, connected to God as our lifeline, allows us to get healthy physically, emotionally, and relationally healthy. Loving yourself is not selfish. It’s essential.
- What is the biggest physical challenge you face? Weight? Body image? Injury or disease? What one step can you take today toward improving your physical health?
- How would you rate your health in each of the four areas – spiritual, physical, emotional, relational – from one (terrible) to ten (fantastic)?
- Spend time journaling about a specific goal for each of these four areas that you can pursue during the rest of the month. Make sure the goals are practical and measureable.