This topic in the Self-Care Series probably has the longest lasting impact. Our relationship with God supersedes everything else in life. It begins when we first meet Him and lasts, well, forever. It guides our relationship with our bodies because our bodies are temples for the spirit. It is through God’s power that our minds and hearts are changed. Our spiritual life feeds all the other areas of life; therefore, it’s the most important to maintain.
Although our spirits affect everything else, it’s also good to note that your spiritual well being is affected by the health of the other areas of life. When I was severely malnourished and my body was functioning as though it were starved, I remember thinking how strange it was that it affected my spiritual life so heavily. To be honest, it affected every area heavily, but it perplexed me that my physical weakness would cause such weakness spiritually.
Now, the truth is that when we are weak, He is strong. That’s true, but although my faith was slowly being built out of sheer helplessness on my part, that doesn’t negate the fact that my weak body in a way weakened my spirit. The spirit within me was hindered due to my brain’s inability to process well, my lack of emotional or mental energy to pursue the Lord, and no wherewithal to stay connected through community. I know there are some people who are very physically weak or ill whose spirits are vibrant and bursting with life. Their spirit had to overcome the physical hindrance to get to that point. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m just saying that it’s often an overlooked factor in a stagnant spiritual life. I tell you this just to help you understand that when your body is healthy and you are stewarding your temple well, then that makes you all the more strong spiritually. A clear mind and a healthy body give life and vigor to the spirit. All the pieces of who you are come together to make you strong.
A lot of what makes someone “healthy” spiritually has to do with relationship and mindset. We aren’t exactly “sick” spiritually, but we can feel distant from the Lord or be functioning with untruths and deception, which will more than likely lead us to unhealthy spiritual patterns.
I’m going to list several areas that affect our spiritual health and ways that we can help ourselves be stronger, more vibrant, more faithful followers of Jesus, which will, in turn, produce well-balanced lives.
A huge step in spiritual health, which is mirrored in physical health, is removing the toxins. It’s easy to give blanket statements about our bodies–ingesting mercury or aluminum isn’t good for anyone. Spiritual toxins are a bit more complicated. There are some areas that are black and white–fornication, or murder for example, but there are also areas that are a bit more gray.
First Corinthians 10:23 says, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” A good example of what I’m trying to convey is the show New Girl. There’s nothing specifically in scripture that says I shouldn’t watch New Girl, but when I would watch it, I would notice that it caused me to think of things from a more worldly perspective. It influenced me in a way that hindered my walk with the Lord. Something may be permissible, but that doesn’t mean it’s beneficial. Certain TV shows can be very toxic for me because they cause my mind to go down paths that it shouldn’t. New Girl may not affect you the same way, so you might be able to watch it, whereas, I should not.
The same goes for certain music or people you let into your life. Toxins can come into our lives through many different avenues. Some people just learn to live with toxic people or negative influences, but it is often extremely unnecessary and damaging. Your relationship with the Lord matters more than your friends or what you watch on TV. He even matters more than the college you attend or the car you drive. Whatever is in your life that may be hindering your walk with the Lord is worth getting rid of. There is nothing on the Earth that is important enough to overshadow our Father.
It’s good to remember that God is an individual. He has feelings, thoughts, and desires. He is not a distant God, but He is very relational and wants to be seen that way. He longs to be near to us and talk with us. He made us to love us.
When we are disconnected from the Lord and not speaking with Him, we are often coasting on our past relationship with Him, or it could be that we are listening to teachers, reading books without connecting with Him personally, or it might mean that we are simply getting farther and farther away. No matter how we look at it, without prayer, we are missing a vital part of our spiritual walk.
Prayer is the lifeline to the Lord. It keeps our hearts contrite before Him. By speaking to the Creator of the Universe, we remain humble, and we open up to hear from Him directly. Jesus set a great example for us by sneaking away both morning and night to pray and connect to His Heavenly Father. Our lives should look no different.
Reflection and Self-Examination
It’s not a good idea to be self-critical. At the same time, it’s unwise to refrain from reflecting on your character and decisions. How can we learn from our mistakes if we never look at the choices we’ve made and the consequences they bring?
A good way to reflect is to journal. I often write my thoughts down and end up at a totally different place than I thought I would. Usually, I find myself thanking God for all the things He has done or how He has met my needs in a certain situation, even though I probably started the journal entry fussing about something or expressing my sadness or irritation. I don’t hold much back when I journal. It’s best to get it all out so you can properly sort through it. Writing my thoughts down seems to pull them right out of my head and get rid of them, which is pretty handy when there’s a lot going on in there. You can often see more clearly when your thoughts are in writing rather than swirling in your mind.
Some good prompts for self-examination can be found in John Wesley’s list of 22 questions. I first saw these when I was in college and knew I had to print them out so I could continue using them. They are very challenging, which is the point. I really need to use them more.
People can’t save you, it’s true. But having people in your life helps you stay focused and run the race well. When we isolate ourselves, we can lose sight of what we are doing with our lives. We become our only source of challenge or correction, which is pretty dangerous.
Matthew 7:5 says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (NIV). If we don’t have people in our lives, we very well may walk around with eyes full of sawdust. This can cause ourselves and others unnecessary pain. People can be a source of comfort as well as correction. There have been several times where I have needed friends to hear my broken heart so that I can cry with them and have them pray for me. Having people you can trust and open up to is often powerful and healing.
Community must be important because the author of Hebrews says in chapter 10, verse 25, “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.” At that time, people must have stopped gathering in order for the writer to say that. Life could have gotten too busy. They could have become lazy. They may have been introverted and would have rather stayed home. I know I can feel that way sometimes. Despite all these things, scripture reminds us that no matter what we feel, we should not stop meeting together. We need each other.
Most of us have dreams for our lives. Some people sit down and develop five-year plans and ten-year plans. They go to college and get Masters degrees. These things are not bad in and of themselves. We all need vision. I think making sure we are submitting those dreams to the Lord is what makes the difference, and keeps us aligned with God’s vision for our lives.
Our spiritual life should be paving the way for the other areas of life, including the actions we take, the jobs we are in, the degrees we pursue, the people we marry, etc. When you are a follower of Jesus, you choose to lay your life down and pick up the cross. You realize that He has plans for you. They are plans to prosper you and not to hurt you (Jeremiah 29:11). The plans He has are usually far grander than anything you may come up with. After all, His thoughts and ways are much higher than our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Submitting to the Lord is learning to trust that His ways are the best ways.
When we start taking our lives into our own hands, we lose the perspective God has. He can see the end from the beginning. We may not see how the specific task He asks us to do plays into the overall vision. Our view is insanely limited. When we aren’t honoring His design for our lives we are telling Him that we know best. This, in turn, distances us from God because disobedience always brings division. A heart focused on obedience to self elevates self to the place designed only for God. This leaves no room for the Father and will have negative repercussions that ripple throughout your life. (To hear more about submission read What is Love: Surrendering.)
I remember a little song from when I was young. It goes, “The B-I-B-L-E. Yes, that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God. The B-I-B-L-E!” It’s a sweet little tune that I sometimes sing in my head even now as an adult. I am so thankful for the biblical teaching I received as a child. I knew that without a doubt the Word of God is infallible and true. It is inherently valuable and contains the Father’s heart and is a light that shows us the way. My little childlike heart held on to those truths and built a foundation that changed the course of my life.
The Word of God is a mysterious force. It dispels lies. It breaks chains. It sheds light. It can humble even the strongest person. Within the Word is Jesus Himself. John 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (italics mine). If God is the Word itself, then the Word should be a very active part of our spiritual walk.
The Bible is the truth of all truths. It’s an anchor that keeps us tethered. You cannot go wrong by being obedient to its teaching. It will never guide you in a way that causes your life to be chaotic or overbearing. It will never steer you off course. Within its pages, you will find comfort, challenge, peace, encouragement, tenderness, instruction, and a very real and solid foundation to build on.
Deuteronomy 11:19-21 says,
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
The promises in the Word give life and abundance to those that obey them. This is not a grandiose secret. The Lord is faithful to fulfill His promises. It is our responsibility to know them and trust them.
Our spiritual lives are nothing to play with, and I hope you have found encouragement as well as challenge in this article. I know that when I am disconnected, it affects every other area of my life. I’m not as kind of a mother. I’m not as thoughtful of a wife or friend. I can easily become overwhelmed or anxious. But when I’m close with my Father, I am restful. I can begin my days with an ease that comes from trusting that He truly has my best at heart and is taking care of me.
It has been such a pleasure and honor to share with you the ways the Holy Spirit has taught me to take care of myself. A lost art to many, but I hope not lost to you. Our little lives have large impacts. They shape the next generation. They share His light with a darkened world. By taking care of ourselves, we are showing the world that we matter. That they matter. We are better equipped for loving and sacrificing, which is what Jesus has called us to do. Many blessings to you as you continue on this journey. My final article in this series is 19 Tips for a Balanced Life. It’s a list of ways to help you practice self-care. I hope that it is helpful as you move forward in this season.
Featured Image by Archie Binamira