As a Christian who values health yet finds maintaining healthy habits difficult, I’ve sought scripture that commands self-care. It seems that I would gain something if the Bible directed me to exercise or eat healthy or get a good night’s sleep.
Does God care about our physical health or is spiritual vitality all that matters? Certainly, we are to be good stewards of what God has given us, including our bodies. Likewise, if our bodies are the “temple” of God, does that obligate us to maintain its through regular upkeep?
A recent discovery crushes all arguments that minimize the importance of self-care for Christ-followers. As the article below attests, neuroscience shows that basic self-care like sleep, exercise, and healthy eating play significant roles in boosting self-control. Without them, self-control is significantly weakened.
Without question, Christians are called to be self-controlled. Self-control is not only a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) but a quality that is commanded numerous times throughout scripture (1 Peter 1:13, 2 Peter 1:5-9, Titus 1:8, 1 Thess 4:3-7, etc). It applies to resisting temptation to actively sin (i.e. in anger, lust, gossip, etc) and to maintaining disciplines that promote spiritual health (i.e. prayer). Certainly, we depend on God’s Spirit to strengthen us. We have the responsibility to do our part as well.
The recent article I wrote called “The Neuroscience of Sleep: Strengthening the Brain to Resist Relapse”, specifically focused on the science of sleep and self-control. This is life-giving information. Tiredness equals temptation. Think about it – when Jesus was near death, praying in the garden, the tiredness of his disciples was problematic (Matthew 26:40-45). In a moment when Jesus needed their support, they slept. Their self-control to stay awake and prayerful diminished because they were too sleepy. It seems their tiredness stole their experience of meaningful prayer in a historic moment.
We too have countless “divine moments” and opportunities to resist temptation and to spread love. If our brains are poorly functioning because we get 5-6 hours of sleep or fail in other significant areas of self-care, our strength to carry out these parts of our purpose will be diminished. In recovery circles, sleepiness is viewed as a “trigger”, meaning it is common for those who are sleepy to be weak when it comes to “falling off the wagon”, returning to addictive and self-destructive behavior.
All of us suffer when we don’t start our day rested and energized. We suffer when we seek immediate gratification over eternal reward (impulsivity) and others suffer as they experience the consequences of our sin. When we are careless or distracted, our communities miss out on experiencing Christians who are infused with excitement, expressing God given gifts that bless the world. May we seriously consider the weight of this challenge to care for ourselves in ways that boost our self-control, propelling us toward the abundant life Christ promised to those who follow Him.
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-Written by Forest Benedict