Self Care vs. Sacrifice

A little over a year ago, Benjie Shaw and I were talking about possible hot takes to include in our podcast schedule for Hot Takes on Hot Topics. One topic that continued to get pushed to the bottom of the list as world events happened and needed to be talked about is this thought – “Self Care vs. Selfishness”.

If you’re browsing instagram or tiktok for any amount of time at all, you will see videos and memes and posts about self care tips. And don’t get me wrong – I have a whole cabinet of face masks, I LOVE some alone time where I can rest and unwind. I love self care! I’m here for it! And here’s the other thread that we see under this theme is one of boundaries – and I want to make it clear, we need boundaries for our own mental health. But I’m curious – at what point are we putting self above sacrifice? At what point are we avoiding burnout to the point that we’re missing out on what God wants to do in and through us?

After a decade of serving in college ministry and now serving on church staff, in every ministry setting I’ve seen the same trend. A few months ago while speaking at our women’s worship night about tapping into the gifts that God has given us for the sake of the gospel, I made a comment that was not in my notes and I know it was from the Lord – “Burnout happens when the hands and feet are doing all the work.” We’ve all seen it – the few dedicated people who are giving all they can to do everything that needs to be done at church/campus ministry/nonprofit work/etc. This is not new. This has been happening in various contexts beyond the church world for decades – have you ever done a group project before? 🙂

As we’ve seen an uptick in promotion of self-care and boundaries within the world, I believe we can also see a trail of folks who are choosing self over sacrifice within the church.

Our church has been walking through a book in our city groups called “J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life” by Paul Miller. This book takes you through a myriad of examples in our every day life where we avoid sacrifice and yet if we would instead, follow the example of Christ and embrace sacrifice, we will reap reward.

Here’s the kicker, the best form of self care – like real self care that fills us up and makes us come alive – is found when we use the gifts that God has given us to serve his people in community. We miss out on so much joy and tangible hope that God wants to pour out on us when we choose self over sacrifice.

Oh and burnout? It’s real. I know it well. And recently when I’ve felt those first warning signs of weariness, I felt Jesus whisper, “You’re weary because you’re trying to do this on your strength and not mine.” And friends we do not avoid burnout but simply preserving our commitment, no. We avoid burnout within ourselves and we protect our brothers and sisters from burnout when we serve alongside one another in community.

I say these words with as much love as I can muster – God has created us with gifts specific for serving Him and when we withhold those gifts, we are the ones that miss out.

My encouragement to you in delivering what might feel like “tough love” is this – take some time to explore the ways that God may be calling you to partner with him in serving in community with your church family – even if it costs you something. At the same time, look around within your local church for those who are overextended and need a brother/sister to link arms, provide them a word of encouragement and join them.

When we choose sacrifice over self, we’re actually still choosing self because it’s in the sacrifice that we reap the reward of experiencing Jesus more deeply.