Whether you are a full-time staff member, part-time staff member or volunteer leader, your position requires time – a lot of it. There is always something to do, someone to call or see – and that is only for your role as a leader. If there is a family waiting at home, the responsibilities multiply exponentially. With so much on your plate, this creates stress whether you know it or not.
Stress is the body’s response to extreme external events. Internally, it produces physical discomforts like weariness, pain and worry. God’s design for management of these severe situations is adrenaline. It is the rush that keeps us going long after our energy has run out. This is a good thing, unless that rush is never turned off. Current research shows a direct correlation with adrenaline and the negative effects it has on our bodies. These effects include anxiety to headaches, insomnia, fatigue and even depression. If left unchecked, stress can cause a myriad of other emotional and physical ailments. In other words, what seems like a normal leadership lifestyle could actually be doing irreparable harm to our bodies.
There is no specific verse in the Bible that says “take care of yourself” (Ephesians 5:29, NIV), however, this comes close: “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.” I really don’t think Jesus treats His church like many of us treat our bodies. We can apply 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) even more, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” Being stressed may not seem unhealthy but it is deceptively damaging and thus dishonoring to the Lord who made us.
The truth is self-care is not selfish. Instead, it is genuinely good stewardship to take care of our God-given bodies. While Jesus’ ministry appeared non-stop, there were instances (noted in Matthew 14:13 and Matthew 14:34) when He withdrew from His disciples and/or the throngs of people to get alone, whether it was to pray or to have a little quiet.
Because we desire to serve and manage the other responsibilities in our lives well, taking time to care for ourselves may seem insignificant. Yet it is vital, even if we must schedule time on our calendars to do so. God’s example in Genesis is evidence. As much as we need to be responsible leaders in leading the ministry God has given us, we must be doubly responsible for the vessel in which He has given us to live. As you take care of others, be sure to take care of you.