Is your soul feeling overwhelmed? Maybe it’s time to focus on your well-being over your well-doing…
“When do you feel closest to God?”
Across the table sits a sweet, young friend who will be heading off to college in a few weeks. Her eyes widen in surprise at my question, and I can see her searching for the “right” answer.
Our server sets down our breakfast, and we pray. Then I wait, the question still lingering between us.
“Umm, what do you mean? Like, when have I felt closest to God in my life? Or what do I do that makes me feel close to God?”
I smile, because I know she wants to be honest, but she also wants to be right. She knows me well enough by now to know that the honest answer is the right one, but old habits are hard to break. I get it. But this is important for her well-being.
“No, I mean when do you feel closest to God on a regular basis. What spiritual practices help you truly connect with Him?”
Her eyes sparkle as she begins to understand what I’m asking, but she still answers hesitantly. “Umm, maybe when I am alone with God, reading my Bible…. by myself?”
Yes! That’s it. Alone with God.
Alone with God
I have had the joy and privilege of watching this sweet girl grow in life and faith over the past six years, and I know how she’s wired. She’s an outgoing introvert, a deep thinker. She just finished sharing with me how she spent the last six weeks in close quarters with various family, friends, and extended family, followed immediately by a week at Student Camp.
While she had a great time, she feels distant from God, and she’s wondering what’s wrong with her.
So I ask her the question, even though I already know the answer.
Monitoring Your Well-Doing
My young friend is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually depleted. It echoes in her rigid posture and her weary voice. After being with people non-stop, she’s exhausted.
She has no energy left for anyone, not even Jesus. And that’s why she feels distant.
Sure, she has been to church (and church camp, even!). She has read her Bible, and she has prayed. But she has had almost ZERO time alone~ just her and Jesus. Her “well-doing” is off the charts, but her “well-being” has suffered.
Can you relate? I know I can.
“Well-doing” is kind of my thing. Y’all already know I had BIG plans for this summer… I was going to finish my current blog series, launch a newsletter, complete my book proposal, and make significant progress on my book, all while investing in my family and celebrating summer with our friends! Oh, and maybe read a couple books while I’m at it. Sounds do-able, right?
(I can hear you laughing through my screen…)
Instead, this summer was one unexpected thing after another. From Covid, to emergency surgery, to anxiety struggles, to aging parent challenges, to broken, smelly appliances—you name it, we’ve dealt with it. And in between all that, I managed to publish a few blog posts and order curriculum and have a few moments of family time… lots of “doing,” some of it even enjoyable, but none of it what I planned to do.
And y’all, I’m exhausted.
Self-Care vs. Well-Being
I was walking along the beach one night last week—my few minutes alone with God in the midst of a busy trip— and I could barely hear myself think above the roar of the ocean. The waves were uncharacteristically rough, continually pounding the shore, over and over again, slinging water at my legs. I watched the girls trying to body-surf the waves, but the powerful surge kept knocking them over. Before they could find their footing again, the next wave would come, slamming them back into the water. They were trapped in a cycle of screaming, diving, scrambling, and gasping for breath. Before long, they were completely worn out!
As I walked along the shore, seeking the Lord, I felt myself trapped in the same cycle of those pounding waves. One after another, these unexpected circumstances keep knocking me down, and I keep getting back up again, until I am too tired to even think about anything besides my next breath.
And finally, I realize it’s time to focus on my “well-being” for awhile instead of my “well-doing.”
I know “Self-Care” is all the rage right now, but I have to be honest… I hate that term. It seems self-indulgent to me. I know, I know, don’t shoot me! I just find it hard to reconcile culture’s concept of self-care with the self-denial Jesus calls us to in the Bible. So, as you can imagine, it’s not high on my priority list.
However, I do think it’s Biblical to tend to our personal well-being—mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Jesus knew He needed time away from the crowd and alone with His Father, so He often went off to a solitary place to pray. Sure, he spoke to the masses and healed people from sunup to sundown, but He also shared meals with his friends, attended weddings, and sent his friends away for awhile.
If Jesus’ well-being mattered, how much more should ours?
And this is where I find myself tonight as I write.
I am tired—physically, yes, because it’s actually after midnight as I write; but more so emotionally from carrying the weight of everyone else’s burdens this summer. Mentally, I am tired of trying to figure it all out, of reading or writing when I want to rest, of searching for answers and trying to prepare myself for whatever crazy thing happens to be lurking around the next corner.
Spiritually, I am like my young friend: I feel closest to God when I’m alone with Jesus, my Bible, and my prayer journal. Those times (at least uninterrupted times) have been hit and miss for me this summer, which leaves me longing for the consistency of our school year routine.
So I find myself carving out time to walk; it’s one of the best ways I’ve found to release the stress of this world. And I also return to a few favorite verses that breathe life into my soul when I find myself depleted and my well-being at risk:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.”
I need this. These words—His Words—remind me to lay down burdens I was never intended to carry. They remind me the “doing” only has value when it is an overflow of simply “being” with the Father. And I need this reminder; again and again and again.
Friend, is your “well-doing” getting in the way of your “well-being”? Let me ask you a question: When do you feel closest to God? How can you catch your breath and replenish your spirit so you have something from which to pour out?
For more articles related to well-being, check out these posts from some of my friends: