The last words I heard from my grandpa were to take care of myself. I think about this often not only because I loved my grandpa dearly but because I knew God had a purpose in these words. I was in a rough place, and I needed to take care of myself, but I didn’t know how. How do I care for myself, for my soul? I believe God is a God of details so for these to be the last words I’d hear my grandpa say meant something I just didn’t know what. It took years of growth, pain, and writing this blog to see God’s hand in it all.
The Lord used this phrase in every season of my life to teach me how to care for myself. For 7 years I’ve been learning to lean into caring for myself while running from the lie that caring for myself is self-centered, prideful, and sinful. The Lord planted a seed in me that day to prioritize myself, not with a self-centered mindset but with a mindset to glorify God. I am responsible to care for His creation, and I must take care of it with love and respect. Now it is my life’s mission as a counselor to help people take care of their mental, emotional, physical, and most importantly spiritual health.
My journey has looked like a lot of valleys and a lot of mountain tops, but one constant has been God. Reading back through my old journals I see the common thread, God protected me and gave me all I needed to face each day. I wholeheartedly believe God wants to take care of me, and He wants me to take care of myself. Caring for myself doesn’t look like the world’s standards of self-care. The world will tell us to binge on Netflix, spoil yourself with retail therapy, or treat yourself to anything things you desire. The definition of self-care is taking action to improve your health. Shopping and Netflix aren’t bad, but they don’t improve our health.
As a counselor, I see the benefit of self-care and I do things regularly to care for myself. What is dangerous is using self-care as a cover up to indulge in the desires of our flesh. Getting quality sleep, eating nutritious foods, and working out improves our physical health. Reading the bible, meditating on scripture, and praying improve our spiritual health. Spiritual health is maintaining the vertical relationship you have with God. When I am spiritually healthy it improves my mental, emotional, and physical health.
I believe this is what the Lord was slowly teaching me all these years; taking care of myself means taking care of my spiritual health and from there all other areas of my life will be healthy. I have found the best way to care for myself is to cover myself in the armor of God.
“Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God, praying at all times in the spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Ephesians 6:13-18 (ESV)
Intentionally putting on the armor of God prepares us for life and whatever battles may come, by protecting our spiritual health. We must practice using and putting on the armor of God for it to be effective. If we are not educated in the ways to use the tools God has given us to withstand enemy attacks, we will fall. To understand the significance of each piece, we must know what they protect.
Wearing the belt of truth helps us identify what is a lie and what is truth. Without putting on “the belt of truth” we welcome confusion to our lives from the words we hear. We need to be able to identify truth in our life because words bear the power of life and death. In order to put on “the belt of truth” we need to know God’s Word, which is truth.
“The breastplate of righteousness” protects our hearts. Scripture tells us everything flows from our hearts. That means our attitude, emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. In my own life I have seen that intentionally guarding my heart has been the most important piece because when it is not guarded, I allow anything in.
When we filter our lives through the gospel, we find peace because Jesus is author of it. “The shield of faith” protects us from what the enemy throws at us intending to destroy us. Our faith is an active part of the armor. When we strengthen our faith, it weakens doubt. Using our faith as a shield looks like believing in God’s word, even when His words don’t feel true, because feelings don’t make good gods.
“The helmet of salvation” protects our minds. Taking every thought captive is up to us, God has created us with the ability to control and rid any thoughts that do not need to take root.
Reminding ourselves of God’s truth is one way we can condition our thoughts to be set on Him, because our mind informs our heart and from our heart all things flow.
“The sword of the Spirit” in those verses is referenced as the Word of God. God’s Word is alive and active today. Similarly, to how a sword must be picked up in battle to be used, we need to continually spend time with God in His word, and invite God into every part of our lives, including the battles we face.
Don’t wait for the battle to come, be prepared for the battle by putting on every piece of armor daily. We can’t pick one piece of armor for the battle; we need all of it to stand firm. Care for yourself in the ways God has called you to, not by following what the current of culture lures you to. I have found that self-care is more than just taking care of my emotional, mental, and physical health. It begins with being spiritually healthy because knowing the Creator helps me understand myself, His creation.
Freddie is a recent grad from Auburn University with her masters in clinical mental health counseling and is on staff with LO as a counselor. She loves long walks, spending time with friends and family, and helping people find their confidence in who God made them to be!@yourfriend_FreddieFollow Freddie on Instagram: