By Pastor Rick Warren
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF – A COVENANT OF HEALTH
“Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times, instead pray all the harder. Help needy Christians and be inventive in hospitality! Romans 12:11-13 (Mes)
There’s a verse in Song of Solomon that says, “I have been the keeper of other vineyards but my own vineyard I have neglected” (Song 1:6). In a crisis, as a church leader, you and your staff have likely been serving and pouring out more than ever before. What I’m most concerned about as a pastor and as a pastor to pastors, is that you “keep your vineyard” during this crisis.
This is a principle that is so important, I taught my staff this week the importance of maintaining their own health in this season. I asked them to commit to this “covenant of health.” I’m sharing with you so you can share with your staff.
1. I will be kind and gentle with myself.
The most important thing you can do right now to reduce your stress is to be gentle to yourself and to others. If you are experiencing a crisis, you can’t place the same expectations on yourself. There’s no way you can accomplish the same things you did before. So be forgiving of yourself!
2. I will be kind and gentle with others.
While you are being kind and forgiving of yourself, be kind and forgiving of others too. Ease up on your expectations of those around you. Remember that this is affecting them, too.
3. I will begin and end each day reading God’s word.
When I was in college, I came up with a little saying, “His Word FIRST Word, His Word LAST Word.” What this means is, when I wake up in the morning, the first person I want to hear from is God. And when I lay down at night, the last person I want to hear from is God. Starting and ending your day in God’s Word is the best habit you can build in your life. It sets the tone for the rest of your day, it determines your focus daily, and it frames your everyday, ordinary life as worship to him. God wants first place in the little things of your life too. In fact, the Bible says he delights in them. If you want to see God at work in your life, then include him in the small things.
4. I will keep a predictable schedule and routine.
Recently, Kay invited Dr. Bruce Perry, who is a world authority on trauma, to join her on a Facebook Live to share the science of stress. This is a must-watch! Over 85,000 people have already watched it, so if you missed it, click here.
Among the things Dr. Perry shared was how creating a routine helps our bodies as they navigate the stress of this season. Our brains are dealing with vast amounts of new information and working overtime to cope – keeping a moderate, predictable routine helps with stress management.
5. I will limit the amount of negative news that I watch.
Corrie ten Boom, who suffered in a Nazi death camp, explained the power of focus: “ If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest!” Your focus determines your feelings.
6. I will get out in the sun for at least 15 mins.
If possible, try to get outside for at least 15 minutes every day. Remind yourself of God’s goodness in nature. Studies show at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day is good for our health.
7. I will connect with the people I love every day.
Don’t let yourself get isolated. Make a point to connect with people you love every single day. If they don’t live near you, connect with them visually through an app like Facetime or Zoom. We were created for connection.
8. I will plan multiple refueling times throughout my day.
Another tip shared by Dr. Perry is the idea of “dosing.” Instead of long stretches of inactivity followed by an intense burst of activity, break up your day with shorter 15-minute refueling breaks. This helps regulate the body and prevent fatigue.
9. I will serve others.
Sometimes when you’re feeling down the quickest way to improve your mood is to serve others. This season we don’t have to look far for a need to meet. Use this time to serve others. You’ll find your focus will shift and your outlook will too.
10. I will control the controllable, and trust God with the rest.
Crises always reveal just how much in our lives is out of our control. But the good news is God is still in control, and he has promised to take care of you. The starting point to letting go of worry is to maintain this humble attitude: “God is God, and I’m not.”