Self-Care in Times of Racial Tension
COVID 19 has stolen many dreams that we had going into 2020. The pandemic has caused many people to mourn, especially black people, the loss of weddings, graduations, vacations, birthday celebrations, and for some of us, the lives of loved ones. Amid these losses, we have had to deal with the traumatic reoccurrence of black lives taken in unnecessary and unjust ways.
If you’re like me, you have thought, “Lord, this is too much.” A pandemic and killing of George Floyd to police brutality, Ahmaud Arbery to a sinful vigilante attack, and the unnecessary shooting of Breonna Taylor as she slept in her apartment are too excessive for my soul to bear. I write this piece to remind my brothers and sisters in Christ that the Lord sees us, is moved with compassion towards us, and suffers beside us, as he holds our hands and pronounces woes on societal structures that don’t seek justice (). Jesus knows how to weep (), and He also knows how to heal. After all, Jesus sympathizes with us in our weakness (Heb:4:25) as one who was a member of an oppressed people and who Himself was falsely accused and tried though He committed no wrongdoing. He will bring complete justice and make all things new (). He has neither forgotten you nor has He been deaf or blind to the historical suffering of black people. And, until His justice rolls down like a mighty river – take care of yourself. Holistic – spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional – care is needed now, perhaps more than ever.
Spiritually, take care of yourself by taking time to abide in Christ (). To abide in Him is how we follow Him. We abide in Him as we thoughtfully meditate on His Word (). Open your Bible, play some pleasant music, find a comfortable seat, leave your phone in another room, and spend time with Jesus. In this season of your life, voluminous reading may not be possible or most beneficial. So, I suggest you reflect on a chapter or verse from the Psalter, the book of Proverbs, the minor prophets, or the Gospels. Then, base your prayers on what you read. Moreover, don’t allow your prayers to be consumed with you talking, but make sure you take time to hear what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may speak to you through His Word.
Physically, take care of yourself by eating foods that will energize you and not leave you sluggish. Our minds and emotions are intricately connected to our diets. Several years ago, I started to eat healthier and lost 55 pounds. Through the process, I learned how to enjoy food without living to eat. Instead, by God’s grace, I’m learning how to eat to live.
Not only must we be mindful of our diet, but we also must think carefully about our sleep patterns. The Scriptures invite us to work hard, but also to rest well, knowing that God is Sovereign and gives rest to his beloved (). We can sleep well, knowing that God neither sleeps nor slumbers ()!
Take care of yourself physically not only through diet and a regular sleep routine but through exercise. A couple of years ago, a leadership coach told me that one of his life rules was to sweat every day. Since then, I have tried to live by that rule also. If you are not in the routine of regularly exercising, perhaps this rule of life could be helpful to you. Move until you sweat. Though moving won’t erase the trauma and years of brokenness that we have experienced as black, it can help your body to “run” better, impacting the way you process information, your mood, and your emotions. It’s not a little thing that God made Elijah rest and eat after he collapsed under a Juniper tree due to disappointment and exhaustion (1Kgs 19:5-9.)
Also, take care of yourself by protecting your mind. The Bible encourages Christians to be careful of who we hang out with because of the negative impact of unwise people (). Scripture also calls us to take every thought captive (), to think on the things above (), and to cultivate a discerning heart regarding whether we should respond to a “fool” ().
Besides, seeking the things that are above limit the time you spend on social media and group chats. Daily, ask yourself, “Am I in a healthy place right now to consume this information, or should I take a break?” After watching the Amhaud Arbery video, I was mentally and emotionally a mess. Though I wanted to say something and knew that members of my multi-cultural church needed to hear from their pastor, I had to take a day and a half to get together. I’m not pastoring people well if I’m responding in the flesh and with the anger of man (Jas 1:20). So, I had to weep in private, mourn, abide, talk to trusted friends, and then speak. Now, sometimes it’s wise to speak when you’re hurting and raw so that people can feel the pain. But, even then, we must be careful not to speak carelessly, but to remember that one day we will give account for every word spoken ().
Finally, take care of yourself by guarding your emotional health. I once heard someone say that emotions are “significant indicators but horrible dictators ().” We don’t want to be led by our feelings, but we also must not ignore them; staying emotionally healthy means that we regularly “name” what we are feeling (, ). It’s okay not to be okay. We see David and Asaph along with Job and other biblical authors modeling what it means to lament, grieve, and live with a broken heart. However, we don’t want to be controlled by not being okay but, rather, appropriately, learn to live in the tension of the “already-and-not yet” (). Living in the tension of the already and not yet means that we mourn for the brokenness of our cities and structures. But, it also means that we do with resurrection hope, knowing that Jesus Christ is coming back and that the battle has already been won in Christ (). Living in the “in-between” means that we can learn to simultaneously rejoice and hurt at the same time ().
Black Christian (and non-black Christian allies), take care of yourself by casting your cares on Jesus and by remembering that you are a son or daughter of the Most High (). Look to the Lover of your soul who is also your Good Shephard (), Friend (), Bridegroom (), Savior, and Lord (Phl 3:29). Let Him nourish you with bread and water from heaven (). And remember that while you seek to take care of yourself, Jesus is caring for you in an even greater way.
And, to my white brothers and sisters, embrace your call to help carry the burdens with your black brothers and sisters in Christ during this racially tense time in our nation (). Caring for your black brothers and sisters will look different from person to person. So, draw near to your brothers and sisters and observe what brings them comfort or ask how you can help. The Bible calls Christians to “weep with those who weep” to help carry each others burdens to fulfill the law of Christ, which is the law of love (). Even though our white brothers and sisters might not feel the pain of injustices in the same way that black and brown and Asian brothers and sister do and even if we all have different perspectives and experiences, now is the perfect time to practice slow speech and quick ears (Js 1:19). By doing this, we will all model Christian love () ().
Finally, remember these words from your Savior:
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. (ESV)