Obviously, there are lots of responsibilities we need to take care of—like studying for upcoming exams, doing chores, babysitting, etc. Those are important, and as we learn to put God first, we will discover that this means caring for our personal responsibilities as well as others' needs. But there is SO MUCH that's expected of us! How do we prioritize our lives in a way that honors God?
"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." —Psalm 90:12
Keep in mind that the whole message of the Bible comes down to two things: Love God and love people. First is always God, second is when we think of others, then we can think of ourselves. That should help frame things as we move forward...
It's cheesy, I know, but it's also kind of helpful. If you grew up with Veggie Tales, I bet you still know that God made you special and He loves you very much. ;) This stuff sticks with you!
J-Jesus/God: He is always first (Matthew 6:33). Talk to Him about what's going on, thank Him for the good stuff, and ask Him for guidance as you make decisions (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
O - Others: Aim to serve and show honor to others (Romans 12:10). If you are living at home, your parents and siblings fit in here first (Deuteronomy 5:16). As a single adult, you'll want to focus on the people in your immediate friend group as well as your family (Galatians 5:13). If you are married, your spouse comes first (Ephesians 5:25), then any children you have (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). Finally, seek to serve your extended family (1 Timothy 5:8), plus those in your friend circles, church, and community (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24).
Y - You: Yes, it's hard to put ourselves last sometimes; our innate desire is to first be selfish. Yes, we do need downtime and time to relax and enjoy the things we love to do, but we must also make sure that our hearts are aligned with God's will for our lives and fulfill our responsibilities, which means caring for others too (Philippians 2:3-4).
"Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor." —Proverbs 21:21
If you suffer from mental health issues, you're going through a traumatic time period, you are an only child or eldest sibling or just a kid who is saddled with an incredible number of big responsibilities, or you are in another situation where you experience a relentless amount of emotional, physical, or spiritual stress, it's very important to make sure that you're caring for your own health first. If you aren't healthy emotionally, physically, or spiritually, it will be difficult (if not impossible) to care for others.
When Jesus said to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39), He was alluding to the fact that we naturally can (and should) treat ourselves with great care. The parallel is that we should ALSO treat others with the same great care.
Since humans are generally selfish creatures (Jeremiah 17:9; 2 Timothy 3:2-4), they often need to be reminded that others are important too (Philippians 2:3-4). But if you are a Giver, someone who can't help but put their own needs last in EVERY situation, if you value yourself as "less than" everyone else (to a fault), you MUST put self-care at the forefront of your mind right now.
It IS possible to put others first so much that you forget to keep yourself healthy, and that is not OK. Even Jesus knew that human beings can't keep going 24/7 without rest (Luke 5:15-16). He recognized His need to refresh, recharge, and reconnect with His Father so He would have strength to continue serving others (Psalm 28:7; Philippians 4:13; Psalm 18:2). You, too, must take time to care for YOU.
Let's take a look at two ladies Jesus encountered who had opposing priorities on the day Jesus visited them:
"As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, 'Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.'
But the Lord said to her, 'My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'" —Luke 10:38-42 (NLT)
There was nothing wrong with Martha preparing dinner, but her fault was in prioritizing her preparation time over what was most important: spending time with Jesus. (ALSO SEE: Why is it important to spend time alone with God?)
Next time you're making your priority lists, be aware of where you place the most importance from day to day. Talk to God about your list (James 1:5), and reorganize as needed to be sure you are keeping Him, others, and yourself in their appropriate places in your heart.
The message of the Bible comes down to two things: Love God and love people. First is always God. Talk to Him, thank Him for the good stuff, and ask for guidance (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Second, we care for others, such as our families, friends, church, and community (Romans 12:10). Lastly, we think of ourselves. That said, if you're struggling in areas of health (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual), it is OK to take time for yourself, alone with God, to heal. Even Jesus recognized His need to refresh, recharge, and reconnect with His Father so He would have strength to continue serving others (Psalm 28:7; Philippians 4:13; Psalm 18:2). Talk to God about your priorities (James 1:5), and reorganize as needed to keep Him, others, and yourself in their appropriate places in your heart.
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two teenage kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.