Missions work is a holistic work. We serve God and others with our whole selves––body, soul, and spirit. But if we had to rank those three in order, we would understandably put the body last. While our spirit certainly comes before our body in the ranking of spiritual order, how many of us have taken that to an extreme on the mission field, neglecting it and pushing it far beyond its normal human limits? How often do we treat it almost like a disconnected and unfortunate part of us that holds us back, rather than the temple of the Holy Spirit that God designed for it to be?
God speaks to us through His Spirit living in our spirit. We know that. We also know He can speak to us through the emotions and thoughts He gives to our souls. But what about our bodies? Could He speak to us through them? Could He use the way He made our physical selves to teach us things He needs us to know?
Our bodies were designed to tell us things. The grogginess we feel at night tells us we need to sleep. The fatigue we feel after a hard week of work tells us it’s time to rest and reconnect with God, friends, and family. The growl in our stomach lets us know we need to stop and refuel so we have the energy we need to serve others.
But how often do we blow past those signals, counting them as carnal? Or frustrating? Or things that get in the way?
This certainly isn’t to say that we don’t “push through” at times or deny ourselves, as the apostle Paul talks about. But continual denial and ignorance of obvious needs (unless required because of extreme circumstances) can quickly become maltreatment and disregard for the beautiful and valuable temples God has given us.
The boundaries between selfless service and self-neglect can become blurry. Listening to the cues our bodies send is not a deviation from our mission; it’s a God-imbued message ensuring we are able to fulfill your mission wholeheartedly. This awareness is critical for us to be able to serve as missionaries in a sustainable and long-term way.
Here are five thoughts from a recent Modern Day Missionaries podcast interview with Dr. Margaret Nagib to help you navigate this inner dialogue and weave it into your missionary journey.
1. Embrace Your Body’s Dialogue
Every ache, pang of exhaustion, or stirring anxiety is your body’s way of voicing its narrative. It’s signaling a need for respite amid your ceaseless endeavor to serve God’s children. Are you paying attention? By heeding these physical cues, you’re not sidelining your missions work, but ensuring you have the vitality to continue it with passion and energy.
2. The Push-Pause Method
Think of it as a tender dance, a rhythmic interchange between advancing in service (push) and retreating into moments of solitude or rest (pause). Your missions work isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon designed by God. A marathon where wise pauses are your water stations. Each pause is a chance to rejuvenate, reflecting on your mission with clarity and renewed vigor.
3. Self-Care isn’t Self-Indulgence
In the realm of missions, self-care transcends the superficial—it’s about nurturing the trinity of mind, body, and spirit to continually let God’s purpose flow through you. When the vessel of your body is cared for, the service you give is much more likely to flourish. This nurture extends your capacity to empathize, to support, and to remain committed to your mission.
4. Your Tribe Is Your Treasure
You aren’t called to go at missions––or life––alone. Surround yourself with a tribe who resonate with the essence of service, yet remind you to care for your well-being. This kind of companionship becomes your sanctuary, offering both a mirror and a window, both reflecting your journey and showcasing different views of what service in God’s name can look like. When God asked us to love others, never forget He said to love them as you love yourself.
5. The Human Vessel in Service
Yes, your call is sacred, but the vessel is human—You. This human vessel needs rest, nutrition, companionship, and above all, love and care. Acknowledge and honor your human needs, and watch your missionary endeavors bloom. In cherishing your humanity, you foster a sustainable mission, one where the seeds of your compassion and dedication can flourish and continue to bloom over the years.
As we serve God in the missions spaces He places us in, our bodies are our steadfast companions. We can’t go anywhere without them! They tell all kinds of tales––of the beautiful work God has given us to do and of the things we’ve put them through to do those things. Our scars can be beautiful and we wear them with pride. This life is about sacrifice, that’s for sure! But let’s walk in tune with the Holy Spirit and not blow past the messages God is giving us to rest and refuel and reconnect with Him. Let’s think long-term. Let’s sacrifice when HE is asking us to, not because we just don’t know how to stop. We are not the Savior of the world; He is.
The sweet spot lies in acknowledging our body’s cues while remaining totally devoted to our calling from God. It’s not about just enduring, but rather flourishing in our mission. God wants us for the long haul! How can we learn to listen to Him as He speaks to us through our spirit, soul, and body?
What is one way you sense God has been trying to speak to you through your body? What is the message? Have you been listening? Have you been ignoring Him? What has kept you from responding to the message?
If you would like to watch the full interview with Dr. Margaret, you can find that here: