Sacrifice is an uncomfortable topic for many military spouses. If you thank a spouse for her service, she might say, “Oh, I’m just a spouse!” Often we feel that way because we see the weight of the ultimate sacrifice that our husbands are willing to make. We see the hidden burdens of war. When that knowledge is combined with the fact that military spouses often face situations where others’ needs come before their own, it becomes a little bit clearer why we’re so willing to shy away from the pedestal of praise.
In fact, in choosing to become a military spouse, we know from the very beginning that the military will always come before us. There is no choice for our spouses. From there, it’s easier and easier to minimize the sacrifices that we do, indeed, make. But when we deny those sacrifices, we also deny the needs that they create in us. We shy away from admitting the strain that they place on us.
But if we don’t acknowledge the strain, how can we be sure to take care of ourselves? How can we pour and pour without refilling our cups?
Fellow military spouse, you do make sacrifices. You give up the sort of tight-knit community that comes from living in one place for many years. You accept a more challenging career path. You give up the luxury of being able to rely on your partner to always be present to help you in parenting and other life struggles. You accept the stress of knowing that your husband is willingly putting his life on the line. And you accept all of the additional challenges that military life can bring. While some civilian families do share some of these experiences, very few people share them all.
You do make sacrifices. And in order to continue making them, you need to take care of yourself, too.
To learn about self-care in a lifestyle of sacrifice, we don’t need to look any further than Christ Himself. Think about Him this way: His work on earth was never done. People from near and far searched Him out (even breaking down through a roof to reach Him). His miracles and teaching were in high demand — so much so that He once had to feed 5,000 with just a few loaves and fishes. His responsibilities not only followed Him around, but His ultimate responsibility weighed heavily on His heart.
Does that sound familiar in some ways? Do you feel like your to-do list is endless? Do your kids ever barge in on you in the bathroom? Do you feel that your family’s needs place a great demand on you (even if you’re happy to fulfill them)? Have you ever MacGyver-ed a meal from a few ingredients available in your pantry? Does the reality of your husband’s sacrifice ever weigh heavily on your heart?
Indeed, our lives can’t compare to Jesus’ and some of those parallels are light-hearted. But that doesn’t diminish the example He set for us, time and time again.
“But now even more the report about Him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear Him and to be healed of their infirmities. But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:15-16 ESV).
The Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing,” which we should strive to do, but having a dedicated prayer time that allows you to stop and draw near to God is just as important. We see that in the example Christ set for us.
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1, NIV).
Even in His final hours on earth, He withdrew to pray (Matthew 26:36-56). At a time when there were a lot of things He could have been doing — making a final push to bring people to Himself, healing more people, finding a place to hide from His destiny, living it up in His final few hours — He chose to pray. Both His lifelong practice of withdrawing to pray and His choice to turn to prayer at the end should show us how important it is.
Prayer helps us please God (Proverbs 15:8) and draw near to Him (Psalm 145:18). It gives us a way to communicate with God (Jeremiah 29:12), strength when we would otherwise fail (Matthew 26:41), and confidence that God’s will is at work in our lives (1 John 5:14). It allows us to make requests of Him (Ephesians 6:18) and to receive God’s gifts (Matthew 7:11). Prayer relieves our anxiety (Philippians 4:6) and can even save us from the mouths of hungry lions (Daniel 6:22).
The most important self-care tip for any military spouse or Christian is to set aside a dedicated time of prayer every day. It should be a non-negotiable part of your schedule, as much as possible, because through it and the connection to God it brings, the rest of your to-do list is possible.
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Do you pray every day in a dedicated quiet time? Why or why not? What does that reveal about your relationship with God?
If you spend time with Him in thanksgiving, confession, request, etc., how does it seem to affect your outlook or your day?
Does the amount of time you spend with the Lord reveal your love for Him?
Would you say you are joyfully dependent on God or dependent on Him because there is no other option? How can regular prayer remedy that?
Sometimes my prayers go like this: “Lord, thank you for all of the blessings you’ve brought into my life … wait. Did I start the coffee maker? Do I need to add coffee to my grocery list? I can hear the dog at the door. Better go let him in …” You get the picture. Sometimes it’s difficult to give God our complete attention in prayer.
This week, don’t just make sure you set aside time to pray every single day. Find a notebook or some paper and write your prayer during your daily quiet time. Write it just as if you were talking to God; there’s no need to change your prayer just because it’s going on paper. This will help you focus on your time with God, and if you get distracted, you’ll know where you left off.