The Secret to Abundant Life: Expressing Self-Love Through Service

one hand reaching out to the shadow of another hand to demonstrate a heart of service

By Nancy Manassero

I trudged into the kitchen, bleary-eyed, whining to my husband. 

“I don’t wanna go to work! I’m so tired, and I just want a day off!”

He held me and whispered sweet words of encouragement. 

He knew my work as a nurse demanded all my concentration and energy, but he also understood I loved it.

That evening, I bounced into the house, regaling him with stories of calming an apprehensive pre-op patient and comforting an agitated post-op patient.

“You know,” my husband said, “Work is like therapy for you. What a difference from this morning!”

I pondered his words. He spoke the truth. 

What happened between 6 am and 6 pm? 

The answer reflected God’s plan for human flourishing: I got my eyes off myself and poured into others.

a Christian wife lovingly embraced by her husband

The Truth About Loving Ourselves

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 HCSB

Nowhere in Scripture does God tell us to love ourselves or pursue self-gratification. 

In fact, loving ourselves is assumed when He says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Mt 22:39 HCSB, emphasis mine). 

The tiny word, “as,” reveals our self-love. 

God doesn’t tell us to love ourselves first, and then love our neighbors! 

Nor does He tell us to love our neighbors if we love ourselves.

How do we know we love ourselves? 

The obvious ways are to feed, clothe, and entertain ourselves. 

The subtle ways might be we become indignant when someone offends us, are jealous when someone gets what we want, or shift blame rather than confess wrongdoing. 

We can even reveal our self-love when we claim to hate ourselves. 

I recently viewed a social media video where an angry woman spewed endless reasons why she found herself despicable. 

However, ranting that “I deserve better” and “life is unfair” showed how she actually esteemed herself.

Although life can dish out some hefty soul wounds, God doesn’t advise us to turn inward, isolate, and punish the world for our pain. 

Instead, He promises to heal us so we can partner with Him in tending to the soul wounds of others.

a group of Christian women and men serving others by packing boxes of food and experiencing abundant life

How to Shift from Self-Absorption to Abundant Life God’s Way

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4 HCSB

The Enemy doesn’t want us to heal so we can help others mend, especially if we’ve suffered deeply. 

Many powerful ministries spring from the most profound spiritual and emotional wounds. 

Satan strategizes to keep us stuck in our victimhood, angry at our adversaries, and far from God. 

Our self-absorption is his win. 

How can we defeat his plan? 

Reflect on the following questions to determine how to pursue God’s plan for an abundant life.

  • Has God been nudging me to reach out to someone?
  • Can I be a catalyst to heal a broken relationship?
  • Do I have a skill or talent that can be used to minister to others?
  • Is God calling me to be a voice for the oppressed, forgotten, or maligned?
  • Has someone accomplished something that I can applaud rather than quietly envy?
  • Do I smile at co-workers, my children, and strangers?
  • How might I lift the spirits of someone suffering, imprisoned, lonely, or traumatized?
  • Am I willing to be the first to apologize and restore fellowship when conflict occurs?
  • Will I ask God to give me His eyes and heart for others who are hard to love?

When we do any of these things, we take steps toward fulfilling biblical commands.

a Christian woman holding a stack of cards that say "We're so glad you're here!"

Small Acts of Service Can Lead to Abundant Life

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” – Philippians 7:18b-19 HCSB

Friends, we don’t need to start a non-profit or go on a speaking tour to make a difference. 

One small act can sometimes change someone’s outlook. 

It can lead to abundant life—for you and the ones you serve.

I had only myself and my shopping list on my mind one day as I arrived at Costco. 

If I had walked any faster, I’d have been jogging. 

Another woman and I reached the carts at the same moment. 

She looked forlorn and troubled. 

I grabbed a cart and smiled as I offered it to her. 

With eyes lit up in surprise, she said, “Oh, thank you! I’ve had the hardest day and you giving me this cart has restored my hope in humanity!”

Don’t dismiss the little things we can do to show kindness. 

My momentary act told this stranger that she mattered.

three Christians joining hands as a team with work gloves on to serve others and enjoy abundant life

Overcome Emotions to Enjoy Abundant Life Through Service

Sometimes, I don’t feel like helping, serving, or sacrificing. 

But we shouldn’t let our emotions inform our decisions. 

We battle the demands of our flesh daily.

When I manage to overcome my emotions and do something selfless, I reap unexpected blessings and experience abundant life. 

Even when it’s emotionally or physically demanding, God can give us strength to overcome the pull of serving ourselves.

Jesus calls us to follow Him—a high calling to lay down our lives for others, humble ourselves, and lift others up. 

God offers a path to our greatest fulfillment in this life, to abundant life—and it’s not found in putting ourselves first.

In God’s economy, it’s more blessed to give than receive. 

We are surrounded by people who may need a hug, word of encouragement, or listening ear. People yearning for a drop of hope.

Let’s challenge ourselves and ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to those around us. 

Let’s be alert to His nudges. 

If we try to do this in our own strength, we’ll burn out and become resentful. 

No one can be everything to everyone, but we can all do something for someone else. 

Be a sweet aroma to those who cross your path today!

Nancy Manassero

Nancy is a retired RN whose mission is to help sexual abuse survivors heal through Christ. Her own healing journey culminated in her 2023 book, Heartmending: God Can Heal Your Heartbreak From Sexual Abuse. Nancy ministers to abuse survivors via mentoring, speaking, and teaching. She and her husband of 41 years live in the Pacific Northwest. Subscribe to Nancy’s monthly newsletter and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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