The Practical Implications of what the Soul Needs
Since last week’s post, I have been thinking more about the practicality of soul care as well as the practical implications of what the soul needs after knowing what a soul is. As Emily Freeman says, the naming of things is important.
If the soul includes my thoughts, my feelings, my choices, my body, then that affects how I love and obey. How I love and obey affects me at the soul level. What I do at the soul level affects love and obedience. Love is not just a command of affection – if I love God with all my soul, I love Him with my whole self. I love Him in thought, in deed, in feeling, in choice, and in body. How I think about God matters. It matters to the care of my soul and in obedience to God. The famous John Piper quote becomes most true — “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.” When I believe the best about God, my soul will be healthiest.
Our bodies and souls are meant to have symbiotic relationships with God (although God does not depend on us).
The Soul with God
The soul is most fully itself when it is found in God. The soul is most fully itself when it is lost in God. Seeking God and the truth of who God is and knowing that He delights in me is the beginning of soul keeping. The Word then becomes a balm for a weary soul. It reintegrates the way the elements of me have fallen out of sync and lost each one’s way or it keeps all the pieces put together as one.
I have been thinking about how I must love God with my thoughts, feelings, actions, etc. to fully love God. The key to finding my true self is examining where I fall short of my love for God. God knows, but I must allow the Truth-Detective that lives within to set me straight on who I really am so that my real self can be transformed into further likeness of Truth Himself. We are not built from lies. When the Creator created us, He spoke the truth over us. When sin came in, lies flooded our soul, flooded the essence of our very being. We quickly learned at early ages to believe lies over what God has proclaimed to be true of each us. The Word reminds us who God is and who we are to Him. We are His beloved.
When we love the Lord in thought, we think right thoughts about God and our feelings about God will follow. We will taste and see that the Lord is good. We will delight in Him (and He in us). When we love Him in thought, our actions will follow. (If our actions don’t follow, we haven’t been changed which Paul and James so often write about.) As to the body, when we are delighting in God at the soul level, the body commands less of our attention. The body and its desires are the hardest to shrug off, which is why the resurrection of the body is such a wondrous hope to us.
The Soul with Others
If the first command is to love God with our whole self, then the second command is to love others like we love ourselves. We can only love others well when we love ourselves well. But loving ourselves well is not in doing whatever we want to do. Self-love is following the first command. When I love God, I love myself. Self-denial in order to love God (because and out of grace alone, not by my works) is means of self-love. When I through the grace and power of Christ know what love looks like, I can love others.
I find that when I set the soul lens over loving others, I don’t love others as well as I should. Through Romans 8, I learned much about loving God and myself due to the true gospel. But when I think about the thoughts I think, the feelings I have, the things I do or don’t do, how I use my body toward others to convey love or hate, I don’t love well.
When I don’t love others well, my soul will not be nourished by relationships. If (fill in the blank)________ person annoys me and I think bad thoughts, then I am not loving. When I act out of my own interests over theirs, I will hurt both them and me.
Only a soul stirred and filled with God can love like God asks us to love.
The Soul at Rest
The world is busy, so much so that even our fast food drive-thrus are not fast enough for us. The soul craves rest and refuge not hurry and hustle. So then, we see how our soul is at odds with the world around us, and how essential it is to care for it. We must be diligent to find ways to slow ourselves down. When we realize the necessity of slowing down, we understand how the enemy uses busyness and the distractions of the world to make our soul frantic and unrested.
We have to train ourselves to pay attention to what makes us restless, anxious, confused, torn, and weary. These are keys that the soul is not integrated or living with integrity. Something is causing us to come undone, and we should not ignore it else more unraveling will continue. This then is one way we trade anxiety for peace. We ask our soul questions and speak kindly to our souls. We bless the soul in praise and remembrance of the goodness of God.
The Dark Night of the Soul
In thinking back to personality tests from last week, they are helpful tools for figuring out who we are, but what is really helpful is sitting with God. During the years of lostness I mentioned last time, what I was really experiencing was a dark night of the soul, where God seemed silent.
After listening to others over the years, I think many people experience a dark night, but don’t know enough to recognize it or what to do about it. Truthfully, if God decides to be silent, there is no amount of manipulation you can do to get Him to speak and find the adequate resolution that your soul craves. Even the Word, which is a deep well, seems dry. It is disturbing to say the least. But, through it, I personally learned the unshakeable goodness of God. The dark night of the soul is in its own way a deep time of mentoring by the hand of God. Most likely a soul will not emerge from it unscathed or unchanged.
During the dark night, the soul does not feel kept. In my own dark night, God used it to unchain me from my false self. I thought I was something I wasn’t. My version of reality was fake, like a kid lost in the Matrix. God wanted more for me than I was able to want for myself.
The Soul is Needy
In Soul Keeping, John Ortberg says the soul needs the following:
- A keeper
- A center
- A future
- To be with God
Ultimately, the soul needs deep relationship with God and others. Ecclesiastes says that God put eternity in the hearts of every man. When God is at the center of my soul, my soul is kept.
What are you noticing about your soul? How can you care for your soul?