In November, a 91 year old Polish woman woke up in a morgue after 11 hours in cold storage. A doctor had declared Janina Kolkiewicz dead after the woman’s niece noticed that she didn’t seem to be breathing. The doctor said he detected no heartbeat, and off she went to the mortuary. Upon waking, Kolkiewicz reportedly complained only about feeling cold and dug into a bowl of soup at home.
Our soul is our life (psyche = breath) – and sometimes pastors lead like they are out of breath. Today’s blog is specifically about loving God with all of our souls, which is part two of a series about how we can live out the Great Commandment. Since pastors live so much of our lives publicly, we can forget that we have an internal life that is just as real, and even more important.
What Is a Soul?
Jesus clearly prioritized loving God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength… which is all of me. Less clear are the distinctions between each of these four aspects of my life. Although each aspect overlaps with the other parts, there seems to be less distinction in Scripture between the heart and the soul than there is between the mind and the body.
The word of God is “sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit…”(Heb 4:12).
Every Person Has a Soul
“Soul” is used as a synonym for the person, and is often translated as “life” – especially by HCSB. There may be as many as two billion Christians who have a new heart, yet all seven billion living humans have souls. When a ship or plane goes down, it is reported how many “souls” were lost, as the Apostle Paul did (Acts 27:37). Every person has a soul, and every soul lives forever somewhere.
Then the LORD God formed man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being (Gen 2:7).
Although many times the “heart” and “soul” are used interchangeably, the heart is usually viewed as that wicked part of us that needs to be transplanted by an act of grace called salvation. While the heart is the eternal part of my life that is fully redeemed, my soul is the internal/emotional part that is constantly being restored and renewed.
The Greek term for soul is psyche, from which we get the English word psychology. Sigmund Freud wrote that, “Treatment of the psyche means…treatment of the soul.” On our best days, our souls rejoice. On our worst days, our souls are “swallowed up in sorrow” (like Jesus). Are you an emotionally healthy pastor? Is it well with your soul? I want to encourage you to take a brief look at the condition of your soul right now.
Every Soul Needs Refreshing
How can we arrange external lives (schedules) so that our interior lives (souls) get refreshed regularly?
1. God’s Presence and Word
“A paradox of the soul is that it is incapable of satisfying itself, but it is also incapable of living without satisfaction. You were made for soul-satisfaction, but you will only ever find it in God” (John Ortberg, Soul Keeping).
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul (Psalm 19:7).
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God (Psalm 42:1).
Is your walk with God consistent enough to find spiritual rest for your soul?
Encouraging Family and Friends
Moses had Aaron; Elijah had Elisha; Zerubbabel had Haggai; Paul had Barnabas, Titus, and Timothy. I wonder who ever encouraged Jeremiah? This “weeping prophet” often lived with a tortured soul:
“My soul has been deprived of peace: I have forgotten what happiness is (Lam 3:17).”
Who is regularly checking on the condition of your soul these days?
Regular Rest and Restoration
I recently met with a weary soul who has pastored almost a decade without a vacation, and has never had a sabbatical. Like many depleted pastors, he gave it all at the office.
Has your soul had time to catch up with your ministry, or does it need rest? Does your exterior and interior life need rearranging?
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest…for your souls (Matt 11:28-29).