How is Your Soul?
“How is your soul?” my friend asked after we sat down for an early breakfast. I appreciated his genuine concern and desire to help hold me accountable, but I was also a little unsure of how to answer his question. It’s not often that I am asked about my soul. I was fairly certain he was trying to ask how I was doing—if I was regularly reading my Bible, spending time in prayer, and fighting sin—but, nonetheless, his question got me thinking more deeply about the word soul. What is a soul and how do I know if my soul is healthy?
What is the soul?
According to theologian and author, Dallas Willard, the soul is what integrates your will (your intentions), your mind (your thoughts and feelings, your values and conscience), and your body (your face, body language, and actions) into a single life. “A soul is healthy—well ordered—when there is harmony between these three entities and God’s intent for all creation. When you are connected with God and others in life, you have a healthy soul,” says Willard.
Our Soul is Needy
The will is a form of energy that you can drive and stretch and push. The mind has an endless ability to think and feel. You can direct your attention and focus and study. The body can be exercised, strengthened, and conditioned. We can train it to run for miles or lift heavy weight. But the nature of the soul is to need.
Author and Pastor, John Ortberg, says, “The soul is a little like the king on a chessboard.” If you know anything about the game of chess, then you know the king is the most limited of chess pieces because it can only move one square at a time. But if you lose the king, the game is over. Your soul is vulnerable because it’s needy. If you meet those needs with the wrong things, the game is over.
Our Soul Needs God
The neediness of every soul was meant to point us toward God. The challenge for all Christians is that we are fallen, and, until Christ returns, we are prone to search for other things to satisfy the needs that can only be met by God. When we fasten our minds, wills, and bodies on things other than God, it’s called idolatry. The soul cannot give up idolatry by sheer willpower any more than an alcoholic can give up drinking by promising to get sober. Even nice things like food, shopping, recreation, hobbies, vacations, and money (to name a few) can easily move from casual enjoyment to a place they were never intended to be elevated. These idols can consume our minds, control our wills, and temporarily satisfy our bodies. And this usually happens in subtle ways, sometimes without us ever recognizing it until it’s too late.
This is where grace comes in. You and I cannot replace an idol by simply turning away from it. We must turn toward something. And that something is God. The Psalmist says, “my soul yearns, and even faints, for the courts of the Lord” (Psalms 84:2).
I cannot imagine losing consciousness because my soul is so desperate for God. Have you ever lost consciousness? I have come very close on two occasions during the last year. Both times were after very intense CrossFit workouts in very hot temperatures. My body got dehydrated, and I had pushed myself physically to a place that was beyond what my body could handle. I laid down inside the gym in front of a fan drinking Gatorade trying to recover, hoping to prevent myself from fainting. Fortunately, I never lost consciousness, but the feeling of being so close was unforgettable. I wonder what it might feel like for my soul to yearn for God to the point of losing consciousness.
The soul’s greatest need is God. We can only begin to grow in Godliness when we acknowledge our sinfulness and neediness. Each of us are responsible for the condition of our soul.
Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body . . . Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” I think Jesus may have said this to remind us that the stakes are high. The body will age and wear out, but the soul lives forever. How we live and keep our soul will determine our eternal destiny. If we live our lives in violation to the commands of Jesus, our souls will eventually be destroyed by being completely separated from God. Jesus’ warning was essentially saying: protect your soul. Guard it. Make room in your life to care for it, and orient it towards Christ.
So, I ask you, as a good friend recently asked me . . . “How is your soul?”
This staff devotional was written by Jay Boyd, ABCH Director of Development