There’s an old story of two Englishmen who traveled to Africa to explore the wonders of the interiors of Africa. They hired native tribesmen to serve as their guides and set out on their expedition. Thoroughly engrossed in the adventure and wonders of Africa, they soon realized that they had wandered farther than expected. Speed would be of the essence if they were to catch the next ship at port to return home. If they missed the ship, it would be weeks before another ship would show up.
They quickly ordered their belongings packed and told the tribesmen they would need to travel quickly to make up the time they had lost. For two days they marched feverishly through the jungle. On the morning of the third day, the tribesmen stubbornly refused to move. The Englishmen pleaded, even demanded they move on if they wanted to be paid, but they would not budge. Finally, the leader of the tribesmen spoke. “We have been moving too fast,” he explained. “We must stay here and wait for our souls to catch up with us.”
What is the Soul?
The subject for the last three weeks has been soul care, but what is the soul? It’s an ongoing matter of debate in theological circles. I don’t know what these tribesmen imagined their souls to be, but they knew it was important, and that the soul moved at a different pace than the body.
Whatever your understanding of the soul, there is general agreement that it is that part of our being that is spiritual and connects us to the Father as His image-bearers. The heart and the mind are distinct components of our being related to soul. How we think, feel, relate and worship determine the condition of our soul.
In her book, Soul Nourishment, Deborah Haddix, one of our Prayer Team leaders notes that “Our soul is like the silent, invisible yet necessary Central Processing Unit (CPU) of our person. Our soul, and thus our soul’s health, is the driving force behind everything that matters to us.” I like that—the CPU of our person. I also like John Ortberg’s description: “It is the coolest, eeriest, most mysterious, evocative, crucial, sacred, eternal, life-directing, fragile, indestructible, controversial, expensive dimension of your existence.” It’s a wondrous mystery.
Jesus addressed the crucial and “expensive dimension” of our soul when He said: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). Our soul is who we are and our connector to our Creator. It is the center of our passions, beliefs and eternal destiny. It’s what makes us distinct from the rest of creation. It is eternal, and it needs redeemed.
It also requires calculated care. Thus, we need to pay attention to the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Rest for the soul—letting our soul catch up with our frantic pace—is essential. God wanted His people to understand that when he spoke through Jeremiah: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). There it is again… rest for our souls.
How Do We Find It?
But what is this rest for our souls? How do we find it? Here are a few thoughts:
- Want it bad enough to do what God says. The tragic reality of the Jeremiah passage is that God knows men’s hearts. “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it [the good way]’” (verse 16). What a typical response of man’s sin nature. If you are not convinced rest for your soul is important enough to make some different choices, you won’t find it.
- Admit the ‘good way’ and ‘my way’ are not the same thing. This is choosing the path of coming, taking up, and learning. Coming to Jesus is when I open my hands, let go and surrender my need to be in control. Taking up His yoke is choosing to lean on His grace as His work, not the burden of my works. Learning is choosing to stop and listen to the voice of God through His Word and His daily activity in my life.
- Create time and space with God.The quality of your life and its impact will be directly proportional to your relationship with God in Christ Jesus. If you don’t nurture that relationship with time and space to hear God speak, your soul will shrivel and so will the impact you have upon your grandchildren.
What’s on your personal watchlist for the new year? Does it include soul care? Soul care requires intentionality. Intentionality kicks in when I understand enough to say, “I must stop and let my soul catch up.”
GRANDPAUSE: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. -Jesus