Saturday, January 31, 2015

Taking Care of Your Soul

So, now that it's clear that you have a soul that needs to be cared for the next question is obvious. How do you do that? Well, that depends. Let's start with a situation where a person's soul is not doing well.

There are plenty of people who will offer their prescriptions without even knowing you. For them the treatment is always the same whatever the problem may be. But think about it. Does that makes any sense when it comes to caring for a sick body? Why should it make sense when it comes to taking care of an ailing soul? There are different treatments for unwell souls. It all depends on what the problem is.

Consider the prophet Elijah. After his contest with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, he wasn't doing too well. (Take a look at 1 Kings 19 for this.)
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 
Doesn't sound like Elijah is thriving. In fact, the word 'depressed' fits. ('…take away my life…'!?!) So, what was God's answer to this soul that was struggling?
And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 
Sometimes what you need to do is to take a nap and then eat something - and then go back to bed. 

But then, notice what happened after his second nap. Elijah faced God. 
What are you doing here, Elijah?
Elijah explained how he had been faithful, but it didn't seem to be enough. Life wasn't working out very well. Elijah only saw problems. So, God explained to him what was really going on. God helped Elijah to re-think the situation and his expectations. It was a dose of reality. Things were better than Elijah thought. God knew what He was doing.

There are times when what a soul needs is some time with God to see more clearly what's really going on instead of what seems to be going on.

So, what does this mean? Are we to go off to some cave to meet with God? Well, maybe - though it doesn't need to be in a cave. There may be times when what is needed is to pull back from life to spend a little extra time with God. 

I'm guessing that the response of lots of people to a suggestion like that goes something like, 'Impossible! I'm just too busy.' Back to the analogy of the body. If your doctor tells you that you really need some surgery and you can see his point, what do you do? You don't say, 'Impossible! I'm just too busy.' You have the surgery. It's inconvenient and life gets complicated as a result, but it's necessary. So, you do it. Is the care of an unhealthy soul any less important than the care of an unhealthy body? (Wait! Re-read that last sentence and make sure you get the point.)

What you really want, though, is to avoid falling into an unhealthy state. A soul needs to be cared for in an ongoing way so that it doesn't get to the point that Elijah's soul did. 

Part of the care of a soul is the care of the body. Here think about things like sleep, proper eating, some exercise and time away from all that clamors to get done (aka 'a sabbath'). 

On top of that, from my read of the Bible, the regular care of a soul includes the spiritual disciplines of daily prayer alone and weekly worship with the saints. Things happen when you give yourself to those habits, things like God doing your soul good. (I will probably come back to these two disciplines at some point in the future to explain what is going on with them.)

But there are times when, like Elijah, the need is for more than what might be called regular maintenance. So, what might be good is a time alone to sleep, to eat, to pray and sleep some more. Or time with a good friend whom you can trust so that you can talk through what's going on. There are, however, those times when a hurting soul needs more than what your average good friend knows how to give. That's a good time to sit down with your pastor. There was a time when pastors were known as 'physicians of the soul'. That's not as common today, sadly. I hope that your pastor qualifies so that there will be someone there for you when your soul needs some healing.

The goal of this post isn't to diagnose the needs of a soul and then prescribe the cure. It's to underscore the need to care for your soul and to suggest some possibilities. And that will work well enough for lots of folk. But if not, do find someone, like your pastor, who can help you work through what's troubling your soul.