Prodding your Soul Godward

Life is made up of seasons and the truth is, it’s not always springtime for your soul. There are seasons when you don’t feel the nearness of God or when prayers seem to float no higher than the ceiling under which you kneel.  I have personally experienced several of these seasons over the last few years, and as a "paid Christian" this can be especially distressing.  I am tending to the souls of other people and often to the neglect of my own.  I have recently done a word study on the soul in the book of Psalms and I'd like to share with you what I found there. 
The Hebrew word for soul is "nephesh."  It can be translated soul, life, will, breath, person, desire, emotion, body, whole being.  The soul is the very essence of existence, the seat of human emotion and desire, the whole self.  In Greek, the word is "psyche."  This is where we get the word "psychology."  Psyche - soul and Logos - word... Psychology is literally a word about the soul.  It's care has been the business of the church for centuries... long before Freud showed up on the scene, by the way, but that's another topic for another time. I just finished by Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling and I am now pursuing counseling full time so I guess you could say I'm in "soul care."  And since we are talking about nudging, prodding, pushing the soul – you can say this is a “self-help” article.  Actually, I'm not sure how I feel about that label, but we'll go with how we care for our soul. 

The Psalms speaks of the soul a great deal.  I find it interesting, considering so many Psalms were penned by David.  Remember David?  A king.  A warrior.  A sinner.  A man after God's own heart.  And from his earliest days, a shepherd.  I believe David becomes a shepherd to his own soul in many ways. He pushes and prods it.  He tends to it.  He leads it where he wants it to go.  He chases it when it goes astray.  I think we can learn from David and the other Psalmists about our own souls.  

The soul can experience many things. Check these out:

The soul gets thirsty:  Psalm 42:2 "My soul thirsts for the living God"
The soul gets hungry and can be satisfied: Psalm 63:5-8, "My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast"
It gets tired and finds rest and restoration.: Psalm 62:1 "My soul finds rest in God alone" or Psalm 23: 2-3 "He restores My soul"
It becomes fearful and afraid – it needs refuge: Psalm 57:1 "In you my soul takes refuge"
The soul can be overwhelmed and weary: Psalm 31:9-10 "My eye wastes away, My soul and my body also"
Your soul can be troubled: Psalm 6:3 - "My soul also is greatly troubled"
It can find itself vulnerable and endangered: Psalm 57:4-6 "My soul was in the midst of lions, my soul was bowed down"
It can be downcast or sad: Psalm 42 and 43 – "Why are you downcast, Oh My soul?"

Among many other things: your soul can get stirred up, impatient, apathetic, lose it's strength, and the soul can die.  And yet your soul is of utmost value. What does it prophet a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul? (Mark 8 and Matthew 16)  That's a great question. I hope you ask yourself that question regularly.

Here’s my fear.  My fear is that we have busied ourselves so much, we don’t listen to our soul.  So when it is starved, thirsty, overwhelmed, exhausted, troubled, and in danger of being lost – we just drown out the noise our soul is making.  And for me, ministry and relationships have oft been the first way I shut my soul up. 

We would never do this to a friend.  If a friend came to you and said – oh, friend.  I’m in trouble.  I’m hurting.  I am overwhelmed.  We would never turn up the radio or busy ourselves while she talked.  We would get eyeball to eyeball with her and listen intently.  We would try to understand where she was coming from.  And we would tend to her.  And yet with our own souls we are the most insensitive of friends.


Be willing to sit in the silence.  Ask God to search your heart.  Hear what your soul is saying it needs.  Then tend to it. 

When do you have time for that?  That would have been my question too .  But the truth is that I had time.  And I filled it with everything BUT tending to my soul. 

“You have the perfect amount of time for the things that matter most.  The trick is figuring out what matters most.” – John Acuff

I also think when your soul is depleted and starving to death, silence is troubling.  Have you ever been around a child who is malnourished?  They are so hungry, they have literally lost their taste for food and will reject the one thing they most desperately need.  At first, it must be fed to them until they again acquire a taste.  

This is an excerpt from an article by Shawn Young from InterVaristy.  
"But silence was a little overwhelming for me. I had let so much ‘life’ go by, and there were so many unresolved issues on my mind, that the moment I found silence, I immediately felt all those thoughts, feelings, anxieties, guilt and God knows what else that had been festering in my soul—all of it rushing into my mind demanding attention. It was as if my soul was a raging zoo, and someone had forgotten to feed the tigers for a long time. Who wants to open that cage?”
Silence is powerful. It opens up your soul and lets out all the supressed, ignored animals—the hungry, thirsty, wild yearnings that don’t seem fit for dignified, evangelical, Bible-believing Christians. Knowing I couldn’t possibly unravel the tangled mess of thoughts, needs and emotions I had accumulated, it took me a long time before I was willing to try...sitting quietly in prayer, listening to them all and bringing them one by one to God."
And here we are in the Psalms.  This beautiful book of worship.  This is what our souls were created for – our souls must worship.  But you also get to know the dimensions of the soul in the Psalms.  And while we won’t exclusively look at Psalms written by David, David has this fascinating relationship with his soul.  He shepherds his own soul.  He cares for it.  He rebukes it.  He preaches to it. Here are some things I found that we can do with our souls. 
  1. Lift your soul to God Himself. When your soul is in desperate condition and seems to be irreparable, trying to pull yourself up by the bootstraps would be like doing first aid on a person who just lost their leg.  Psalm 25 and Psalm 143 – “To you Oh lord, I lift up my soul.” Matthew 11:28 – come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will rest you.
  2. Rest, calm, and quiet your soul.  This is demonstrated in Psalm 131 – I have calmed and quieted my soul (this is done by resolving to not be God in your own life) and in  Psalm 116:1 – Return, oh my soul to your rest.  By the way, I think this is what people-pleasers need the most.  People-pleasers have noisy souls because they are always evaluating before and after they act to make sure they are doing/did what people wanted.  That's another blog coming.
  3. Pour out your soul – to God first and if necessary, to another.   Psalm 62 and Psalm 42: - I pour out my soul.  This is why confession is so powerful.  Once something is uttered out loud, it shrinks. 
  4. Speak to your soul – rebuke it, tell it what to do.  That's right.  You just got permission from the Bible to talk to yourself.  Psalm 57:8 – Wake up, soul.    Psalm 103, 104, 146 – Praise the Lord, soul.    Psalm 42 – Why are you downcast, soul? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.  This is almost always connected to remembering God’s works.  That's the direction David goes in Psalm 103.  Praise the Lord, soul.  Don't forget.  He forgives your sins, heals your diseases, redeems your life from the pit.  His love is as high as the heavens and He removes your sins as far as the east is from the west.  If your soul is struggling to worship - REMEMBER.   Make a habit of regularly remembering the things God has done – recount your salvation with gratefulness. 
  5. Challenge your thoughts.  Psalm 42 and 43 – why are you downcast, soul?  This is also seen in the New Testament.  Romans 12 – transformed by the renewing of your mind; Philippians 4 – whatever is good, lovely, right – think about those things
  6.  Feed your soul the word of God.    Psalm 119: 25-28 – when my soul is clinging to the dust, God's word gives it life.  When my soul melts for sorrow, God's word gives me strength.  Read scripture, hear it, memorize it, speak it, pray it.  When God's word becomes obligation and duty, you are not thinking about it rightly.  It is your life, your daily bread, your sustenance. 
  7. Be patient with your soul.     Psalm 62: 5 – For God alone, o my soul, wait in silence and   Psalm 130 – my soul waits.  The truth is, we can listen to our souls and tend to them and at times they will persist in their state.  You can't take your soul to the drive through.  Be patient with it.  Wait on God.  Hope in Him.  He will not delay.