How many times a day do you ask, or are asked by someone else, “how are you?” And how often do you respond with a simple “good,” even though you may be completely falling apart? Are you good? How do you define “being good?” We may appear on the outside to have it all together: healthy eating, great job, dressed well, loving family, and at the same time feel empty and lacking on the inside. In his latest book, How’s Your Soul?, pastor Judah Smith encourages us to examine our lives from the inside out, finding what really matters by asking the question: how’s your soul? He gives us several key questions to help us examine the health of our souls.
*When is my soul at home? Dorothy may have said it best: “there’s no place like home.” Our homes should be places of comfort, familiarity, and safety. So where is the home for our souls? Let’s go back to the beginning—the creation of man. When God created Adam he was simply a form, until God breathed his own life into him: “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). Man was not truly living until God breathed life into him, so essentially we are living on the borrowed breath of God. He is the origin and anchor of our soul. So when we return to God, our creator, we find our home. Our eternal home. Our place of comfort, familiarity, and safety. So how do we return to God? By our worship—reading his word, being in prayer and relationship with him, and giving him praise. Psalm 150:6 reminds us that everything that has breath, praise the Lord.
*What makes my soul healthy? Judah presents the four “Rs” of a healthy soul: rest, restriction, responsibility, and relationship. God created the Garden of Eden as a perfect environment, a place of rest and rejuvenation (the perfect spa retreat). He intended for us to rest and enjoy our surroundings, as He himself rested on the seventh day. In this environment He also placed restriction, while stacking the odds in our favor: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘you many surely eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17). Did you catch that? Every tree, but one. Eeeeeevery tree. Now, before we run off and judge Adam, let’s examine ourselves for a moment. Have we ever tried to force something, even when hearing a distinct “no” from God? Have we succumbed to pressure from co-workers, family, or friends to do something that contradicts our walk with God? Our God is gracious and loving. He presents us with restriction, while giving us choice and abundance. Restriction is good for our souls. It allows us to bring our attention back to God and seek his will for our lives. Which leads to the next “R”: responsibility. God created Adam, then presented him with responsibility—tend the garden. Work is intended to give us a direction and purpose in the kingdom of God. It is a blessing from God that we should use as an offering of our obedience to him and his will for our lives. Responsibility and surrender to God are essential for a healthy soul. A healthy soul also needs relationship. As God created the world he admired his creation, calling it good. But Genesis 2:18 records the first time God mentions it not being good: “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” God designed us for relationship with him and relationship with others. We are not created to live isolated and alone. We are called to share his message with others, to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us in our walk with God. Being in relationship is good for our souls.
*Where is my soul headed? We can get consumed and overwhelmed planning for the future. We try to eat right and exercise to keep our bodies physically healthy for years to come. We invest in our retirement accounts, health insurance policies, and 401ks. But do we spend time planning for the future of our souls? Thinking about how we want to be at the end of our lives will shape how we live in the present. What does that look like? We need to live and love like Jesus. We need to live in obedience with God’s will. We need to be in relationship with others: to love the unlovable, to forgive those who have hurt us, to share the gospel with the people who surround us. In the book, Judah compares our souls to a circle and explains how Jesus was the best circle maker in history. Everyone is included in his circle—even those who reject him. There is always room for more in his circle. Do we make room in ours? Have we forgiven those who have hurt us in the past? Do we offer encouragement or judgement? Do we offer love or rejection? Are our circles getting bigger or smaller? How we live in the present will affect the future of our soul. At the end of our life, will our soul be filled with abundance or will it be empty?
On our daily walk through life we may appear to have it all together on the outside, but what’s on the inside is what matters most to God, and He alone can change our insides. As we spend time with God, we will improve our souls. Our walk with Him is not about arriving—it’s about the walk. It’s about progressing. It’s about consistency, not perfection. It’s about being in relationship with Him. Our souls are anchored in Him, the one who breathed life into our souls, the one who is worthy of all praise and glory. To continue examining your soul, I encourage you to read the complete book, How’s Your Soul? There is also a small group DVD study to accompany the book, which our community group at Hope just completed. I would love to pass it on to any interested group. And I will leave you with this, one of my favorite verses of scripture: “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).