What is Soul Care?
Soul Care is the ongoing work of nourishing and nurturing one’s soul. It is a shared work between ourselves and the Holy Spirit. We work in concert with Him, cooperating and collaborating with the life-giving and soul-tending Spirit of Christ who dwells within us. “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently.” –Deuteronomy 4:9 (NAS95)
In order to properly care for our souls, we need to have a Biblical understanding of what the soul actually is. Foundational to this understanding is the knowledge that, “I do not have a soul, I am a soul.” You are not a body that has a soul, rather you are a soul that has a body.
To comprehend this truth, consider a funeral. Why do we mourn at funerals? There are many reasons, but one of the main ones is that we know our loved one is no longer there. We can see their casket and we know their body is inside, but we know that is not really them. Even non-Christians know it. We use common language to describe what we see with our eyes and know in our hearts: “She’s gone…” “He’s no longer with us…”
I was with my Mom on the evening she died at Columbus Hospice in October of 2013. When she drew her last breath and her heart monitor flat-lined, I knew she was no longer there. Her body was right there, but I knew she was not.
There is so much more to who you are than just what others can experience of you with their five senses. That is because you are not just a body, you are a soul!
Hebrew scholar Jeff McCrory put it simply: “The soul is the person.” The soul is all of who we are. It encompasses our entire being: body, mind, spirit, and relationships. The body is the physical aspect of the soul. The mind is the cognitive aspect of the soul—that part of us that thinks, reasons, and plans. The spirit is the heart, the will, the longings and intentions of the soul. And we are not islands: relationships are the all-important social aspect of the soul—how one soul interacts with other souls.
My soul is me. Your soul is you. One’s “soul” is the comprehensive make-up of one’s entire being. In fact, several leading English versions of the Bible translate “soul” as “my whole being.”
In light of this understanding of the soul, let’s do a brief survey of Biblical references to the soul, and see how they instruct us in the work of soul care:
Deuteronomy 26:16—“The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.” Obeying God is something we are to do with our entire being, not just our mental ascent or spiritual best intentions. Biblical obedience involves the mind, the will, the body, and the spirit, all working together with God’s Spirit.
Psalm 19:7—“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.” Regular interaction with God’s Word not only inspires our spiritual self; it refreshes our entire being!
Psalm 25:1—“To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” I don’t just lift my problems or ambitions or hopes or fears to God, I lift my soul—all of me!—to Him.
Psalm 35:9—“My soul shall rejoice in the Lord; it shall exult in His salvation.” God’s salvation for us is for our entire being. When He saves our soul, He saves us whole. That is cause for rejoicing and exultation!
Psalm 42:5—“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Here, we have an example of someone speaking to his soul, instructing his soul, encouraging his own soul.
Psalm 57:8—“Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.” Get up, soul! You’re asleep! Wake up, and get yourself ready to be with God!
Psalm 63:1—“O God, You are my God; I will seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” The thirst I feel in my body during a drought is but a taste of the thirst that my entire being has for God.
Psalm 103:1—“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy Name.” Which parts of me should bless the Lord? All of me! All that makes me me—my entire being—my complete soul can bless God. Heart, spirit, mind, and body.
Matthew 11:28-29—“Come to Me,” Jesus said “…and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me… and you will find rest for your souls.” The rest Jesus offers us is not just for a tired body or a weary mind, it is for our soul—our whole being.
Matthew 16:26—“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” The soul is more than health or wealth or power or position. There is much that can be added to the soul from the world that does not enhance or improve the soul. Indeed many things we attempt to add to our soul actually harm us, jeopardizing our wholeness and soul health.
These are not all the references to the soul in the Bible, but they do provide a starting place for what it means to love God with all of one’s soul. They give a foundation for engaging our entire being in the pursuit of God—for cooperating with His Spirit inside us to cultivate our whole selves in a healthy, thriving, fruit-bearing existence as a beloved child of God.