by Rebecca Hicks, RN BScN
You may have heard the song, “It is Well with My Soul” by Horatio Spafford. The first verse of the song says “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul”. Horatio endured many tragic losses in his lifetime before writing the lyrics to this well-known hymn. It is bewildering to me that after losing most of his fortune and community to a devastating fire, and losing all four of his daughters at sea, that he could write the words “It is well with my soul”. What does that even mean, it is well with my soul? And how is it possible for our soul to be well if everything else in our lives is not going so well?
What is Your Soul?
A simple google search will inform you that the soul is the spiritual part of a human being. You won’t find the soul in an X-ray or MRI scan. The soul is mentioned many times in the Bible, often in conjunction with the mind and the heart. The soul is the part of our body that lives on after we die. As a believer in Christ, we believe that once our time ends here on earth, our soul leaves our body and goes into the presence of God where we will live for eternity (Romans 5:21, 6:20-23).
How Do We Care for Our Soul?
There are many ways to take care of our soul. I can honestly say that I make these various practices a regular part of my life which I think not only helps my soul, but my mind and my heart as well. Anytime my life has felt unbalanced by life’s tribulations and trials, by taking the time to care for my spirit, God has lifted me out of the pits and restored my soul.
Before we dive into practical ways to nurture our soul, I want to quickly differentiate Soul Care from Self-Care. Soul Care speaks to nurturing our spirit, the part of us that is connected to God. It involves sharing the “nooks and crannies” of your heart and mind with your Creator. Self-care, on the other hand, involves doing various activities that you enjoy to help restore, rest, and rejuvenate your mind and body. Self-care is focused on yourself, as the name so explicitly implies, and might involve warm bubble baths, nature walks, reading, listening to music, doing a hobby you love, or going to a spa. Soul Care goes a little deeper, nourishing our spirit, which often leads to a deeper replenishing. Focussing on our soul may lead to repentance, clarity, forgiveness, renewed purpose and inspiration. Both Self-Care and Soul Care are important for everyone who walks this earth; it’s the way God’s designed us. On that note, let’s dive deeper into three practical ways we can take care of our soul.
Quiet Time; With the One Who Knows You Best
Perhaps the most readily available but not necessarily the easiest way involves spending intentional quiet time with our Maker. I’m talking about no distractions, no music, no TV, no phone, just YOU and G.O.D. If you haven’t done this in a while I strongly encourage you to do this! A couple months ago I was having a really frustrating day (parenting fails, COVID, struggling with my purpose…just to name a few) and just felt so edgy and negative. I listened to my husband who encouraged me to get out of the house for a little while that evening. I parked along the Niagara River and planned on listening to some worship music and walking along the trail. As I started to put my headphones on, a thought popped in my mind: “just walk with me, no music, just you and Me.” I listened, and proceeded to walk and talk with God. I told God my frustrations and asked for His help and forgiveness. I talked with Him about my fears, and thanked Him for all the good things He was doing in my life. God gently pointed to some things in my heart that needed adjusting. When I returned to my car an hour or so later, I felt like a different woman! God had lifted my spirits and given me a peace that I did not have before I had some alone time with Him.
Although I love being in nature when I want to spend time with God, you do not have to leave your house or even your workplace to do this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve have some quiet moments with God even just in my car on my work break, and how it’s totally reshaped the rest of my stressful day. It’s often during these quiet times that God will reveal things to us if we allow Him into every part of our life; yes, every nook and cranny; the good, the bad, and the ugly!
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18
Food for Our Soul
We have been given a beautiful tool to help us navigate our lives. Yes, I’m talking about the Word of God, a love letter to His people, the Bible! Gone are the days when the only way you could hear about the words of the Bible were by listening to priests and prophets. Here in Canada-and many places around the world- we have the privilege of owning our own copy of the Bible in its entirety. As followers of Christ, we need to be reading God’s words for ourselves, and not solely relying on our church and pastors to “feed us the word”. Our pastors and spiritual leaders can most definitely help us understand the Bible, but we also need to be studying the words our God has given us for ourselves. I still find it fascinating that even after reading the Bible for as long as I can remember, I STILL read things in the Bible that amaze me, challenge me, encourage me, and sometimes confuses me. If you aren’t already doing this, I challenge you to read the Bible daily and see how your life changes. I used to be horrible at regularly reading my Bible.
A couple years ago I felt convicted, thinking about the time I would spend daily on my phone, in front of the TV, etc., and how I made little to no time reading the most important piece of literature known to man. I started by reading a few chapters a day and after doing this consistently, it became a habit that I enjoy and look forward to each day.
Do you want to feel empowered and encouraged before you start your crazy day?
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.“ I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be equipped with a sword (the word of God) than my phone (aka social media shenanigans) for my day. Ouch! Sorry, but I’m only speaking what God has revealed in my life, and maybe it speaks to your life too! Jeff Wells, founding pastor of Woods Edge Community Church in Texas, says it this way “The Bible tells us how to find joy, peace and contentment. It shines a light into the darkness of the world and makes sense of the confusion.” Not only does it help us make sense of the world, but it also helps us to be better. The Bible constantly points us to forgive others, love others, give to others, and experience God’s peace. Jesus even says that we will be blessed for following God’s word “…But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice”, Luke 11:28. He also calls us his family when we hear God’s word and obey it (Luke 8:21). I don’t know about you, but that’s a family I would love to be a part of.
Speaking of family, there’s another family we are invited into as believers of Christ. Yep, that’s right, our church family. The church is a great place to find rest and care for your soul. Let me start by saying, I’m not talking about having to go to church to be a good Christian and to make it into heaven. I’m talking about meeting in person (or via video calls these days) with Christians in worshipping, encouraging, challenging, and equipping each other. Attending or watching a Sunday church service is important for learning, reflecting, and equipping us for the week ahead, but the church is meant to go way beyond this.
The original churches which were birthed out of Jesus’ ministry, not only taught its members about salvation and how to love others, but it also challenged, inspired, and encouraged people how to live. Speaking from my own experience, when my husband David and I have participated in Bible Studies (or Life Groups) with a smaller group of people from our larger church, we have been able to connect with other believers in a more intimate way than we ever could by attending a Sunday service. In our homes (or over video calls) we are able to pray with, encourage, and challenge each other. It can also be a place where you can BE the church to your community. Our Life Groups have had many opportunities where we have been able to provide items to people who needed it, meals for people in poor health, boxes of toys for children living in poverty, etc. This is what the church is called to do! And not only does it serve the purpose of loving and giving to others, but it also has an amazing way of filling our soul. I encourage you to not only attend or view a church service, but connect on a deeper level with your brothers and sisters in your church, especially during this time. Allow God to use his church to care for your soul.
I want to circle back to the question I posed at the start of this blog. How is it possible for our soul to be well if everything else in our lives is not going so well? I believe the answer to this lies in what we believe on a spiritual level. If we are living for today with no hope for life beyond this world, it’s so easy to be drowned by life’s injustices. However, if we are living a life on purpose, connected to our Saviour in hopes for life He promises beyond this world, it has to be well with our soul. This doesn’t mean that we won’t feel depression, anxiety, or fear. It means we know Who we can turn to with our deepest worries and fears. Let’s stop looking to the world to fix our soul and instead looking to the creator of our soul who is the ultimate healer and designer of our soul. May your soul find rest in Him.