You go to a mechanic to look over your car.
You go to a financial advisor to review your retirement plan.
You go to a doctor to examine your health - blood work and scans.
But what about your soul? Do you ever examine your spirit? For Christians, Lent is an annual soul examination. I thought about how odd this is while watching a Serta mattress commercial. They promise that their beds will improve “physical and emotional health.” We hear a lot about health in the body or mind. But what about the soul?
We have millions of remedies for physical maladies - nutrition, drugs, treatments, surgeries, and mattresses for good sleep. We have ways to address mental health - counseling, therapy, rest, social connection, pills. Few address the spiritual reality of being human. The Bible has words to describe the core of who we are. Soul. Heart. Spirit. Their meaning overlaps with one another, although they all refer to an inner, hidden reality.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me. (Ps. 51:10)
He restores my soul . . . (Ps. 51:3)
I sometimes wonder if we’re throwing money and pills at issues that are actually spiritual in nature. I’m not diminishing the tools of medical and mental health. Let’s use all the sciences have to offer. But don’t forget that we have been created body, mind, and soul (Gen. 2:7; Deut. 6:5; Mark 12:30).
One of the words for “flesh” in the Bible has the connotation of “meat.” In other words, the body is simply meat unless animated by a spirit. We aren’t really alive unless we have a God-breathed soul within us. This differentiates us from animals. The Bible only speaks of “soul,” “heart,” and “spirit” in relation to human beings.
What if the angst you’ve been feeling is more than emotional anxiety? What if the knot in your shoulders or the ulcer in your stomach has spiritual origins? Jesus identified the heart as the source of the trouble (Matt. 15:18). What if we’re treating physical symptoms while the root cause is spiritual?
What’s the treatment for soul sickness? Christians call him The Great Physician. Remember the time Jesus healed a paralytic, but first said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” He knew of the deeper condition. True wholeness requires soul work. Whenever he healed the blind and lame, he was not merely concerned with the retina, ligaments, and muscles. He cared for each person down to the soul.
The season of Lent humbles us into the posture of a patient in need of treatment. The antidote for soul sickness is not a surgery; it is the Sacred Surgeon. It is not a pill; it is the Holy Healer. The tools of his trade are Word and mysterious sacraments - baptism and communion. This is not self medication. These are personal encounters with the only One who can reach inside and touch the spirit deep within us. His whisper is enough, so we listen for every word he says. Bread and wine are enough, so we are eager to consume his body and blood.
Other tools of spiritual health include solitude, fasting, confession, prayer, Christian community, and memorization and meditation upon the Word. These are ways in which we lay ourselves bare before the living God and let him do his work of soul healing.
Modern medicine is only a couple centuries old. For millennia, people were in tune with spiritual sources of ailment and healing. As modern sophisticates, you may think they were primitive. I think they were right.
If you’ve been feeling a strain deep inside of you and can’t find an answer, go see the Divine Doctor. Simply ask him for a healing that no other professional can provide. And let him do his work.
I Samuel 16:7
If you’re looking for a spiritual resource for Lent, check out The Daily Pattern.