Yesterday, I had been far busier than I intended and felt frazzled. So, near the end of the day, I sat in my comfortable chair and thought about how my Good Shepherd leads me beside still waters and makes me lie down in green pastures. The stress began to leave my body and I felt comforted and calmed.
My mind moved to the next statement, “He refreshes my soul”. What does that mean? Christian scholar J.P. Moreland has spent years studying and writing about the soul and he believes it contains five faculties:
senses (touch, taste, smell, seeing, hearing)
will (capacities to choose)
emotions (ability to experience joy, love, anger, etc.)
mind (thoughts, beliefs, ability to reason)
spirit (means by which we relate to God). *
In sum, our souls encompass our entire internal being. And that’s what needs to be refreshed – our whole selves, not just our bodies.
It’s important to pay attention when our soul cries out for refreshment. When it does, we are invited to connect with the only one who can provide what we need. As God restores our souls, he renews our desire to have him near, cleans up the sinful smudges gained from the day, and draws us close. We begin to feel whole, complete, spiritually healthy. That’s refreshment!
This can happen only when we stay close to the Shepherd, asking him to make the changes and restoration we crave. Then we wait. He will not leave us helpless. Soul work is what he does!
“The greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is upon Divine Grace.” – Brother Lawrence
When C. S. Lewis lost his wife to cancer and was struggling through emotions and questions in his grief, he wrote, “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”
We’re all on a journey. For Lewis, it was through grief. For many of us, it’s through another of life’s challenges. And, while we struggle, we get discouraged. That’s when God renews us with whispers:
Don’t quit because you feel like you’re failing. You’re making progress.
Don’t quit because it’s hard. The rewards for perseverance are great.
That’s when we realize we just need to keep walking. God is at work even when we can’t see it. Strength comes. Spiritual growth occurs, and he‘s doing it, not you or me.
Eventually, we do go around the bend Lewis mentions and, when we do, we see something new and beautiful. Something we didn’t know, or some gift of joy or relationship or insight. At that point, we realize staying on the path is worth the effort and we keep going, wondering what different and inspiring landscape will appear just a little further down the road.
The gifts of success, strength, growth, and joy include the struggle. Let’s not quit! There’re no shortcuts to becoming.
“I long to put the experience of fifty years at once into your young lives, to give you at once the key to that treasure chamber every gem of which has cost me tears and struggles and prayers, but you must work for these inward treasures yourselves.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe
Is sometimes the night so dark, the storm so strong, and the pain so deep that all you can do is pray for morning to come? You are not alone.
In Acts, we are told about the horrible storm Paul and Luke and many others experienced on their way to Rome. At one point, in the two-week-long nor’easter, the sailors took soundings and realized the water was getting shallower – they were approaching land. But it was the middle of the night, the ship was out of control, and they couldn’t see where they were headed. It was dark and scary and dangerous. Luke says, “Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight (Acts 27:29). They did the only thing they could do – they waited and they prayed.
If you’re in a dark place right now, you can’t see what’s ahead, you are fearful and frantic, hang on. Morning will come. God promises it will. “. . . weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b).
In the meantime, focus all your attention on him. Pray for light. Pray for comfort. Pray for the security of his arms around you. Pray for the joy that will come when the storm subsides. The one who stills the waters is in the boat with you. He’s been there before. And he has promised never to leave you alone.
“Waiting for God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon our thoughts.” – Elisabeth Elliot