“O My Soul”

One of the most comforting things I find in the book of Psalms is when the Psalmist (in most cases David) speaks to his own soul. The numerous circumstances surrounding the Psalmist’s plea to his soul aren’t necessarily very clear, but we can discern that the situations caused him to be in distress and anguish of soul. What does he do in these moments? He reminds his soul to hope in the God of his salvation and to praise Him.

Here are some examples:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (42:5-6a)

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (42:11)

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (43:5)

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. (62:5-7)

The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. (116:3-7)

I find a lot of comfort in these passages of Scripture because I know that I, too, can speak to my own soul. But what, exactly, is our human soul that the Bible talks about? Is there a difference between our soul and spirit? The New Testament attests to the distinction in a couple of passages. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 we read:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Similarly, we read in Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

So when Scripture talks about our soul and spirit, it is addressing different elements of our being. Our spirit refers to the immaterial part of humanity that gives us the ability to have an intimate relationship with God – to know Him and worship Him. It is the part of us that is enabled by God to connect with Him, and which responds to the things that come from the Spirit of God. Our soul, on the other hand, is who we are. It encompasses our mind, our will, and our emotions. So, essentially, to speak to our soul is to speak to our thoughts (mind), our choices and decisions (will), and our feelings (emotions).

In the darkest and worst of times, we can tell our soul, our entire person, to recall the goodness and faithfulness of God in the past, and know that He will be just as good and faithful in our current circumstances. Not only that, but as the Psalmist states, God is “my rock and my salvation, my fortress…my mighty rock, my refuge.” When we recall these magnificent characteristics and promises of God, our soul can truly find its rest in Him. Then, along with the Psalmist, we will attest, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (Ps. 94:19), and “On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased” (Ps. 138:3).

No matter what you are going through, join the Psalmist in speaking to your own soul. As you do so, let the remembrance of God’s goodness and faithfulness to you in the past lunge you forward into greater trust for your present circumstances. The God of your yesterday is the God of your today and the God of your tomorrow. Remember. Rest. Trust.

In God’s divine love,

Peggy

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