“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”. Matthew 16:26
I have always prided myself in being efficient, goal oriented, doing whatever it took to accomplish a mission. I come from a long line of strong, self-sufficient women and take my responsibilities seriously. After all, I must uphold my families honor and traditions..
Yet, years of physically doing whatever is needed, being too prideful and not patient enough to seek help have taken their toll. A lifetime spent multi-tasking to the point where you mind can no long shut off threatens to deafen God’s sweet whispers. While I never graduated college I had a Ph.D in hurry.
What happens when years of living this way begins to erode both your body and soul? In essence you are living a “dark night of the soul” – a condition of the soul when God’s presence and consolations seem no longer to be available.
Your body begins to scream loudly for rest and your soul yearns for refuge and peace. You wonder where God is and can you ever be redeemed? Will you ever remember how to let your mind just rest and think one thought at a time? The bible tells us that while we may not realize it; God is keeping our soul guarded and nourished even while our bodies and mind may be experiencing suffering.
Have you been there? Are you there right now? What are you feeling?
With two hip dislocations to add to my medical history, I have spent some time thinking about my habits. I find that I am inpatient for the hip to heal from the dislocations, and feeling frustrated and I admit a bit fearful of bending over (the position that caused the two dislocations). Waiting patiently is not something I do well and I find that my hip is needing more time. The soreness is ever present, a constant reminder of what happened and what could happen – again. So I am spending some time thinking about the message God wants me to glean from this pasture in time.
In the book Soul Keeping by John Ortberg he states: “Persons are like cars, at least in the sense that you have to understand what the parts do if you’re going to take good care of them and keep everything functioning well. The essential parts of the person are the will (the freedom and creativity to say yes and no and bring things into being), the mind (including thoughts and feelings), our bodies (which are filled with appetites and habits that largely govern our behavior), and the soul, which ties these all together. In a healthy soul, the body has been trained to obey the will; the will in turn consistently chooses what the mind knows to be good, all the parts work together in harmony, and are peaceably connected with God, creation, and (to the extent possible) other people. The unhealthy soul is the opposite.”
So how does the need to “do” or “hurry” destroy healthy living? Again, Ortberg tells us: “Hurry blocks the development and health of the soul because the soul requires being rooted in the presence of God. And, hurry by its nature makes me unable to be fully present before God or fully present before other people. Hurry causes me to be conflicted and divided in my desires, and it causes my thoughts to jump around as Henri Nouwen used to say, “like a monkey in a banana tree.” There’s nothing that I can do that’s rooted in the kingdom when my soul is hurried.”
I believe that when we lose sight of our priority to put God first and foremost, it is then that our bodies and soul cry out for Abba, Father. Time and time again while I have experience physical adversity, I have found my faith strengthened and acutely aware of God’s presence in my life. It is this “opportunity” to line our body, mind and soul with God that we must embrace.
Ortberg reminds us that like a ship needs an anchor, so too, must our soul.
Our anchor is God. Without which, we rock aimlessly in dark and often turbulent waters without a clear set of values or gratitude for the day. And yet, anchored with prayer, fellowship, and faith the physical adversity is often met and overcome with an overwhelming sense of supernatural peace – a peace that surpasses all understanding.
So if we rest our bodies and anchor our minds in Christ, we can place our hurry habit where it should be – in the refuse bin.
Lord, help me to ignore the need to hurry and let my body, mind, and soul be still and rest. Let me put my trust in you. When tempted to hurry through my day, give me discernment to hurry to you instead.
Please share when you found yourself living in a “dark night of the soul” and how did you manage this time.