A line from Psalm 23 has been on my heart and in my mind the last couple of weeks. Maybe it is because the last couple of weeks seem to have been extra draining than normal. Anyone else feel the same?
Is it just me, or has this third lockdown messed us up a little bit more than the others? To be clear, I am not referring to economics, politics or education issues. I am speaking directly to the centre our being. I am talking about our souls.
When was the last time someone asked ‘how your soul is doing?’
For me, it was last year while taking part in an online webinar. The featured speaker asked this very question to the hundreds of online guests: how is your soul?
On December 25 2020, Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures released a computer-animated film entitled: Soul. The story is about a middle school music teacher named Joe Gardner, who after an accidental death, seeks to reunite his soul with his body. The film follows Joe’s journey into the ‘Great Beyond’ and then back to earth again as he desires to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming a professional jazz musician. Our family enjoyed the film and appreciated the reflection given about what it is that makes you, you.
So let me ask you a question: how do you define a soul?
Webster’s says that the ‘soul’ is the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give us life. This follows somewhat of a traditional understanding that views our human bodies to be comprised of a physical part that is separate from the spiritual part.
Others attempt to separate our ‘being’ into physical and mental classifications that are believed to be separate, radically different and somewhat disconnected from each other.
However, according to the Bible and traditional Jewish understanding, the ‘soul’ of a person was not distinct or separate from the physical body. The Bible says that we are simply living beings.
The glimpse given to us in Genesis is that of Almighty God bending and breathing into the first human’s nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). Joel Levison says that in this way, the first adam had become a living soul that contained the spirit of life.1 In other words, human beings are unmade without the spirit and lifeless clay without God’s breath.
This means that our Creator did not make an exterior physical form and them put a soul into it like water filling up an empty jar. No. The Bible says that the Lord God made humanity from the dust of the ground (not the dirt) and then breathed life into us.
Not only that, but the Bible also tells us that God desires to breathe new life into us too!
In a vision given to Ezekiel, the prophet sees a time when a new breath will enter humanity that will actually be the Holy Spirit of God.
Why does any of this matter?
Simply this: As human beings, we can be filled with the Spirit of life.
I don’t know about you, but these days seem to carry a lingering shadow of uncertainty that can be perpetually draining. Furthermore, these factors and others can trigger fears and produce high levels of anxiety and worry that can be paralyzing. At times we can feel ‘cast’.
In the Ancient world and even today, there are people who look after sheep. Shepherds are sheep people who understand and care for these wooly mammals every day. I am told that every so often a sheep can potentially roll over onto its back and not be able to get up without assistance. A sheep that has done this is called a ‘cast’ sheep.
When this happens, the sheep can baa, kick and wail all it wants to, but it will not be able to get back up on its feet again until the shepherd comes to help. Depending on how long the sheep has been on its back, the shepherd may even need to rub the legs of the sheep to get blood flowing and life back into the extremities of the sheep’s body.
Perhaps this was in the mind of David when he wrote Psalm 23.
In the 23rd Psalm, David pens some of the most comforting words to those who are going through times of trouble, trials and tribulations. During those times, David realized that there was a Good Shepherd watching over his life who would come and bring restoration to his very soul.
After His death, Jesus appeared to His own sheep while they huddled in a room behind locked doors and paralyzing fear. John tells us that Jesus walked into the midst of them and breathed the Holy Spirit into them. Did you catch that? Jesus breathed into them the Holy Spirit.
Putting it very simply, Jesus filled them with new life.
Here’s the point.
Maybe that ‘sheep’ is you. Maybe that ‘sheep’ is me. Maybe that ‘sheep’ is all of us. The point is that there is a Good Shepherd who will not abandon His sheep in our time of need. His name is Jesus, and He is able to restore our souls in life changing ways.
If you are at a point where you feel ‘cast’, alone, and needing help. If you are feeling drained, fatigued and constantly under the shadow of the valley. If you feel paralyzed, fearful and full of worry. If that is you, all you have to do is make Jesus your shepherd and receive His life giving love.
David could say that God was ‘my’ shepherd, because David allowed God to be his shepherd. Those two little letters made all the difference for David, and it can for you as well. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Yes. But He wants to be yours as well.
My prayer is that whomever reads this blog will turn to Jesus and receive His life giving love.
My prayer is that you will allow Him to breathe God’s very Spirit into you and fill you with new life.
My prayer is that you will be able to say that the Lord is my Shepherd, and allow God to bring restoration to you very soul.
My prayer is that you will allow Jesus to continually help and strengthen you to be … you.
- Joel R. Levison. Filled with the Spirit. pg. 23