Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits! (Psalm 103:1-2, ESV)
I have been thinking lately about “soul care,” especially during these confusing and stress-filled days of 2020. The term “soul care” is not clearly and uniformly defined anywhere even though many books, Christian and non-Christian alike, have been written on the topic. But when I speak of soul care I am really just thinking about the care of the whole person…not just our physical well-being, but also our emotional, psychological, relational and spiritual health as well. Most of the books written on the topic seem to focus on how we can provide this kind of soul-care to others. And while I am a big fan of community care, I also think there are ways we can exercise and practice “soul care” in our daily lives. And it may be one of the most important habits we can develop…one of the best gifts we can offer ourselves.
One could argue that Psalm 103 is all about soul care. Unlike so many other psalms, the songwriter doesn’t begin by addressing God or declaring some truth to his fellow worshipers; rather, he begins and ends the song by talking to himself—reminding himself to, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” (vs. 1, 2, 22). The rest of the psalm is simply a litany of reasons that God is worthy of such praise and blessing: God’s forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, provision, strength, justice…the list goes on and on.
This psalm has been the inspiration of dozens of hymns and worship songs, including one of my favorites, 10,000 Reasons. Matt Redman’s great song not only quotes the self-directed opening lines of the psalm, but it also captures the futility of trying to enumerate all of the reasons to worship God’s holy name…there are at least, “10,000 reasons for my heart to find!”
The inscription at the top of Psalm 103 indicates this is another song of David, who the Bible describes as “a man after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). By the way, that description is less about how much David’s life looked like God, and more about how David continually looked for God. David is a model of soul care not because he was faultless, but because he was laser-focused on God–recognizing His hand in the blessings of life…seeking His forgiveness in the failures of life…asking for His help in the challenges of life. David’s life was far from perfect, but David’s heart and soul were never far from God.
So, what does “soul care” look like? It looks a lot like that; participating and pressing into the heart of our loving God. It means heartfelt worship—acknowledging who God is and what God is doing; it means humble repentance—recognizing and turning away from our sin; it means faithful following—trusting God with every aspect of our lives; it means diligent intercession—pleading with God on behalf of others. In short, it means loving the Lord our God. with all our heart, and with all of soul, and with all our strength and with all our mind (Luke 10:27).
Here’s the deal: it’s impossible to have a healthy soul without God, and it’s impossible to practice soul care without prayer. When Jesus was approaching the hardest days of his life on earth—betrayal, suffering, crucifixion and death—he said to his disciples, “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death” How did Jesus practice soul care in that darkest hour? He fell on his face and prayed (Matthew 26:36-46). The Apostle Paul knew about the power of prayer and soul care as well. He knew that life without God is hopeless, but “God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” (Romans 8:26, The Message)
So, practice some soul care today, find you own quiet “soul spa” and get away with God and pray. Start by trying to come up with about 10,000 reasons to praise him; be honest about how short you fall from being the person God made you to be; and then ask God to forgive, to restore, and to lead you. Give yourself back to God today. He is our rest, He is our care, He is our Living Water…stay thirsty for Him.