[RE]FOCUSING on Health in 2021 – Part III
Starting new in 2021 can lead one to be circumspect about all aspects of life. If you have been following this blog for the last two weeks, you know where this week is headed: care for one’s spirit/soul. As I noted in the previous weeks, to care for one’s self – body, mind and spirit – is a proper response of a believer.
This week, we look at the connection between our souls/spirits and the mind and body. Now, science is hard pressed to study something which they cannot quantify. If you cannot measure the spirit, how do you study it? The brain and body touch, taste, smell, hear, and feel. But what about the soul? How is it connected to the body? How does it interact with the body and mind? Science has studied the effects of the mind and the body. The University of Michigan put out a study of common psychosomatic symptoms adolescents experience due to the stress of COVID-19. They include stomach pain, headaches, chest pain, fatigue, limb pain, back pain, and difficulty breathing. The research shows no medical cause for those symptoms other than teens worrying about their health in a pandemic. The mind is causing it.
But what about the soul? Maybe we should decide the definition of “soul” that we are talking about. In our culture, we can eat “soul food.” We talk about music having soul. None of those are part of this conversation. What the Webster Dictionary has as its primary definition for the word soul is closest to what we are considering: the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life (“Soul.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary).
The Bible uses the term soul almost 300 times. God created the first human out of the dust of the ground and breathed into the body “the breath of life and the man became a living creature.” (Gen. 2:7 ESV) When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought the unnatural consequence of sin upon their bodies and the bodies of all their descendants. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 3:23a) What is death? The Bible answers two ways: one death is the separation of the soul from the body, i.e. physical death (Matt. 10:28). The other type is spiritual death, which leads to eternal death and separation from God in hell (see Matt. 10:28; Rev. 2:11; 20:6,14-15; 21:8).
What happens to the soul after it leaves the body? The first thing that occurs is personal judgment. Our soul goes before God for His verdict (see Heb. 9:27). The New Testament speaks of the departed faithful as existing in a conscious and blessed state as a person’s identity before God. Those who die believing in Christ are described as being in the presence of God and of enjoying peace and rest with Him. The Apostle Paul talks about departing and being “with Christ.” Php. 1:23) The New Testament also teaches the physical resurrection of the body in several passages (John 5: 28 f.; Rom. 8: 11; 1 Cor. 15: 51-54). Finally, the New Testament tells us that the physical bodies of the departed faithful will be glorified when Christ returns and that their souls will accompany Him from heaven on that great Day and be reunited with their glorified bodies. (1 Cor. 15: 51-54; Phil. 3: 20-21)
As Christians, we do not subscribe to the ideas of reincarnation. We believe in the unity of the whole person, mind, body and soul. In this life, we experience things spiritually that can affect us mentally and physically. Again and again, David and the other Scripture writers talk about the relationship between the soul, mind and body as integral. What affects the soul also affects the body and mind (see Ps. 84:2; Prov. 16:24) Even Jesus talks about himself this way (Matt. 26:38; John 12:27). Christ came as true God and true man to redeem our whole person: body, mind, and soul. The Spirit who calls us to faith, wants to help us and “sanctify” us completely and keep us strong in the faith until Christ’s coming (1 Thes. 5:23).
So, what is our part? We have a living soul because God raised us from spiritual death to spiritual life in our baptism. Therefore, we have an obligation to not let sin reign in us (Rom. 6:12). Thankfully, we do not have to fight our sinful desires by ourselves! The Holy Spirit promises to help us. If we continue to live with the Spirit, we can say no to sin and yes to what pleases God (Gal. 5:16-25). The Spirit also promises to help us pray (Rom. 8:26). He promises to help us grow in faith as we study God’s Word (John 17:17). He uses our fellow believers to encourage us in our walk of faith. Therefore, the Spirit encourages us to keep on meeting with our fellow believers and worshipping with them (Heb. 10:25). The Spirit also promises to help us share the good news with people in our lives who need to know the love of God in Christ.
When we are connected to God through His Word and Sacraments, we are strengthened spiritually. That is good for the whole of a person and brings life. So, as you look for a new focus of caring for yourself, put your soulcare as a priority and see what God will do!
See you next time, here at the corner of faith and mental health.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Chad Wright