Body, Soul and Spirit

photo of white and brown cardboard box toy figure

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Working among the dying, changes things. Working as a hospice nurse, easing the transition from life to death, I am developing a filter for my own life. What is really important? Will this matter when I am gone? How am I spending my precious hours of life?

As the oldest child of seven, I have always been introspective, even morose at times. Haha! Having six brothers and sisters under me made for some VERY morose (or should I say scary) times! My folks used to escape to my grandmother’s country cabin on weekends sometimes. I was 16 at the time, and was left in charge of all six siblings. If they were late coming home on Sunday afternoon, I remember thinking (with horror) “how will I care for these six kids?”

Fast forward to will-my-life-ever-slow-down adult life, I wonder, what is my soul? Where does my soul end and my spirit begin? I found a thought-provoking article this week that was so well-written, I thought I should share it. I was meditating on:

1 Thessalonians 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Body, that’s easy. Seeing the shell that we know as our “body” after death, I see this very stark picture. Mouth agape, eyes blankly staring, limbs frozen in position, the body is nothing without a soul and spirit. Nothing. As I helped load one of my decedents onto a gurney last week, I was struck with the contrast. Nothing was left, except the housing for my patient’s soul. Her smile, her voice, the light in her eyes all gone. The only thing left was the “box” that had carried them.

“Dividing soul and spirit”, now that’s tougher. Soul is described as our mind, our will, our emotions. It controls where we go, what or who we respond to, and how we respond. I had an idea that our spirit is the part of us that lives eternally. Great, does that include our personalities, our feelings, whether we like cats or dogs? Jesus talked about our spirits…

John 3:5-6 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Jesus is speaking to two different people in these passages. In one, he is chiding one of the leaders in the local synagogue for being a teacher, but not understanding spiritual concepts. In the other, he is gently explaining to the woman at the well, what God is looking for in a relationship with her.

So, this question I have been pondering for years, came up again this week. Wow! God in his Bible, says he will reward those who diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) I guess this was the week I was going to get closer to my answer to an understanding of soul and spirit. I will just quote a little of this article I have shared below. I think it will whet your appetite for more.

If you are soulish, you will preserve that which is earthly, and your honor and your heart will make plans as to what you should do with such a person and you will also seek the opinions of family and friends. Rather let God’s Word in to pierce and divide between what you are absorbing through your senses – especially through your feelings – and the wisdom that is from above, which you absorb through your spirit. Live by faith and not according to your human reasoning; then you will enter into rest.

Soul vs Spirit

My Heart’s Desire

My Heart’s Desire

I decided to let God into my life when I was 22. I could see that the activities I was engaging in, and the activities of the people I hung out with, could very possibly one day cause my death or incarceration…a sobering thought. Nothing answered this quest in my life for relevance. Why was I here? What was the ultimate use of my life? Was the pursuit of good times a reason for life?

My own up-bringing included Catholic grade school and high school. Somehow, I reasoned that the God of the Bible was irrelevant to the 20th century world. It didn’t look like the people who made the trek to Mass on Sunday, lived any differently than I did. It seemed more productive to spend Sundays doing laundry and recovering from Saturday nights. And, I wasn’t at all sure the trade-off was worthwhile…following rules and suffering through religious services would produce what exactly?

I visited Mormon church services, I read Eastern religious books, I even let myself be picked up by some Hari-Krishnas for transport to their meeting place. (I bolted before we arrived. They discussed their philosophy with me in the car. It was so denigrating to me as a woman, it was easy to eject that research project.)

When I finally tested everything (including hallucinogenic mushrooms), I thought I would give the God of my youth another chance. By now I was 4 years past high school and mandatory church attendance. My reasoning: maybe I missed something before, that my inexperienced mind didn’t grasp. (Because now I was really experienced…and knew what I didn’t want.) I just knew I hadn’t found peace, or satisfaction in relationships, religion, work, or drugs.

Even though I had been trained in faith-based schools, my prayer was pretty simple. “God, help me, I am a mess. You can’t do any worse with my life than I am doing right now.” Maybe it sounds corny, but right then I had a picture in my mind of one of those “zippy slates” we had as kids. You know the type. It has a waxy surface with a piece of heavy gray plastic over it. When you write on the plastic, and then pull up on it everything disappears. It seemed like an answer to my prayer–new start Vicki! With this picture came another startling idea. What if God created us, and His rules would help us live in harmony? After all, if He created us, He would know the best way for us to live…right?

My life was radically changed. It wasn’t overnight. My vocabulary gradually cleared, so that I didn’t have to manually filter the words I spoke in public. I had peace in my life without drugs. Reading the Bible helped me realize the standards God required were easy. Jesus himself said it “Love God with your whole heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT) Not easy if you hang on to your selfishness, but attainable if you abandon yourself to Him. The cool thing about God, it wasn’t a race to fix me, just one small thing at a time. The “fixes” are all about truth, wisdom, patience, kindness, self-control. They’re not repulsive.

Now, finally, the punchline. What is keeping you from looking for the God of the Bible? He’s real. He cares. He’s gotten a bad rap from some. Those of us that follow Him are pretty lousy followers sometimes. Take some courage from that though, He doesn’t hold grudges, He’s always willing to accept an apology or a wayward child. The Bible is full of stories of normal people with normal struggles, and they are still called friends of God.

John 3:16-17 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

FEAR

2 Timothy 1: NKJV

6Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

There was persecution in the church when Paul wrote this. It appears that he is writing to Timothy to strengthen his faith. Fear can be a crippling emotion. When you are in the middle of it, you need reminding—to pray, to read your Bible. It doesn’t always come naturally. We have a GOD who is mighty, who has given us the tools, to fight any battle. My dad is in a nursing home right now, fighting pneumonia. Whether it is the medications, the illness, or some other factor, he is experiencing crazy frightening dreams and hallucinations. Even though he is strong in his faith, he is overwhelmed with these thoughts.

My own battle with cancer would have me waking up, frozen with fear. What would I find out today? Would I need surgery?

Sometimes we are too engrossed in our situation to pray for ourselves. The words will hardly come. These are times for our friends and loved ones to bring our needs to our loving Father. Our family has friends all over the country because we have moved several times. It gave me hope (and strength), when I was down, to call friends and ask for prayer. It was awesome, thinking there were people in all sorts of places offering up prayers for me!

Other times, we need to take whatever steps we can to pursue God. Begin reading your Bible, increase your time alone with God. It helped me to write in a journal, everything I was worried about—and give it to God to handle. That was an awesome exercise! I could see how He answered each issue over time.

Joshua 1:9 NKJV

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Isaiah 43: 1-3 TLB

But now the Lord who created you, O Israel, says, “Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you, for I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel.

Lord, you are so faithful; to remind us you are always near. Strengthen us, help us. Turmoil is all around us. You are the Almighty God who created heaven and earth—and yet we forget, and rely on our own strength. Our hearts are overwhelmed with your love, your unshakeable and unchangeable, love. Let anyone who reads this be drawn closer to you Lord.