It is your soul that provides you communion with God. This communion with your Creator gives rise to an inner strength regardless of your temporal circumstances. Soul communion with God is the very source of genuine life. It is what makes us alive - really alive. But many Christians have fallen into the trap of believing that God desires His people to live in comfort, and that He cooperates with those who believe in Him to bring a life of temporal blessing. This "Joel Osteen" type of mentality makes the very dangerous mistake of putting second things first. Rather than communion with God being the center of one's life, blessings from God become the focus of one's life. God created you to enjoy Him. He formed you for communion. Your soul was made by God, for God, and will return to God.
Therefore, God will often allow the loss of blessing in your life to tear down every idol and draw your soul back to the only thing that truly and eternally satisfies - a heartfelt, passionate soul-satisfying relationship with God. And NOTHING and NOBODY can steal that from you. Larry Crabb in his new book SoulTalk tells a heartwarming story that illustrates the importance of knowing the importance of the soul.
We moved my aging parents closer to family when it became apparent that Dad's health was declining and Mother's Alzheimer's was advancing. Shortly after their arrival in Denver, it became necessary for Mother to receive full-time care in a facility designed for people whose minds were ravaged by that terrible disease. For the first time in more than sixty years Mother and Dad lived separately.
They each suffered terribly, though in different ways. Mother was terrified by her confusion. Dad was devastated by the loss. So many times, I would drive home after visiting each of them in their adjoining facilities and break down. At times I screamed at God: "Is this how you treat your children? They have been your faithful servants for more than eighty years. Their last days should be spent together, enjoying each other's company until they go home. I can hardly bear their pain. Do something!"
I watched Dad visit Mother, sit next to her with his arm around her, and say, "The best is yet to come. We'll be together soon." Then Mother would be led by an attendant back to her room, behind locked doors to keep her from wandering off, and Dad would walk unsteadily back to his, with shoulders slumping, looking like the weary, worn-out old man that he was, bewildered by why he was still alive, bearing the sadness of an empty existence with no hope of things improving.
A few weeks beore he died (he preceded Mother by fourteen months), I sat with him at breakfast. By this time, he was in a wheelchair, unable to walk, barely able to lift his coffee cup, unable to get a forkful of scrambled eggs to his mouth without dropping half of what was on the fork to his lap.
As I watched the life drain out of my once lively father, a strange impulse came over me that morning. I asked him a question I had never before asked, never even thought to ask in my fifty-seven years.
"Dad, have you ever had a vision?"
His eyes became instantly alert. My decidedly noncharismatic father sat up straight, filled with excitement. "I wasn't going to tell you unless you asked. Yes, I had a vision last night. It was so strange, different than anything I've ever experienced. But I don't know what it means."
"What was it?" Now, I was sitting up straight.
"Well, you know how weak I've become. I need help to get out of bed and into this wheelchair. Last night, I was lying in my bed, wide awake but thoroughly tired, feeling more alone and helpless than I've ever felt, and more confused than ever by why God was allowin all this to happen, and to go on so long - Mother's Alzheimer's, my weakness. I was really depressed.
"Then I could feel myself gently being carried to a different dimension. I was still in my room, but I was in another world The door opened - Larry, this wasn't a dream; I was wide awake; somehow this really happened - and a man came in. He was huge, muscular, and had a look of sheer evil on his face, absolutely mean. He said, "I'm going to tear you apart. I'm going to break every bone in your body.'"
"I felt terrified. I knew he could do what he said and that I was helpless to stop him. And I somehow knew God wouldn't stop him, though he could. I didn't even pray for protection. Then the man looked puzzled and said, 'I'll be back in a minute to destroy you.'
"He walked out and I just lay there, trembling. I couldn't reach the buzzer to call for help. I couldn't move. All I could do was wait. I thought of Habakkuk when he waited for the destruction he knew was coming.
"But then another thought occurred to me. He said he'd come back to destroy me. But I realized that he couldn't do that. He could break my body, but he couldn't destroy my soul. I'm alive, and he has no power to take that away. It was the strangest thing. Lying there helpless, I felt indestructible. I was indestructible. That guy seemed pathetic.
"He came back in, looking mean as ever. As he walked toward me, I very calmly said, 'Look, you can do what you say. I know that and you know that. You can beat me to a pulp. But what I know and you don't know is that you can't kill or even harm my soul. I'm alive in Christ, and there's nothing you can do about that. I'm going to heaven, maybe with broken bones, but I'm going. And as soon as I get there, I'll get a new body, healthier and stronger than you'll ever be. You're a pathetic enemy. You have no real power at all.'
"The man looked a me with sheer hatred then turned to the door and left. And I lay there, more peaceful than I've felt in months. That's it. That's the vision."
I almost came out of my chair.
"Dad, I know what your vision means." I couldn't believe what I heard myself saying. I've interpreted dreams before, but never had a vision. Yet I knew exactly what this vision meant.
"Dad, this world and Satan have thrown everything at you they can. You can't walk. You have next to no Christian fellowship. You've enjoyed Mom for sixty-three years, and now she doesn't even know who you are. Almost every blessing you've been given has been taken away.
"But what the Spirit has revealed in your vision is that what you want the most, you have - and no one, not even your strongest, meanest enemy, can take it away. You have God, he loves you, you're in his hands, and somehow in the middle of all this, Dad, you really are indestructible!" I was nearly shouting.
Dad listened to every word I said. His eyes danced with a life I hadn't seen for a long time. When I finished, he said, "That's it! I'm more than a conqueror. This is wonderful." And then he added, quietly, "I'm glad I told you my vision."
"Me, too," I replied.
In that moment, my father was more completely on the spiritual journey than anyone I've known. He was delivered from religion filled with "the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self," and yet, by losing his self he had found himself.
The experience of communion with God, of being in Christ and kept safe by the Spirit, meant more to him as we sat at breakfast that morning than any experience of blessing he could imagine. Restoring Mother's mind, enabling him to walk, giving him back the joys of fellowship in a church - nothing compared to what the Spirit revealed to him in that vision. It was all about God. First things were first.
Mother detoriated further. Dad never walked again. He died a month later. But he had been given an experience of wholeness and life and hope and joy that not even a restored marriage could have provided. The best second things, the experience of wholeness and life and hope and joy, were granted, in the midst of ongoing sadness, because my father put first things first.
And that's the Spirit's vision, that we might value his presence above every other blessing, even when the experience of his presence is withdrawn. That's faith. And that's why Jesus died, to give us the reality of the Father's presence that we can believe in and treasure no matter what happens to us or what we feel.
That, my friend, is the value of knowing your soul was created by God and for God.
In His Grace,