A while back I was thinking about this concept of home. I started wondering, “If my physical body needs to regularly go home in order to be healthy, what about my soul? If this tangible, three-dimensional, external body needs a space to simply let down and be itself, what about the inside me?”
Then I asked myself one last question: When was the last time my soul was at home?
They were odd questions. Random musings in a moment of melancholy. But they ended up taking me on a journey that changed my approach to God and life.
The more I studied the ramifications and implications of the soul in Scripture, the more I realized our souls are central to our existence, and a healthy soul is paramount to a healthy life.
You can have millions in the bank, a Maserati in the driveway and more Instagram followers than the pope, but unless your soul is healthy, you won’t be happy.
Conversely, you might be struggling through the most painful, confusing circumstances of your life, but if your soul is in a healthy place, you will be okay. You will find the strength and hope you need to weather the storms.
There is a letter in the New Testament known to us as 3 John that references the health of our souls. It was written, not surprisingly, by the apostle John. This was the John who labeled himself, “the disciple that Jesus loved” in the gospel of John. He defined himself by how much God loved him.
John wrote 3 John to a man named Gaius, who was a Christian, a friend and possibly a church leader. John wrote, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (verse 2).
Embedded in this verse is a truth that we will spend the rest of our lives understanding and applying: Each of us has a soul. And that soul should be healthy.
Usually the application is this: God wants to bless you. God wants to give you health. God wants to give you enough money for your needs, plus some extra to share with others. God wants to prosper you externally just like he’s prospered you internally.
But is it well with our souls? Is the inside us really steady and stable and secure? Do we ever stop to think about that?
I believe with all my heart that God desires that we have happy, awesome, successful lives. But I am a bit concerned that in our excitement about prospering in our “everyday affairs,” we can end up glossing over the part about the health of our souls.
And that is a problem.
First and foremost, God wants our souls to be well. That’s why John prays that it would go well with our physical, external selves just as it goes well with our souls.
Actually, this verse seems to imply that until our souls are healthy and prospering, nothing else can prosper. In other words, our health and wellness don’t move from the outside in, but from the inside out.
We can be the most popular, prosperous, pretty people around, but inside we can still be empty. Until our souls are at peace, until our souls are stable, until our souls are healthy, those external things won’t bring us the satisfaction we long for.
Are our souls healthy? That is the question we should be asking.
We rarely, if ever, focus on our souls. We don’t have routine soul checkups. We don’t go around asking each other, “So, how’s your soul?” But maybe we should.
It’s far too easy to make life all about the outside me, the external me, the physical me. We fall into the trap that if we can be healthy, wealthy, popular, productive and influential, then life will be good. So we throw ourselves into the chase, thinking that internal happiness will come from external success.
There are two common outcomes to this approach, and both are rather depressing. Excuse my pessimism while I make a point — I promise things will get more cheerful in a moment.
In the first outcome, you try as hard as you can to fix whatever circumstances are messing with your happiness, only to discover eventually that you can’t. You can’t overcome the leukemia. You can’t change your cheating spouse. You can’t bring back the loved one you lost. You can’t get the job you’ve built your future around.
So you give up. You resign yourself to a reality that you’d rather avoid. You start living for the weekend. You take up a hobby or maybe an addiction. You figure out ways to escape.
The second outcome might even be worse. In this scenario, you actually achieve your goals.
How can that be worse? you might ask.
Because you get what you always wanted, only to discover that it doesn’t make you feel any better. Your bank account is full, but you are still empty. And not only that, now the only hope that you could achieve satisfaction is gone, because if anyone on earth should be happy, it’s you — and you’re not. So what reason is there to go on living?
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
When God designed life, he had far more in mind for us than simply surviving. Our existence isn’t meant to revolve around escaping reality. We shouldn’t live for the weekend, for retirement or even for heaven.
But the more I read the Bible and the more I get to know Jesus, the more I realize that this life — even with all its quirks and turns and tragedies — is meant to be amazing. Not because circumstances are always perfect, but because our souls have found their homes in God. Fulfillment comes from having a healthy soul, and as we’ll see in a moment, our souls stay healthy when they regularly return home.