Theology Thursday: Elements of Effective Soul Care

By Michael Gleghorn, Faculty, College of Theology

parent and child holding heart for soul care

Many of us want to take care of our bodies. We try to eat a healthy diet, engage in regular exercise, and get a sufficient amount of sleep. These things are good for our bodies — and (in a very real sense) for our souls as well. Indeed, given the intimate connection between soul and body, we might even say that such things qualify as “elements of effective soul care.” But as Christians, we must approach the issue of “soul care” from an explicitly Christian worldview and focus on those elements most important for living an abundant Christian life.

As human beings, our highest good is personally to know, love and walk humbly with our God (John 17:3, Mark 12:28-30, Micah 6:8). If we care about our souls, we must make time for God. God is the ultimate lover of our souls (Matthew 11:28-30, John 3:16, 1 Peter 2:24-25). He created us in his image and created us for relationship with himself (Genesis 1-2).

So how might we come to know and love God more deeply and walk with him more humbly and faithfully? In the history of the church, several time-tested means have been offered for helping us toward this goal. Scripture, prayer, fellowship, worship and service (although not an exhaustive list) are often mentioned among the elements of effective soul care. Here I can only say a bit about the first three. I would encourage you, however, to explore other elements for yourself.

The Value of Scripture

If we are to know, love and walk humbly with our God, then reading and meditating upon God’s word is essential. The Apostle Peter exhorted his readers to, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good,” (1 Peter 2:2-3, ESV). The pure spiritual milk that Peter refers to here is the word of God. By nourishing our souls, it helps us grow up into salvation.

Scripture is spiritual meat and drink to the believer and is an essential element in the proper care and feeding of the soul (Psalms 19:7-11; Hebrews 5:11-14). The Bible presents truths about God, ourselves, the history of redemption, and God’s plans for the future that we can learn nowhere else. The grand biblical narrative encompasses the drama of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. As we immerse ourselves in this great biblical story, believing God’s truth and faithfully acting upon it, we find our loyalty and allegiance to him increasing — and the attractions of the world diminishing. We find ourselves increasingly delighting in the Lord and more readily sense his tender care for our souls.

The Value of Prayer

But the Christian life isn’t all roses and sunshine. At times, it involves blood, sweat and tears. Jesus even said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33). When life is hard and we are at our wits end, remember that the omnipotent Creator of the universe, who is also our loving Heavenly Father, makes himself readily available to us. Whenever we desire, we can come before the Lord in prayer. Indeed, we are encouraged to come “with confidence,” drawing near “to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

As we pour out our hearts to him, confessing our sins and failures, making our requests and petitions — and thanking him for requests granted — we grow in intimacy with God (Psalms 62:5-8). As we quiet our hearts in his presence, adoring his majesty and beauty, praising him for his goodness and love, we find our affections stirred and our love for him increased (Psalm 116). Prayer is an element of effective soul care. It provides an opportunity to cast our cares and burdens upon the One who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). And, as we experience God’s love and care, we find rest for our weary souls (Matthew 11:28-30).

The Value of Fellowship

Fellowship with other believers, particularly in a local church, is an indispensable element of Christian soul care. The author of Hebrews encourages his fellow believers to consider how they might “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). In a local church that is spiritually healthy, we are encouraged to know, love, and walk humbly with God.

We learn how to read and interpret Scripture, how to pray, worship God and use our spiritual gifts in the service of others. We witness flesh-and-blood examples of how to live the Christian life wisely and well in the lives of other believers. We must, therefore, not neglect “to meet together, as is the habit of some,” but encourage one another to pursue the Lord faithfully (Hebrews 10:25).

If we want to live an abundant Christian life, make time for these elements of effective soul care (and others as well). When done in the right spirit, and with the right motivation, they will lead to deeper knowledge of, intimacy with and faithfulness to “our great God and Savior,” the “Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls (Titus 2:11-14; 1 Peter 2:25).

Read more Theology Thursday blogs and learn about theology and ministry degree programs offered by GCU's College of Theology today. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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