Daily reading: Psalm 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87
Why are you cast down, O my soul,and why are you in turmoil within me? Psalm 43:5
Recently I came across a radical, paradigm-shifting, brain-baking thought that I am still trying to wrap my head around. I was reading Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, and he was pointing out all the times in the Psalms when the soul is addressed as a separate entity. For example:
- The Psalmist commands the soul to bless the Lord: “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 104:1).
- He commands his soul to wait on the Lord: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence (Psalm 62:5)
- In Psalm 35:3, the Psalmist asks God to speak to his soul: “Say to my soul, “I am your salvation!””
- In today’s reading, Psalm 43, he questions the soul: “Why are you downcast, O my soul.?
- In Psalm 116:7, the Psalmist says, “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”
Return? Return to where? Return from where? This is strange language. Why does it sometimes seem as though the Psalmist’s soul is separate from the Psalmist?
Here’s the brain baker: Dallas Willard suggested that the reason it often seems like the soul is a separate thing is because it is. The soul, he suggests, is that part of us that was intended to be in the constant presence of the Lord. And for those whom God called from the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1:4), it could be that our soul never left God’s presence.
However, when sin entered the world, we lost touch with our soul. Our body and flesh rejected God, but our soul remained with Him. When we reject sin and pursue righteousness, our flesh is getting closer to where our soul already is. When we engage in soul-stirring worship, we talk about drawing closer to God. Maybe the truth is that we are simply drawing closer to where our soul has been all along. When I pursue sin, I feel far from God. But it isn’t because God moved. It’s because, when I sin, I don’t take my soul with me, and my body and mind feel the separation.
Think about how our language reflects this. We often feel like our life is “coming apart at the seams.” We tell someone, “pull yourself together.”
Throughout the Psalms, the body speaks to the soul. And I would love to cultivate the habit of speaking to my soul like the Psalmist does. But I wonder: If the soul is that part of myself that is, even now, eternally in fellowship with God; then on the day of resurrection; when the trumpet sounds and the dead in Christ are raised; when my physical body is glorified and the perishable is raised imperishable; perhaps on that day, it will be my soul speaking to my body, saying “At last, there you are!”