The outcome of a well-loved soul is a life well lived!
I long to be a well-loved soul. I know that when my soul is well loved, I will love others well. The book of Psalms is a river of refreshing waters, from which I drink when my soul thirsts for love. I often find that, whether in lament or laughter, the psalmist’s words ooze blessings that both spring from and shape a well-loved soul.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” Psalm 103:1
The Hebrew term, soul ( נֶפֶשׁ [nephesh /neh·fesh/), conveys the totality of the human experience! Its vast range of meanings include:
body, person, creature, heart, mind, self, will, appetite, desire, living being, emotion, passion, that which breathes.
In other words, when we see the term soul, the author (King David, in this case) is painting a picture designed to portray that which makes us totally, truly, and authentically human. Or, the essential part of our being and person-hood.
And what does King David, in Psalm 103, say of the well-loved soul?
He says that the well-loved soul is the soul that is passionately captivated by God and, as a result, is a soul that blesses the Lord! From his very core, his essence, he blesses God. His blessing – repeatedly conveyed – seems beyond containment. It’s as if he is leaping up and down and jumping for joy. Indeed, a well-loved soul is a soul that loves well!
I long to be this type of soul.
I long to be this type of person.
I confess today, however, that I often am not. In fact, I am quite the opposite.
I find many reasons and moments in which I question or accuse God, rather than blessing Him.
Moments such as:
- Financial difficulty.
- Work-related gossip.
- Marital strife.
- Election cycles.
- Cantankerous neighbors.
- Disobedient children.
- Uncontrollable addictions.
- (Add your own) _________________.
Indeed, I find that I am more prone to blame than bless the Lord. So I ask myself, “How might I become the type of person who blesses the Lord, no matter what?”
How might I live my life as a well-loved soul?
There are two realities I want to explore in this regard. The first is the personal and communal nature of a well-loved soul. The second is the pathway we might take to become this type of soul, person, being, etc.
The Personal and Communal Nature of a Well-Loved Soul
- A well-loved soul is one that is experiencing interior shalom. By this, I mean that we experience peace and flourishing at the center of our being! A well-loved soul is one that walks with God into and through the dark places of life, trusting that He will shed light and bring hope as He offers healing.
- A well-loved soul is one that is experiencing meaningful connections with the community in which she/he lives. We moderns are terminally atomistic – experiencing life as though we walk alone in a highly individualistic and segmented way. The ancients called for and committed to community at every level. They understood that the well-loved soul results in a soul that loves well. As such, their focus was on how to be open to and aware of the presence of God in the midst of community so that the community, well-loved by God, would be a place where they experienced the joy of being well-loved in community!
Can we, in both our individual and communal experience, become well-loved souls in a well-loved communities?
Yes, I think we can. The psalmist, particularly in Psalm 103, provides a pathway we might consider!
The Well-Loved Soul is Attentive and Responsive to God’s Presence
The first step on this pathway comes in the form of a command. It’s a command to remember, or, more pointedly stated in its negation, to forget not all His benefits. To remember is far more challenging than it sounds. We are a terribly distracted, disconnected and forgetful people. We lack – on a global scale – the ability, or even desire, to be attentive! The psalmist clearly connects the attentive life to the well-loved soul.
To remember God is to recall and recount the many ways God has worked on our behalf in the past! We are prone to forget.
God knows this.
One of the most common commands in Scripture is the command to remember and recount the goodness of God in our midst! In Psalm 103:3-5, David calls us to remember and recount some beautiful benefits of God’s presence in our midst. The psalm reads,
3 God, who pardons all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
To remember and recount – actively and often – is to have birthed in us a well-loved soul.
What is it God has done?
King David identifies five benefits of God’s presence that, when remembered and recounted, hold the promise of producing a well-loved soul!
Five Beautiful Benefits of God’s Presence
- He pardons. We begin here because the verb, to pardon or to forgive, is often utilized in reference to what God offers us. Forgiveness is undeniably the realm of God and captures the fullness of His goodness toward us. We need to hear this word today. We need to let this truth pour over us. We are an unforgiving people alive in a wholly unforgiving time. Our forbearance for and indulgence toward one another is nearly nonexistent. In other words, the world in which we live does not heighten our awareness of forgiveness and forbearance. The world in which we live often leaves us wondering if such things as forgiveness and forbearance exist. If they do exist, we conclude, they are rarely extended to others and wholly absent in the time and space we occupy. The psalmist reminds us that such things do exist and that it’s vital we remember and recount them! The Hebrew king encourages us to remember because he believes God is knowable or, at the very least, noticeable, in our world! Do you remember the forgiveness of God today? Do you recall moments when you sensed the presence of our eternal, loving Father and the joy he takes in you and displays over you?
- He heals. In the economy of the grand and gracious love of God, we move from pardon to repair. We get this backward today. We often believe we must repair ourselves before we can receive pardon. The psalmist says, “remember pardon” because pardon gives us hope for repair and restoration. The word heal (to sew together, mend or repair), reminds me of the term employed by the Gospel writers in the scene where the Messiah is recruiting disciples. As he strolls by the Sea of Galilee, he finds them repairing or mending their nets. In this instance (Matthew 4), the disciples are restoring their nets so that they might be used to satisfy their original intent! That’s how God works in and on us. He heals or mends us so that we might be restored to our original purpose. Do you remember this God who mends you and repairs you? Do you remember this God who heals you so that He might reclaim the purpose for which He made you?
- He redeems. The term, redeem, is also translated as ‘to buy back or purchase’. In this case the sense is one of deliverance from a pit or the grave. I love this portion of the Psalm! Now he’s just showing off. He is doubling down on the good stuff. Just as he repairs He also redeems. This is, indeed, a beautiful exchange. Redemption speaks of the constant care the One who rescues gives to those who are rescued. Redemption entails deliverance from enemies, ongoing care, provision and protection from any real or contrived threats. The promise of redemption provides the hope of relief and rescue. I fear our concept of redemption is too narrowly limited. Redemption (the state of being redeemed) is a reality in which we experience the joy of restored relationship and the assurance of ongoing provision. To remember and recount this beautiful benefit of God is to rest in the joy of a well-loved soul and be restored to the hope of a life well lived!
- He crowns. To wreath or bestow royalty upon one’s subject. To surround, encircle or endow with the riches of divine love. To be crowned follows naturally from the act of redemption. Delivered from the grave or pit of despair unto the height of divine compassion and love. Once adopted, He calls us child. Can you imagine yourself as one crowned by the King of glory? Do you envision God as a God who crowns you? Do you imagine God as one who surrounds you, in his divine love and compassion? Do you experience God as one whose presence surrounds you in the midst of a world where His absence is palpable?
- He satisfies. To be sated, satisfied, filled, or overwhelmed with the goodness of God. In a world where we are overwhelmed by so many things, it’s refreshing to remember God, who overwhelms us with His grace! We are hungry people. It’s as if our desires and yearnings are always crying out for more. Perhaps it’s because we seek satisfaction outside of and beyond He who alone can satisfy! This particular call to remembrance is a call to trust that God is enough! Are you attentive to the ways God desires to fulfill the longings of your heart? Are you open and responsive to His will when He encourages you to trust in Him rather than on that addiction, hurt, habit or hang-up? Pastor John Piper says it well when he exclaims, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.”
The outcome of remembering and recounting these five beautiful benefits of the presence of God is a well-loved soul. Or, as the psalmist picturesquely expresses,
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:5 ESV)
Renewal is the hope of remembrance!
The well-loved soul is a soul that is renewed by God’s goodness and revived in His grace.
The fruit of a well-loved soul is a life well lived!
Perhaps the next time I begin to question and accuse God for circumstances that are out of my control, I might spend some time remembering and recounting the benefits of His presence.
Disrupting to Renew!