Let’s be honest. Before 2020, how often did we talk about “soul care?” Did many people other than coaches, counselors, and those in the mental health industry pay much attention to “soul care” or even know what it really meant? Let’s define what soul care is. To some, soul care is a pseudonym for self-care. For the care of our bodies and minds. For rest and the cutting down of noise. And let’s be clear, those things are certainly a part of soul care. But at the core of soul care is “soul.” And at the core of soul, is spirit. Our soul is where our spirit and mind, and even body, connect with the Creator of life.
In Deuteronomy 4:29, we are told that if we “seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” David says, in Psalms 62:1, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.” In this week’s podcast interview with former therapist, pastoral counselor, and missionary retreat leader, JoAnn Kraft, she reminded us that without a connection to God, our souls will never find rest. We cannot talk about self-care without first talking about soul care.
What is soul care? Kraft says it is keeping our souls connected to and energized by God. The verse she uses as her foundational soul care Scripture is Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Where do we get our model for soul care? From Jesus himself, who lived in a human body just like ours. Notice how Jesus did soul care. One of Kraft’s favorite soul care activities to do with people in ministry is this: She asks them to read through the four Gospels, and every time it mentions what Jesus was doing, to write it down. She said, “People are really surprised when they finish! We think about Jesus preaching and teaching and healing. But you’re also going to see that he was walking with his friends, and he was sitting with people in their homes, and he went to a wedding.
“We get this idea that we have to do our ministry all the time. And if you look at what Christ did, he was not ‘on’ or working all the time––he was hanging out with his friends, walking and talking with them. I believe that Christ laughed, and still does. He enjoyed people. He spent time getting to know them and sitting around a fire at the edge of a huge lake. But also, sometimes he walked away from ministry [for a bit]. Just slipped away and went to a place where no one could find him. “So if in his godhead seat, if he could sleep and eat and hang out and laugh and celebrate, amongst all of the work he had to do in [his limited] three years, shouldn’t we be following His example instead of always working and not sleeping?”
Another thing we also see Jesus doing is constantly praying. Both with others and by himself. He lived a life of prayer, in constant communication with His Father and a moment-by-moment awareness of and careful listening to the Spirit. For missionaries, the first warning sign of soul disconnection Kraft consistently sees is a disconnection from prayer. A disconnection from the source of life. Kraft says one of the best ways for a person who struggles with prayer or who is experiencing a dry season of the soul is to pray with others.Get together with another, or a few other, people you feel safe with who would be open to praying together. God designed something special to happen when believers gather together in prayer. Gather consistently. The more you pray together, the more your hearts will knit together, the more your prayers will flow naturally, and the more connection you will feel to God and to each other. Praying together creates a soul connection. And when you gather together consistently, leave space for processing life together. You’ll be amazed at how re-energized your soul will become when you feel known and help others feel known. (Yes, even you introverts!)
Read the Word both for others and for yourself. To read the Word just for yourself is to be a consumer. To eat and eat without sharing makes for a very unhealthy person, and to consume the Word and never share it is not how God made us to live. The very essence of being a Chrisitian is to share the gospel. On the flip side, there are many cross-cultural workers and people in ministry who are teaching so often that they read the Word only for others. They read to prepare a message or teach a class or prep for a counseling session…and they forget that God wants to speak to them about them too! A person caring for their soul will cultivate an awareness of God’s Spirit within their soul and seek His wisdom for their own lives as well.
What are some of the ways you care for your soul?
Mentioned Resources in Podcast
In Person Missionaries Retreats
Thrive Ministry (for women): https://thriveministry.org/retreats
Azmera (for women): https://www.azmera.net/events
Barnabas ELIM Retreats (couples): https://www.barnabas.org/member-care/events/elim
Harbor of Refuge (individuals, families, couples): https://harborofrefuge.org/
Stay 1-2 weeks in a MIL apartment in the home of former missionaries who are able to offer counseling and debriefing.
Free Soul Care emails: https://www.soulshepherding.org/join-the-community/
Learn more by streaming this episode of the “Modern Day Missionaries” Podcast, Hosted by Stephanie Leigh Gutierrez.