“The health of your soul is a choice. It is not determined by someone else.”
This statement recently challenged me when posed by my department chair. It is tempting to blame circumstances, vocation, or other people for the state of my soul. However, these explanations are simply excuses to take responsibility away from the primary caretaker of my soul – myself.
Spiritual health is a choice. I choose whether a crisis causes restlessness and anxiety. I choose if a person’s comment leads to frustration or relational tension. I choose if unexpected health problems or vocational discontent cause depression. I choose if financial stress results in panic and hopelessness. Circumstances are largely out of my control; spiritual health is not.
This truth is liberating because if spiritual health is dictated by external factors, the health of my soul is uncertain and unstable. Yet, God has provided the necessary resources within me to anchor the contentment – redemption, justification, adoption. Position in Christ transcends any person or situation that attempts to erode my spiritual health. I can choose spiritual health because I am a child of God. In those moments where other factors attempt to determine the health of my soul, I have the power to choose joy and peace through my identity in Christ. Circumstances change; my identity does not.
As leaders, we are confronted with countless pressures that chip away at our identity. The expectations of those around us whisper for us to live for other people. Vocational pressures attempt to trap us under the false notion that we are not realizing our potential, or worse yet, that our job is at stake because we are not performing up to par as the next person. In other cases, our own ambition boxes us into the myth that somehow we might attain perfect – I fail today but tomorrow I will not. Each of these false narratives are fully under our control. We determine if they guide our daily lives, or if we will rest in the surpassing truth that the abundant life is available to us regardless of the circumstances that swirl around us.
To accomplish this, certain disciplines are necessary…
- It is necessary to myopically embrace the truth that our new identity is already fully defined. Whether through reminders or self-talk, even post-it notes, we must constantly push through the lies that state otherwise.
- It requires guarding that perspective amid those situations or circumstances that attempt to reframe our outlook. Spiritual health is not a volitional task, it requires God’s grace. Thus, Paul’s appeal to “pray continually” becomes a necessity – robust, reflective prayer, if we are to rely on the Holy Spirit to “remind” us of the things of Christ.
- In dramatic moments, where our spiritual health is assaulted, it necessitates purposeful breaks where we pull back from the irritants of life and unravel the identity attacks that want to propel us towards an emotional tailspin. In other words, we should stop the spiraling before it happens by pausing life, confronting the issue, and resetting our perspective.
- Lastly, it is critical that we speak it out to someone, namely a person who is wise and trusting. Issues that are not communicated oftentimes trick us into believing something that we know is not true. It rattles in our mind to the point where we begin to cave to its pressure. Audibly affirming it allows for falsehood to be identified and truth to be spoken.
Ok, this is not a recipe. But, it does serve to provide some tangible reminders of disciplines we can implement to safeguard our spiritual health – to place our souls within the domain of our choice rather than at the mercy of other persons or situations.
Yes, the health of our soul is a choice – it is our choice.