Converge Magazine tries to regularly promote books we think have something important to say to our current society and the church today. The following excerpt is the intro to How’s Your Soul? by Judah Smith which has powerful things to say regarding the role of vulnerability and honesty in the church and the world.
Have you ever had someone look you deep in the soul and ask, “Are you okay?”
I’m not talking about a casual acquaintance. I mean someone who really knows you. Someone who gets you. Someone who somehow picks up on your unspoken struggles and who cares enough to push and probe past your superficial, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
The fact the person has to ask if you are okay means you are probably not okay. Both of you know that. But the offer to dialogue about it is somehow comforting. Even healing.
“Actually . . . no. I don’t think I am okay. I mean, I will be okay—I’m pretty sure, anyway. I’ll get through this. But right now my world is upside down. I don’t understand what I’m thinking or feeling.”
“I’m here for you. If you want to talk, just let me know.”
To be honest, there aren’t too many friends like that out there. And even when people do try to dig deeper, we tend to avoid their soul-searching questions for as long as we can.
Vulnerability is scary. It feels safer to be superficial.
“Me? Yeah, I’m great. My job is going well . . . I’m reaching my financial goals . . . I just signed with a recording studio . . . The kids are getting good grades . . . I’m hitting the gym regularly. . . yes, I’m good. Just tired, you know. No big deal. Why do you ask?”
It’s easy to point to outward indicators of success to prove how “okay” we are. But none of these things—not wealth, not fame, not family, not goals reached—mean we are healthy and happy on the inside.
The “Are you okay?” question is scary, because it has to do with the real you—not with your achievements or activities, but with your emotions, your thoughts, your decisions, your values, and your desires.
For me personally, I often don’t want to know the answer.
Deep inside, I’m afraid I’m not okay. I have internal contradictions I would rather not face.
That is why this is probably the scariest book I’ve written to date. I know that is an odd thing for an author to admit, but it’s true. Writing about inner health, emotional stability, and other soul-related topics is a vulnerable business, because before I am a writer or pastor or speaker, I am a human. How can I speak and teach on the subject when my own soul is bent and flawed?
This book is the result of wrestling with questions like these in my own life and experience. I am on a journey, just like everyone else. I’m not here to tell you what to believe or how to act. Yes, I’ve learned a few things along the way, and I hope they help you. But by no means am I an expert on the inside you.
I don’t mean to imply that I am the final word on what a soul should look like or how to fix a broken heart.
When it comes to the human soul, I don’t think any of us can claim to have everything figured out. More than twenty-five hundred years ago the prophet Jeremiah gave the ancient nation of Israel a message from God: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it?” (17:9).
That’s hardly encouraging. But Jeremiah wasn’t being cynical—he was being honest. He was simply stating the human condition. He had apparently come face-to-face with the same fears we confront: that maybe deep inside, we don’t have it all together; maybe our insides are not okay.
God’s message in Jeremiah doesn’t stop there, though. The next verse says, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind” (17:10). In other words, we can’t always figure ourselves out, but God can. He knows us better than we know ourselves. That is why the heart of this book is not to elevate our own human opinions or experiences, but to learn from the one who designed our souls in the first place: God.
You’ll realize soon—if you don’t know already—that I am a Bible guy and a Jesus guy. I believe God is real and he cares about what happens on this planet. I believe that the only way to make sense out of this life is to include God in our plans and equations.
Even if you aren’t sure what you believe about God, or about Jesus, or about the Bible, I think a lot of what Scripture says will resonate with you. It is, after all, a collection of the wisdom and life experiences of some forty different authors written over nearly fifteen hundred years. So at the very least, I invite you to approach the Bible as a compendium of ancient wisdom and philosophy. Maybe there are some things you can glean from it that apply to your twenty-first-century life. And if the Bible is truly God’s perfect, inspired message to mankind—as
I believe it is—then it’s certainly worth hearing what the Creator has to say about this complicated thing we call the soul.
Why is this important? Why do our souls matter? Why should we care about the health of our souls? Because no matter who we are and no matter how long or how well we’ve been navigating life, there will be times when our souls find themselves in dark places—times when we doubt our internal stability and when we wonder if we are really okay.
In moments like those, how do we respond? Do we wait until we are perfect before proceeding? Do we search for six foolproof steps to soul stability? Do we freeze up in fear of failure?
Ultimately the stability and security and outcome of our souls need to be in the hands of someone who is bigger than our souls and greater than our turmoil. That someone is God, and he invites us to go on a journey of soul discovery and soul health with him.
Judah Smith is the lead pastor of the City Church in Seattle, Washington. The City Church is a thriving multisite church noted for its cultural relevance, commitment to biblical integrity and faith, and love for Jesus. Judah is known around the United States and the world for his preaching ministry. His fresh, practical, humorous messages demystify the Bible and make Christianity real. Judah is also the author of the New York Times bestselling book Jesus Is _____ and coauthor of I Will Follow Jesus Bible Storybook.