“He restores my soul…” Psalm 23:3
Different translations choose different verbs to describe the Shepherd’s work upon the soul of His beloved. He “has converted” and He “brings back” my soul. He “refreshes”, “revives” and “restores” my soul. The Lord “renews” my life and “my soul. These words imply God’s healing and restorative work in the life of His people. Their afflictions may include a damaged morale, discouragement, a spiritual burnout or bodily ailments. Through the Shepherd’s ministrations, souls are enabled to regain the original pristine form which, is their spiritual inheritance.
The good news is that we have an excellent doctor for our souls, whose very presence brings healing and whose words are life. His name is Jehovah Raphe – God, my Healer. The world outside may deal harshly with us, storms may assail, our trials appear overwhelming and the devil may use every strategy to destroy our peace of mind, but through Jesus, we will come out unscathed and stronger than ever before.
“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal… Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate” (Jeremiah 30:17,19 ESV).
God may use suffering to draw our attention to the condition of our souls. Trouble, sorrow, testing, setbacks and defeat may come into a Christian’s life, but for those of us who remain in Christ, all bad things have a sell-by-date, and victory overtakes trouble. God’s work of restoration proves His great love and care for us. Just as in Joseph’s life, He will use every bad thing that has ever happened in our lives to work for our good.
The knocks and strains of life are God’s tools to mould us into the image of His Son. In the course of our Christian growth to maturity, we will experience a few tumbles, bruised knees, hard falls or even a major accident. None of these things are too big for God to handle. As we lean on Him, He will make us perfectly whole and well again. We may expect miraculous healing for our bodies as well as our souls, and indeed such healing should not be a rarity in the church but a common occurrence.
The Bible warns us to ‘guard our hearts with all diligence’ (Proverbs 4:23), and to resist sin. Just as exposure to unclean water, contaminated food or germ laden air or unhealthy habits can produce physical illnesses, so our engagement with a sinful world can affect our souls if we are not careful to avail ourselves of necessary protections.To reduce our susceptibility to spiritual sickness, we must live a life of humility and dependance on God.
The symptoms of spiritual sickness become evident in our behaviour – we stop reacting to life’s stresses with strength and patience, and to difficult people with love and gentleness. We may grow discouraged, bitter, harsh, irritable, aggressive, fearful or depressed. When we do stumble, become discouraged or succumb to worldly temptations – and we most certainly will in one way or another – we must turn to the Physician of our souls for healing.
The primary purpose of God’s healing is not to equip us for this world, but to make us fit for the age to come. Nevertheless, our whole lives are positively impacted by His healing. During times of ill health or emotional or spiritual turmoil, our dependance on Him grows, and we develop the necessary Christian virtues of patience and gentleness, and become more mature in our faith.
Christ has a definite treatment protocol for our spiritual illnesses. He leads us to a place of repentance, where we turn to Him, giving up our self-sufficiency and pride: “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV) and “seeing their faith He said [to the paralytic], “Friend, your sins are forgiven you” (Luke 5:17 HCSB). After we experience true contrition for our sins, He offers forgiveness, and once this is received, the channels are opened in our inner man for the healing of mind, body and soul. With all blockages removed, we experience His peace, healing and rest. Our healing is complete when we begin to put our confidence, once again, in His promises..
Our response to the Shepherd’s work of healing and restoration is important. We must yield, not resist. We ought to come to Him in faith, whether we feel weak and drained, or even when we have sinned. He is full of mercy and grace. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”( Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV). We ought to trust in His forgiveness and healing power; and allow Him full access into every area of our life.
Jesus talked about the ‘renewal of all things’ (Matthew 19:28). It has been correctly said that the ultimate purpose of God’s dealing with humankind is restoration and renewal. In the end, all creation will be restored, but God begins by performing His operations on individual souls willing to yield their lives to Him. Christians who are fully submitted to Christ partake in His regenerative work from generation to generation, and are instrumental in ushering in His Kingdom – where His restorative work has been perfected. “…you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” Isaiah 58:12 NLT.
By working these changes in our lives, Jesus makes us ‘living epistles’, so that the godless world may witness His power and His love.
Father, thank You for the good Shepherd, Jesus, the Son. Help us to walk in His ways and yield to His ministrations when we stumble or fall. He is indeed our Great Physician, who will heal us and bind up our wounds. We ask for the grace to receive from Him, to be made whole and to be used for the work of administering His healing to other souls.