by Jeannette Haley
As the world enters a new year, the thoughts of most people turn towards a fresh start. This fresh start may involve certain resolutions or even solemn vows with the hope that there will be improvement, success or accomplishment in different areas of our lives. But, as we all know from experience, usually, our well-laid plans sooner or later either fall to the wayside as the result of uncontrollable circumstances, or because of our own lack of self-discipline or abilities. When this happens, we often become agitated, discouraged or depressed.
Personal failures and disappointments in life, along with the sins of commission and omission, can lead to a restless and troubled soul. The earthly-minded person will automatically look to the world for solace. Such things as “comfort” food (I think this is where chocolate comes in), mind-altering substances, endless forms of entertainment, incessant running without “landing,” compulsive spending, over-working, excessive sleeping or extremes of any type can be indicative of a troubled soul.
The problem with the world is that it cannot offer any real and lasting solutions for a troubled soul. Everything that the world has to offer is temporary at best, and seductive and destructive at worst. Even the “good” things of this world are merely a counterfeit of what is real, satisfying and eternal. Yet, as human beings, we normally start out in our youth believing that we can overcome any problem that life may throw at us. Life, however, has a way of bringing us to our knees—either in hopelessness and despair, or, hopefully, at the foot of the cross. We either end up crushed, disappointed and bitter, or broken before the only One who can restore our souls because of that brokenness. Jesus put it this way: “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” Matthew 21:44.
Mankind has been given two choices—to either choose the ways of this world, which lead to death and destruction, or to choose the ways of God; that is, to choose life. It is great folly to think of oneself as an exception to this rule because of the pride of life. Delusion is the result of such thinking, regardless of how well laid one’s plans and schemes may be, and the result of this delusion is the soul’s eternal separation from God.
Even though we may know the Lord, it’s natural as human beings to automatically look to ourselves and/or others to solve what we perceive to be the cause of our troubled and restless souls. All too often, instead of initially going to the Lord in prayer to seek His perspective, or search His Word to pinpoint and identify the cause and solution to our plight, we take the alternative route. After all, it seems so natural and normal to us, plus it’s easier and it gives the illusion that we are still in control (or are god of our world.)
For some, this means finding someone who will patiently listen to an endless, emotional cycle of woes and excuses that no amount of Scriptural counsel and perspective can quiet. Others may crawl into their minds and withdraw into a miniscule mental cubicle of despair that only the light of the Holy Spirit can penetrate. Then, there are those folks who simply change their images in order to change their reality, thus deluding themselves. And lastly, there are the factual types who adjust their lines in an attempt to control their situation. Of course, none of these self efforts bring lasting solutions or peace.
It needs to be pointed out that there are heretical teachers among us who propagate the lie that once a person “comes to Christ,” all of their problems will cease to exist. Such false teachers promise a blissful existence of health and wealth. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are still in our earthly bodies, living in a fallen world. The Bible gives us many examples of godly men and women who suffered great trials of faith, and who, because they were just as human as you and me, had occasion to experience a troubled soul. Some, such as Moses, even asked the Lord to remove them from the earth (Numbers 11:15). Others include Job (Job 3:21, 7:15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), and Jonah (Jonah 4:3).
For example, God’s righteous servant, Job, declared that his spirit was troubled (Job 21:4). After all, God had allowed Satan to kill his children, destroy his entire livelihood, and bring physical torment and anguish upon him. Job’s friends offered him their perspectives concerning his plight, but none of it was received by Job as comforting to his troubled soul. He said this of their efforts to counsel him: “I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all” Job 16:2.
Job maintained his integrity before God and uttered the most sublime statement of faith in the entire Bible:“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” Job 13:15a. He also made this powerful statement: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” Job 19:25-27. In spite of the extreme trials and tribulations that Job experienced, his troubled soul clung to the Rock of Ages, and in the end, God not only revealed Himself to Job, but He restored to him twice as much as he had before.
King David, the “sweet psalmist of Israel,” wrote, “…thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled” Psalm 30b. A sense of separation from God is the greatest troubling of the soul that man can experience, for without God, there is no hope, peace, love, life, comfort, or place of safety. David’s soul had many occasions to be troubled. Although he had been anointed as King of Israel by God through the hand of Samuel, he was forced into hiding from King Saul for many years. Because of Saul’s madness, he was separated from Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s closest friend. He also experienced hunger and exhaustion, and was beset by enemies from within and from without, not to mention his own sins and resulting family problems after he became king.
David lamented: “I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak” Psalm 38:6; 77:3, 4, 16. But, he also knew the remedy for his troubled soul, that being true repentance (read the beautiful Psalm 51.) We read in 1 Samuel 30:6b David’s remedy for the troubled soul: “…but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
As we read through the Psalms, we find the key to David’s faith in such words as these: “Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy. Preserve my soul: for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee. Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me. Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell” Psalm 86:1-7, 11, 12. The Book of Psalms contains every emotion a person can possibly experience, and is written for our edification.
Contrary to the many false teachings circulating today, God’s people are not spared the experience of a troubled soul while in this earthly life. The prophet Daniel, a truly holy man of God, expressed the agony of his troubled soul as a result of the powerful visions he was given (Daniel 4:5; 7:15, 28), and even Jesus Himself suffered a troubled soul. We read His words in John 12:27: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” And, in John 13:21 we read: “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.”
Words are another powerful weapon that can trouble one’s soul. Whether they are audibly spoken or read, words can penetrate the heart, causing hurts and wounds that have the power to torment a person for a lifetime (unless they are exchanged for the Lord’s love and healing). Sadly, many who call themselves Christians in the Church today set out to trouble the souls of others, and well do they fit the following description in Proverbs 26:22-28: “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross. He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart. Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation. Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him. A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.”
The Apostle Paul wrote about troubling words that “subverted the souls” of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment” Acts 15:24. A good example of “troubling words” can be found by tuning in to the evening news, or reading the latest headlines. But, what words should trouble us the most are the warnings and admonitions of God towards sin, rebellion, unbelief, pride, disobedience, and basically anything that rises up within us to resist the work of the Holy Spirit.
Those of us who love Christ and those of us who are in ministry know the agony of a troubled soul. The Apostle Paul wrote: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9, 10. The words of Jesus to His disciples in John 16:33 apply to every disciple through the ages: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” The solution for a troubled soul is Jesus Christ.
Finally, sin will always cause us to be separated from God, regardless of how hard we try to con ourselves (or others) into believing that God overlooks the deceit and wickedness hidden within our hearts. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” Isaiah 57: 20, 21. Psalm 90:7, 8 expresses it well: “For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.” We trouble our own souls with our secret sins because deep down we know they are there, and so does the Lord who searches the hearts. Proverbs 11:17 gives us this insight into how our wickedness brings trouble to ourselves: “The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”The only remedy for the soul troubled by sin is to come to true repentance at the foot of the cross.
When Jesus foretold the frightful and disturbing events yet to come in the future to His disciples, He sternly commanded them, “See that ye be not troubled…” Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7. When His disciples were terrified when He suddenly stood in the midst of them after His resurrection, He spoke these comforting words to their troubled souls: “Peace be unto you. Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” Luke 24:36b, 38b, 39.
Jesus is the sole comfort for our troubled souls. He is the only Mediator between man and God, and the only safe haven to whom we can flee in times of trouble. The world cannot offer security for our souls, nor can great wealth guarantee a perpetual state of trouble-free living. Governments cannot possibly protect all the people all of the time from terrorism, war, famine, natural disasters, pestilence, and economic disaster, nor can they bring about world peace. The solution for a troubled soul is not more leisure time for fun and entertainment. Faster cars and louder music cannot silence the troubled soul. Heaping upon oneself the things of this world will only result in a spiritual void that brings inner turmoil and torment. Going to church and playing religious games will not bring lasting comfort and peace to the troubled soul.
If you are beginning the New Year with a troubled soul in the hope that new resolutions or plans will bring you lasting peace and happiness, consider this promise: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17. How does one become a new creature? The answer is by being born again. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water [the Word] and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” John 3:5, 6, 7.
Jesus holds out this promise to those who have received Him: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” John 14:1, 2, 3. And, in John 14:27, He promised, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Is your soul troubled? Are you trying to bring solace to yourself by “feeding” your five senses with things that can never satisfy? Carnal things can never satisfy spiritual cravings. Come to Jesus and ask Him to give you a truly new beginning that will bring peace and eternal rewards to your troubled and restless soul.