Good theology, or Bible doctrine, is the key to thinking correctly. Life can be hard and inflexible. Stresses and uncertainty (or for that matter, sometimes certainty) can lead us to give up hope.
Psychology, is mostly considered a “secular” branch of study. By “secular”, I mean that the study of it leaves no room for the God of the Holy Scriptures, or ironically, the God that created the human psyche.
That is a quite silly conclusion, because in learning about anything else, the first place that one would go for information is its source. I would make a motion, that as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, that we would add psychology as a “branch” of our systematic theology, and, as a guiding principle, not go to fallible human resources, but find the truth in the pages of Scripture.
Within the next few articles on Distinguishing Truth, I will examine the well known hymn, “It is Well with my Soul”, and show how sound Bible doctrine, or “good theology” is the key to a healthy soul. “Mental health” is a hot topic today, and so many think that the key is some nebulous “awareness”.
People have been “aware” of the “dark night of the soul” since sin entered into the world. Think of Cain (“My punishment is greater than I can bear”, Genesis 4:13), or Job (“Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived”, Job 3:3). Think of the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote an entire book we have titled Lamentations. As with Cain, another negative example would be Judas Iscariot, who after betraying our Lord Jesus Christ felt the weight of his guilt and went and hung himself. His guilt was also greater than he could bear. We hear about the importance of talking about problems, but little about solutions. This is probably by design, because if real solutions were to be found, soul-studiers (psychologists), soul-doctors (psychiatrists), and “mental health counselors” would lose much of their client base. It seems as one of the keys for counselors is that their work is never done. There is always a little more needed.
The key to good soul health is like the key to good physical health. It is to cultivate the behaviors that lead to it. Generally, to be physically fit, a person must at least eat right and get plenty of exercise. The real need for physical fitness does not usually show itself in everyday life; but when extreme circumstances arrive, the need shows itself. For example, you would almost never have a real need to be able to swim two miles. But if you were out in a boat and it capsized two miles from shore, you will surely be glad that you did keep in shape to be able to get to shore.
In the same way, cultivating good soul-health during the “good times” is the key to surviving the storms. Understanding and believing the Word of God, rightly divided, is the first and best way to cultivate a healthy soul.
The apostle Paul, the Lord Jesus’ choice as His apostle of this dispensation, had this to say regarding the habits that will cultivate a healthy soul.
Philippians 4:4–9 — “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
Horatio Spafford, when dealing with the grief of losing his daughters in a shipwreck, wrote the now famous hymn on which we are loosely basing our study. I do not know all of the theological positions that Mr. Spafford held, nor do I think it to be consequential for this study. What I can tell from this hymn, he did get something right. The first verse:
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul
These words echo the apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians:
Philippians 4:11–13 — “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Are you feeling peace or sorrow? The Lord understands both, for he was the Man of Sorrows. He is the Prince of Peace, and the God of Peace and He knows the way of peace that we as men simply have never known. How do we appropriate that peace?
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
The apostle wrote this in regard to time of want, but he also could abound through Christ. It is not that he knew or thought that the Lord would change the outcome. But he knew the Lord!
2 Timothy 1:12 — “…I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
Against the darkest day: I know Whom I have believed. In the days of plenty: I also know Whom I have believed.
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say “it is well, it is well, with my soul”.
Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.