Sermon Illustrations on Soul
The Care and Cure of Souls
Gary Moon and David Benner, visionary leaders in contemporary Christian soul care, provide a helpful background on the origin of this phrase:
The English phrase “care of souls” has its origins in the Latin cura animarum. While cura is most commonly translated “care,” it actually contains the idea of both care and cure. Care refers to actions designed to support the well-being of something or someone. Cure refers to actions designed to restore well-being that has been lost. The Christian church has historically embraced both meanings of cura and has understood soul care to involve nurture and support as well as healing and restoration.
The Enemy of Our Soul
The other enemy of the soul, meaninglessness…chokes out life with equal vigor. Meaninglessness woos us into spending our one shot at life on insignificant and trivial things. If we are not vigilant, we drift from God’s glorious ambition for our lives, losing sight of anything remotely grand, trading God-instilled passion for an easier and more often traveled road.
And if our hearts aren’t awakened by majesty, our lives soon shrink into little bits of nothingness. Our days become filled with drama over the ridiculous; our complaints fly free at the smallest challenge or difficulty; our energy and wealth are consumed by what is fleeting; and our chatter becomes dominated by events, people, and things that won’t last much longer than the morning mist.
Mother Theresa’s Darkness of the Soul
Most of us know Mother Theresa for her stalwart ministry to the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. But as with each of us, there is a public side of our lives and a private side. Mother Theresa struggled for long periods of her life where she dealt with an acute spiritual darkness and depression. This personal letter to a friend shows just how much she suffered:
Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason.—The place of God in my soul is blank.—There is no God in me.—When the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there.—Heaven—souls—why these are just words—which mean nothing to me.—My very life seems so contradictory. I help souls—to go where?—Why all this?
Where is the soul in my very being? God does not want me.—Sometimes—I just hear my own heart cry out—“My God” and nothing else comes.—The torture and pain I can’t explain.” From my childhood I have had a most tender love for Jesus..but this too has gone.—I feel nothing before Jesus…You see, Father, the contradiction in my life. I long for God—I want to love Him—to love Him much…and yet there is but pain—longing and love.
Waiting For Their Souls To Catch Up With Their Bodies
The story goes like this: It’s the height of British colonialism. An English traveler lands in Africa, intent on a rapid journey into the jungle. He charters some local porters to carry his supplies. After an exhausting day of travel, all on foot, and a fitful night’s sleep, he gets up to continue the journey. But the porters refuse. Exasperated, he begins to cajole, bribe, plead, but nothing works. They will not move an inch. Naturally, he asks why.
Answer? They are waiting “for their souls to catch up with their bodies.”
Lettie Cowman, in her telling of this story, wrote,
This whirling rushing life which so many of us live does for us what that first march did for those poor jungle tribesmen. The difference: they knew what they needed to restore life’s balance; too often we do not.[i]
Adapted from The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World. Copyright © 2019 by John Mark Comer. Used by permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
The Weight of a Soul
Right after the turn of the 20th century, a scientist named Duncan McDougall believed he had discovered the weight of a soul. He did this by weighing six patients right before they died and right after. The difference in weight, across the patients, averaged out to twenty-one grams.
From this experiment, he decided the weight of a soul was twenty-one grams. Later studies intended to replicate McDougall’s findings were inconclusive and led to widespread agreement in the scientific community that the original study was flawed. Nevertheless, the popularity of the study was such that many people really believed that the soul had a material quality, and its true weight was in fact 21 grams. 21 grams has been featured since in a variety of popular popular media, including as the title of a 2003 film.
Stuart Strachan Jr.
The Drama of Humanity & Nations
In his excellent little book, A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly describes the inward reality that governs the course of history:
Out in front of us is the drama of men and of nations, seething, struggling, laboring, dying. Upon this tragic drama in these days our eyes are all set in anxious watchfulness and in prayer. But within the silences of the souls of men an eternal drama is ever being enacted, in these days as well as in others.
And on the outcome of this inner drama rests, ultimately, the outer pageant of history. It is the drama of the Hound of Heaven baying relentlessly upon the track of man. It is the drama of the lost sheep wandering in the wilderness, restless and lonely, feebly searching, while over the hills comes the wiser Shepherd. For His is a shepherd’s heart, and He is restless until He holds His sheep in His arms. It is the drama of the Eternal Father drawing the prodigal home unto Himself, where there is bread enough and to spare. It is the drama of the Double Search, as Rufus Jones calls it. And always its chief actor is—the Eternal God of Love.