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The Emotionally Healthy Pastor

In November, a 91-year-old Polish woman woke up in a morgue after 11 hours in cold storage. A doctor had declared Janina Kolkiewicz dead after the woman’s niece noticed that she didn’t seem to be breathing. The doctor said he detected no heartbeat, and off she went to the mortuary. Upon waking, Kolkiewicz reportedly complained only about feeling cold and dug into a bowl of soup at home.

Our soul is our life (psyche = breath)—and sometimes pastors lead like they are out of breath. Today’s blog is specifically about loving God with all of our souls, which is part two of a series about how we can live out the Great Commandment. Since pastors live so much of our lives publicly, we can forget that we have an internal life that is just as real, and even more important.

What Is a Soul?

Jesus clearly prioritized loving God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength … which is all of me. Less clear are the distinctions between each of these four aspects of my life. Although each aspect overlaps with the other parts, there seems to be less distinction in Scripture between the heart and the soul than there is between the mind and the body.

The word of God is “sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit” (Heb 4:12).

Every Person Has a Soul

“Soul” is used as a synonym for the person, and is often translated as “life”—especially by HCSB. There may be as many as two billion Christians who have a new heart, yet all seven billion living humans have souls. When a ship or plane goes down, it is reported how many “souls” were lost, as the Apostle Paul did (Acts 27:37). Every person has a soul, and every soul lives forever somewhere.

Then the LORD God formed man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being (Gen 2:7).

Although many times the “heart” and “soul” are used interchangeably, the heart is usually viewed as that wicked part of us that needs to be transplanted by an act of grace called salvation. While the heart is the eternal part of my life that is fully redeemed, my soul is the internal/emotional part that is constantly being restored and renewed.

The Greek term for soul is psyche, from which we get the English word psychology. Sigmund Freud wrote that “treatment of the psyche means … treatment of the soul.” On our best days, our souls rejoice. On our worst days, our souls are “swallowed up in sorrow” (like Jesus). Are you an emotionally healthy pastor? Is it well with your soul? I want to encourage you to take a brief look at the condition of your soul right now.

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Mark Dance serves as associate vice president for pastoral leadership at LifeWay Christian Resources. A native Texan, Mark pastored churches in Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas before joining LifeWay. He has been married to Janet Kendrick since 1988, and they have two children: Holly and Brad.