Commanding the Soul

When I was in college, I decided to put a little note of encouragement under the windshield wiper of the car belonging to this cute little redhead I was dating. As I remember, we were both in need of spiritual encouragement at the time. I found mine and decided to share it with her. It happened as I was reading through Psalms, a book I refer to often when the deepest parts of my soul need something that can only be found in an encounter like that between a righteous dog like King David and the almighty God he feared, trusted in, and deeply loved. My eyes and heart came across a Psalm I could not consciously remember ever reading before, Psalm 62. All I really needed that day was found in the first two verses. So, that’s all I wrote on the little card I placed under the redhead’s windshield wiper: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (Ps 62:1-2)

Later, I discovered something profound about this Psalm that I’ve never forgotten and hope I never get over. In verses 5 and 6, verses 1 and 2 are almost repeated: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Ps 62:5-6). I spot a phrase: “O my soul.” O, my soul! Not “my soul waits…” but “O my soul, wait…” David is not describing what his soul does. Rather, he is telling his soul what to do. The idea almost seems preposterous. Can we tell our souls what to do? Apparently, we can. David teaches us we can command our souls. How often do we feel something so deeply it seems to affect our entire state of being? What if we could command our sorrowful soul to be joyful, our doubting soul to have faith, our despairing soul to have hope, our depressed soul to be lifted up, and our anxious soul to be still? What foolishness! But it is not foolishness. It is wisdom and freedom. And it is exactly what we are taught by the Psalmist. This idea can be found in other Psalms as well: 42:5, 11; 43:5103104116:7; and 146.

Simply because of the encouraging reality of this idea, that one can command one’s own soul, one of my favorite hymns is “Be Still My Soul.” I invite you to read through it today as a prayer, and then internalize this freeing truth – that in moments when the state of our soul feels entirely out of our control, we can command our soul, because we have allowed the Master to lay hold of it. And we praise Him for it. Amen.

United Methodist Hymnal #534 “Be Still, My Soul”

1 Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change, he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2 Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future, as in ages past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.

3 Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.