How Is It with Your Soul?
John Wesley began small group meetings with this question, and it is a very good question to ask ourselves and each other regularly. “How is it with your soul,” is a quite different question than “how are you” isn’t it? Both are important questions, but the first question is both deeper and more intimate. Asking “how are you” is a way that we show each other that we care about the other’s well-being. It is a way to get to know each other better and to be involved in each other’s lives – in other words, it is an essential part of maintaining our relationships with each other.
“How is it with your soul” is asking a deeper and, to be honest, a more threatening question. Why is it a threatening (but in a good way) question? I think that it is a threatening question because the honest answer can never be an unqualified “good.” As strong and deep as our faith may be, there remains sin, doubt, enmity, prejudice, hurts, and shame in each one of us. “How is it with your soul” asks us to recognize these things within ourselves that we want to be rid of and then choose whether or not to share them with each other. That is threatening indeed!
Of course, there will also be much within our soul to give thanks to God for. We are all blessed in so many ways, but most of all by our relationship with Jesus and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. The well-loved hymn It Is Well with My Soul expresses this grateful faith so beautifully and poignantly. What makes the hymn beautiful is our recognition of the pain behind the confession that it is well with our soul. Our soul is well not because things are good and not because WE are good, but because God is good! Because of our sin, doubt, enmity, prejudice, hurts, and shame God has given us His love and grace, His only begotten Son, and His Spirit. God has shared his “soul” with our souls. God has overcome and triumphed over everything that threatens us in the question “how is it with your soul.”
Our soul can be well even when we are not. Our soul can be well no matter what is happening in our lives. God doesn’t fix every problem, but God is fixed with and within us. As we enter into the season of Lent, this will be our focus – God’s gracious acts on our behalf because we all need His grace. Following the Methodist Wesleyan understanding of prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace our journey through Lent will lead us through God’s call for our repentance, God’s acts in Jesus to reconcile us to God and one another and then being gifted by God’s Spirit to live and publicly proclaim our experience of the risen Christ. Because of Jesus, it is well with our souls.