I often ask the congregation I serve, “How is your soul?” I think that I have a right to ask that question because I am their pastor and I have been charged with caring for their souls.
But John Ortberg has asked me, as a reader, in his newest book Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, the same question, “How is your soul?”
And after reading this book, my answer is, “In need of ongoing care and honesty.”
With a clarity, wit, effective use of scripture, and a wonderful reminder of the life and ministry of the late Dallas Willard which Ortberg unfolds throughout the book as a guide to soul keeping, Ortberg opens the curtain and takes us backstage to offer us a brief tour of our soul.
Divided into three main segments, What the Soul Is, What the Soul Needs, and the Soul Restored, Ortberg begins the book with a view of humankind starting with the will, then moving outward through the mind, then the body, and finally the encompassing soul which Ortberg says “is healthy-well ordered- where there is harmony” with the other three elements. He also opens up the parable of the sower from the perspective of the soil being “the variable” not the sower with the thought, “that we might replace [soil] with the word soul” and unpacks the familiar parable from the perspective of the “hardened soul, the shallow soul, and the cluttered soul.”
In the concluding segment The Soul Restored, Ortberg addresses a spiritual dynamic which I believe exists and which is not embraced by all branches of the Christian church – “The dark night of the soul.” Ortberg asserts “the dark night is God-initiated” and I agree with him. But he also brings out an aspect of God which gave me pause as well as an “ah ha!” moment – the slowness of God as it relates to the growth and development of our faith in Christ.
But the core of the book is the second segment, What the Soul Needs as Ortberg lays out nine things the soul needs: a keeper, a center, a future, to Be with God, rest, freedom, blessing, satisfaction, and gratitude. Each chapter offers up some important lessons about the soul shaping impact of each of these things. I especially found the chapters related to needing a center, needing rest (and there is a wonderful comparison chart between being busy and being hurried in that chapter) and the value and importance of learning how to bless others as well as the Lord.
The result is a wonderfully helpful but not overwhelming book about our soul care. I liked this book for its depth, simplicity, and hopefulness for while Ortberg does remind the reader of the impact of sin and sinfulness on the soul, his focus on God’s work to help us see our soul be transformed is front and center.
I rate this book a ‘magnificent’ read.
Note: I received a copy of this book from Icon Media Group of Nashville in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.