At this point in the school year, many of us are ‘running on fumes’ like an exhausted ultramarathon runner and also feverishly planning ahead.
This is the time of year when we are often frustrated on many fronts, exhausted at the pace of life, wanting to just get the rest of the year ‘done’, needing a spike of energy, and hoping that others won’t see the sense of futility and apathy we have towards those annual reports and projects that we know deserve passion and enthusiasm but encounter attitudes of tedium.
Is it a matter of talking ourselves up – a mind over matter issue? Do you feel yourself slipping, with a sense of futility, into a yearly pattern of running, running, running, breathlessly just making it to the end of the school year, wondering how to practically integrate your faith and life and wanting an invigorated sense of growth?
‘The Life of God in the Soul of Man’ was written in 1677 by Henry Scougal. Originally a letter to a discouraged friend who was just about to give up his faith, this letter became a book which influenced the British evangelist, George Whitfield towards conversion in 1736. Scougal explained that his life in Christ and desire to grow and change came not just from behaviour, theology or worship but needed to be on a deeper level, seeking more of God’s life in our soul. More of Jesus, the person, in our soul.
We want a more fulfilling life; we want to change and grow but we aren’t sure how to go about it.
Dane Ortlund, in his book ‘Deeper’, suggests that hope is a result of believing in the real Jesus – yes, the real Jesus – not a ‘domesticated’ or diluted one that we have constructed based on our knowledge of scripture and some experiences. No, the real Jesus, who Ortlund suggests can be described as:
Unsearchable: Ephesians 3:8 and Romans 11:33 invite us to seek more of the unsearchable riches of Jesus, far beyond our comprehension, understanding and even imagination.
Ruling: Jesus says “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18) and that ‘in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Phil 2:10 tells us that we will all bow our knee to Him, and in Revelations 1:13-17, John describes Jesus’ eyes like the flame of fire, feet like burnished bronze, and voice like the roar of many waters, so that when John saw Him, he fell at His feet as though dead.
Saving: The parable in Luke 7:36-50 helps us understand the true meaning of being saved, of how big our debt to Him is. Another analogy would be to imagine you are at the bottom of a lake, stone-dead. Jesus dives in, pulls you out, breathes new life into you and now supplies every breath you take – that is how Jesus saves.
Befriending: In John 15:15, Jesus says to us “No longer do I call you servants, …..but I have called you friends.” With awe we can see Him as Lion and Lamb but we can also see Him as King and Friend.
Persevering: Jesus died for us while we were still sinners and enemies (Romans 5), and He is faithful and just to forgive our sins (1 John). He doesn’t give up on us.
Interceding: Jesus “always lives to make intercession for us”. (Hebrews 7:25). Are you as grateful as I am for this?
Tenderness: Jesus says “I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt 11:29) and even though we naturally pull away from Him the more we see our sinfulness, failures and shortcomings, the Bible says that He finds our pain, anguish and penitence irresistible and longs to draw near, especially at those times.
As we see, Scripture totally destroys our diluted view and shows us the REAL Jesus. In CS Lewis words, “Gentle Jesus, my elbow! The most striking thing about our Lord is the union of great ferocity with extreme tenderness… the appearance in human form of the God who made the Tiger and the Lamb, the avalanche and the rose. He’ll frighten and puzzle you: but the real Christ can be loved and admired.”
This November, commit with me through Scripture and prayer, to dive deeper into Jesus himself. At the end of this challenging year, we are nearly there – now let’s go deeper.
Lewis, C.S. 2009. The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, vol. 3, Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950-1963, ed Walter Hooper. HarperCollins, San Francisco. 1011; emphasis original.
Ortlund, Dane. 2021. Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners. Crossway. Illinois.
Scougal, Henry. 2012. The Life of God in the Soul of Man. Christian Heritage.