Keeping Body, Soul, and Life’s Troubles Together in Balance

by Paul Tautges | December 15, 2011 7:47 am

Yesterday, I posted an article by this same title. It was my 1st attempt and could have done a better job. Let me try again. If some cobwebs remain in my brain from yesterday I will not mind your iron-sharpening-iron comments provided they are helpful and laced with generous doses of grace as we—together—grow in grace and truth.

One of the marks[1] of balanced biblical counselors (hopefully!) is we recognize that the body and spirit do affect one another and understand (both in mind and increasingly in practice) that not all suffering is sin-related directly, though obviously there was no pain, suffering, or death before the Fall of Man and its resulting curse. The classic passage to turn to in order to demonstrate there should be no automatic cause-effect relationship in our minds between suffering and personal sin, which has become a foundation stone for our family, is John 9:1-3. However, today I direct your attention to a few Old Testament examples not written by observers of sufferers, but by the sufferers themselves. Consider these glimpses at raw emotions in suffering written in autobiographical form.

In light of this I offer two principles for your consideration as well as Scripture passages to meditate on for personal and/or small group study—food for your soul—some things to wrestle through with me. Consider the bullet points merely observations to get you started.

1. Severe life trials are not always directly caused by specific sin and may lead to inner trials of faith (doubt) and mental anguish (despair). We need to recognize that “soul struggles” and “mental trials” are part of living in a fallen world. God stands ready to help and strengthen us in times of human weakness as we await—with an imperfect, but growing faith—for all of creation to be set free from the corruption of sin and soul-wearying effects of the curse (Ps 30:10; Rom 8:21).

Consider Job 1-3, and the reality of human suffering and grief not caused by sin.

Consider Psalms 42 and 43.

Consider Psalm 31:9-11.

There is so much more to be said about God’s good purpose in suffering completely unrelated to any sin-cause, but the above studies will begin to move us down the road in thinking less simplistically.

2. Sometimes—not always, as stated above—physiological, mental, and emotional struggles are the result of spiritual problems (sin and its corresponding discipline).

Consider Psalm 32:3-4.

Consider Psalm 38:1-10.

Consider Proverbs 12:25.

So what have we learned?

If we are going to be faithful to the Scriptures and compassionate as we counsel one another then we must realize there is a connection between body and spirit and how life’s troubles affect both. We must also distinguish between sin-related suffering and that which we endure—by God’s grace and according to His wisdom—as part of living in a fallen world, a world not yet fully redeemed. Here’s how I’ve tried to clarify it elsewhere, in a BCC interview[2]:

Every form of suffering that we experience is connected to sin—at least indirectly. However, not every one of our struggles is the result of specific, personal sin. What do I mean? Before sin entered the world, human life was perfect because perfect fellowship with God was constant. But following Adam’s rebellion, the curse that God pronounced upon man, woman, the devil, and the earth has far-reaching consequences. For example, all disease is a result of sin because before sin there was no disease. But not every disease that you and I suffer from is a direct result of our own personal sin. There are unexplainable ‘life struggles’ that come to us according to the sovereign plan of God and His desire to redeem sinners by His grace and conform us to the image of Christ. Then there are forms of suffering that we bring upon ourselves through our own sin, by means of the Law of the Harvest: ‘you reap what you sow.’ And, of course, there is the deepest issue of all: the powerful desires of our depraved hearts and our struggle against residual sin.

  1. marks:
  2. BCC interview:

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