THOSE WHO CANNOT KEEP THEIR SOULS ALIVE - The Pilgrim Journal

THOSE WHO CANNOT KEEP THEIR SOULS ALIVE

PSALM 22

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall seat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.
29 All those that bow to the dust will kneel in his presence, even those who cannot keep their souls alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.

Who clings tightly to the resurrected Lord? The One who rose again and had the ability to walk out of his grave? The One who snatched his life from the jaws of death? Who is there that runs to him for help? Who is the person who never lets go of him again, come what may?

Who do you find at springs of water? It’s always those who are thirsty. Who attacks their food heartily? It’s those who are hungry. Who looks for shade? Those who are overwhelmed by the heat. And who, I ask you to tell me, are those who should run to Jesus, who rose from the dead, and cling to him? Who should never let go of this Jesus who endured all that he did? The people that the psalmist describes in Psalm 22 are definitely good candidates! They are the ones “who can’t keep their souls alive”!

Believe me when I tell you that those who have first tried everything else and tried it everywhere else are the ones who make his most devoted disciples when they finally come to Jesus!

Being alive is what we’re concerned about!

People stake everything on living and on maintaining life. They measure everything in those terms. Everything that draws breath struggles and works hard to keep on living. All our struggles and exertion are aimed at living fuller and richer lives. Heart and head are determined to do just that. And by living, we struggle all the time with what it means to be really living.

When life doesn’t go like it should and death in some form intrudes on it, we become disheartened. We become discouraged and tense. Finally, no matter how long we may have struggled and pushed the issue, we get to the point of throwing ourselves to the ground and lying in the dust. This whole process represents what’s deeply tragic about life robbed of delightful satisfaction.

This explains why we fight dying.

Fools who think that life consists of what’s physical do this very superficially by acquiring material things. But those who are wise understand that the soul is the essence and core of human existence. They profess: “I need to concentrate on my soul. The soul needs to sustain my life.” So they naturally focus on the spiritual vitamins and medicines that strengthen the soul.

Oh, the ability, the wonderful ability to change a stone-cold soul depends on finding a way of first bringing it to life and then of sustaining it in that life. It’s finding a way to do this without rupturing its connection with our bodily existence more than just temporarily.

Then it’s all about a footrace.

One person expects to find it in an exceptionally pious, unnatural, and fastidious spirituality. Another does in being honest, virtuous, and conscientious, while a third person determinedly torments their self with charitable giving, thinking this will work some kind of magic for them. But however much any of them frets and struggles in their attempt to act with integrity, it’s all useless in bringing them one step closer to what they’re chasing. All three eventually get to that point. The man who is superpious does! The one who is totally honest does! And so does the woman who torments herself!

For matters don’t turn on a good crease in your clothing, or on a good reputation with others, or on resolute self-control. They turn on living and on the life of the soul! It depends on the kind of living that can deal with anything and that never gives up. But sadly, all those spiritual vitamins don’t get you a hair’s breadth closer to it. For you are simply too weak to achieve what you want and desire, namely, the one thing that determines everything else. You are totally incapable “of keeping your own soul alive.”

You have to get to the point of recognizing that fact. You have to express this in words that are not merely mumbled. They have to be completely frank and come from deep in your soul. Your heart has to be in them! In the presence of God and others you have to say:

“No!” “O my God, no!” “O my brother, no!” “I can’t keep my soul alive!”

“I wanted to do it. I tried to do it. I worked at it so hard that my soul sweated!”

“I would have done it by myself. I should have done it by myself. I would have finally succeeded if I had just yearned for it passionately enough, wanted it badly enough, and persisted at it long enough.”

“ ‘My God,’ I said in my soul, ‘surely in your mercy you will not disregard my intense struggling. Surely you will bless it in the end.’ ”

“But no. The Lord didn’t respond like I hoped he would. He, the Holy One, did just the opposite. He demolished all my efforts. His billows overwhelmed me. His strong winds sucked my lungs empty.”

“For now I know that he loved me more dearly than I loved myself. That’s why he saw to it that all these efforts came to a dead end. That’s why all the paths I took were cut off. They all ended in failure, frustration, and disappointment. In the end, all my vain pride died. My willful determination disappeared to my shame. And the result was that I finally admitted what I had not been willing to acknowledge to the entire world: ‘I can’t do it! I can’t keep my soul alive. I’m powerless, despite what I do or attempt to do. Everything that I attempted only succeeded in deadening my soul further. It sapped my strength. It virtually killed me!’ ”

And if such a person finally exclaims: “To keep my soul alive—that I simply cannot do,” they are already celebrating a true Passover. I tell you that if such a person hears once again about a Jesus who arose, a Jesus who was resurrected from the dead, a Jesus who brought his life through all that he experienced and who thereby demonstrated that he could “keep his own soul alive,” I tell you plainly, my good reader, that you certainly don’t need to tell such a person anymore: “Just go to Jesus!”

“Just go to Jesus?” That person is there already! They already cling to Jesus. His life is their life!

You know, that’s precisely the mystery of true faith. In order to see with your own eyes during your Passover celebration that Jesus lives, you first have to see with your own eyes that in yourself you are dead! Oh, life doesn’t lie in the excitement and festivity of a celebration.

The Ruler of Life doesn’t appear to any other people than to those who lie in the dust and in the shadow of death!

Abraham Kuyper, Ever in Thy Sight: 31 Devotions on the Psalms

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