The Ache of the Soul

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A common Christian description of the human condition is that people as sinners are alienated, lost, and cut off from God. Being out of sync with their Creator and themselves, people are unable to find truly enduring fulfillment and satisfaction in life. And yet, the human longing and desire for meaning, purpose, and significance continues to churn in the human heart. Thus, happiness or true self-fulfillment is fleeting in life.

Christian authors like St. Augustine, Blaise Pascal, Søren Kierkegaard, and C. S. Lewis describe what might be called “soul-sorrow”—being weary and burdened by life and one’s existential brokenness and separation from God. Here’s Augustine’s famous quote from his work Confessions, where he says to God in prayer, “You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”1 Interestingly, when I read St. Augustine’s Confessions, I often feel like I’m reading the words of an empathetic friend.

The rest and peace for the human soul that Augustine references comes only through finding forgiveness and reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Human beings were made specifically for an intimate relationship with God, and thus nothing else will satisfy true human longing and desire.

Christians and the Ache of the Soul

Even Christians who have been the recipient of God’s amazing, saving grace in Jesus Christ still long to see God face-to-face. They long to intimately love the Triune God and enjoy him (or them) forever. There are many existentially sensitive Christian souls who sense deeply in this life their yearning for that ultimate and climactic divine encounter with the Lord. Christian counselor Larry Crabb thinks all Christians continue to experience soul ache even after their conversion to Christ:

Yet there is no escape from an aching soul, only denial of it. The promise of one day being with Jesus in a perfect world is the Christian’s only hope for complete relief. Until then, we either groan or pretend we don’t.2

Recently, my wife and I attended a concert of the popular musical artist Steve Winwood. Winwood was a rock star in the 1960s and ’70s, but he in part credits reading C. S. Lewis’s writings with his embracing of Christianity in the 1980s. During the concert, Winwood played one of his classic blues songs entitled “Can’t Find My Way Home.” The song’s refrain is as follows:

I can’t find my way home.
But I can’t find my way home. . . .
Still I can’t find my way home.3

As I listened to Winwood sing these lyrics in his appealing soulish-blues style, I thought that this described well my common experience in life. Though I have been blessed with good fortune in life—especially in terms of faith, family, and friends—I still have a spiritual ache to encounter the Triune God face-to-face, and that ache often feels like I can’t find my way home.

One of my very favorite passages from the Gospels is when the Great Physician-Counsellor-Philosopher, and more importantly, Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ offers words of enduring hope for those who suffer from soul-sorrow and the ache of the soul:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

–Matthew 11:28–30

I’ve encountered God’s amazing, saving grace in Jesus Christ, but I still long for that ultimate rest and peace of the soul. While I am blessed as a forgiven sinner in the here and now, I still existentially yearn for that fuller intimacy with the Lord. Sometimes my soul actually groans to find my way home to God.

King David understood my situation:

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

–Psalm 63:1

Reflections: Your Turn

Have you experienced the ache of the soul? If so, how would you describe it?

Resources

For more on the topic of humankind’s longing for God, see “The Historic Christian View of Man,” chap. 10 in A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007).

Endnotes

  1. Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin (New York: Penguin Books, 1961), Book 1, 1.
  2. Larry Crabb, Inside Out (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2013), 29.
  3. “Can’t Find My Way Home,” written by Steve Winwood, recorded 1969, track 2 on Blind Faith, Polydor, 33⅓ rpm.

  One thought on “The Ache of the Soul

  1. February 13, 2018 at 6:07 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

  2. Johnie
    February 13, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Good description. I yearn, ache and groan inwardly every day, some days more than others (I’m a functioning, healthy adult with a wonderful, loving family, by the way).

    This longing is just something we must live with, until we can live with God. I can’t wait.

    • February 13, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      Very well stated, Johnie.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

    • February 14, 2018 at 10:42 am

      Thanks for the link.

      Ken Samples

    • February 15, 2018 at 1:19 pm

      Thanks for the link, Crossman66.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  3. Katherine
    February 19, 2018 at 6:15 am

    An interesting blog.Jesus remained a practising Jew and always went to the Synagogue.We must remember Christianity would not have come with the Jews and Judaism and be respectful.When we look at the Inquisition etc we realise noone/no religion is perfect

    • February 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

      Katherine:

      I’m not sure how your comment is relevant to my article The Ache of the Soul.

      You might want to read my articles on Christianity’s relationship to the world’s religions.

      It is true that Christianity has a unique relationship to Judaism and Christians should be respectful and grateful to Jews. It is also true that traditional Judaism does not accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah. So there is much common ground among the two biblical religions but there remain important differences.

      Church history has numerous events that were shameful and wrong. Christians should acknowledge such. Yet these terrible events don’t reflect the teaching of Jesus Christ.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

      • Katherine
        February 19, 2018 at 12:00 pm

        I detected an anti Judaic bias.I am not Jewish.Jesus did not fulfil all the prophesies about the Messiah so that is why some Jews did not accept him.But a lot of our spirituality is very similar and St Teresa of Avila was Jewish and the Carmelite prayers etc are very like those in Judaism.I feel people forget Jesus was actually Jewish but sorry if I offended you.I am looking for more questioning blogs.

  4. Katherine
    February 19, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Yes,I feel it is an insult to Jews to imply God’s covenant with them ended and I feel the Holocaust was partly linked to Christian anti Semitism.But now Zionism has created serious problems.Hence I remain a solitary soul

    • February 19, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      God bless, Katherine.

      Sincerely,

      Ken Samples

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