There is a word that precedes all other words on the journey of Christian discipleship towards a happy, flourishing life. But it is not the word most of us would expect.
We might have chosen love, or forgiveness or mercy or generosity. This one, essential word may surprise us. Here it is…
What is the secret to a happy, flourishing Christian life? The secret lies within. It is about our interior life, the life of your heart, the life of your spirit, the life of your soul. This is where a flourishing, abundant life is birthed and grows.
Everything that we are, and everything that we are becoming, grows out of our interior life. Our habits, our values, our priorities, our dreams…they all reflect the quality of our interior being.
If we want to enjoy an abundant, flourishing life we must possess a healthy, life-giving heart and soul. And so, our first task on the journey of discovery to a flourishing life is to diagnose the quality of our interior world. We must begin here.
The good and beautiful life we long to experience is far more about:
- a healthy soul, then it is about a six-figure salary.
- seeking authentic beauty in our inner spirit, then about chasing the artificial beauty of looks and fashions.
- developing the power of the integrity of heart, then about chasing the strength of a well-sculpted body.
- the condition of what lies within, then about the size of our house and the furniture we sit on.
If we think we can skip the interior life on the way to the flourishing, abundant life Jesus promised, we are sadly misguided and have lost our way.
The wisest man reputed to have ever lived, King Solomon, cautioned us, “Above all else, guard your heart; it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Jesus pointed to the importance of the interior life when he spoke those sobering words, “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
He knew we can be outwardly successful, have wealth, enjoy accolades, but inwardly be a mess. To lose our soul is perhaps the greatest tragedy in this life.
I have always been struck by Paul’s sad comment to young Timothy about Demas, his former ministry colleague, who lost his way as his soul shrivelled.
“But Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me.” (1 Timothy 4:10)
If Jesus could do an audit on your interior life, what would he find there? Would it be:
- a healthy, restful soul, bursting with faith, and hope and love? Or one that is hard and angry, producing habits of bitterness, resentment, and anger.
- a life-giving spirit filled with energy to give, to serve, and forgive? Or one that is egotistical, entitled, pushy, prickly?
- a singing heart, overflowing with joy and peace? Or one afraid and cynical, producing habits of withdrawal and fear?
How is a beautiful soul formed? Is there one essential “habit of the heart” that can point us in this direction?
I think there is. And I have seen it living in one of my good Corpath friends who has developed the powerful discipline of spending time with God and his Word early each morning. (One of his soul-development strategies is to daily use the Lectio365 app to guide his spiritual reflections – you should try it!)
When I think of my friend’s soul, I am reminded of the great parliamentarian William Wilberforce who spent a lifetime fighting all the economic forces of the British empire in his hatred of slavery. And where did his soul-strength come from? He wrote…
“In the calmness of the morning before the mind is heated and weary by the turmoil of the day, you have a season of unusual importance for communion with God and with yourself.”
One of his biographers, Garth Lean observed:
“In the day to day battle it was more and more these early morning hours (kept in spite of late nights and chronic ill health) and his quiet Sundays which gave him strength and perspective on himself and the world.”
Robert Frost once wrote, “I took the road less travelled, and that has made all the difference.” In our spiritual lives, the road less travelled, the road that will make all the difference, is the road down and in…the road to the interior life.
May God find us travelling that road often.