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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2007
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Rev. Charles Owens

Nourishing soul, recognizing limits

Not long ago I was researching the biblical portrait of man. According to Scripture, God made man into three parts: spirit, body and soul.

It has been said that man’s spirit is his “God-awareness,” his body (flesh) is his “habitat-awareness,” and his soul is his “self-awareness.”

The New Testament Greek word for “soul” is “psuchos,” which provides the root for our English words such as “psychology” and “psychiatry.” In contemporary language, we would think of the “soul-man” as the emotional part of man’s makeup.

My interest focused on the emotional man. Cross-referencing with other sources, I noted that the definition of depression is “a strong mood involving sadness, discouragement, despair or hopelessness that lasts for weeks, months or even longer.”

A quick Internet search revealed that 17 million Americans suffer from depression every year.

Of those, 15 million are diagnosed as suffering from major depression, which is the leading cause of disability in the United States.

That same Web site stated that symptoms include “feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and emptiness, and recurrent thoughts of death and suicide.” You can go to www.nami.org and www.psychologyinfo.com to find this information.

Though not a licensed counselor or psychologist, I am frequently asked to counsel with people, and I have observed that many people who come to me for counseling are experiencing a sense of low self-esteem or worthlessness. Some even talk quite a bit about death.

As a student of the Bible, I was reminded of the story of Elijah when I saw the definition and symptoms of depression. His story is found in 1 Kings 17 through 2 Kings 2.

Elijah seemed to burst on the scene with every kind of personal victory. He was courageous, filled with faith, active, energetic and packed with confidence.

Then his world suddenly appeared to fall apart. After a draining experience on Mount Carmel, he seemed to lose focus. His confusion led to fear as he fled from before the chariots of Jezebel, who threatened to kill him.

Without proper rest or nutrition, he ran about 100 miles, left his servant, and then went another day’s journey — about 15 miles — farther.

Exhausted, he collapsed under a juniper tree and asked the Lord to take his life, declaring that he was no better than the evil generation before him.

God responded by sending an angel to provide Elijah with nourishment and the encouragement to rest. “For the journey is too great for you,” was the angel’s answer to Elijah’s outburst.

Sometimes the journey is too great for us. The answer for Elijah was physical rest, proper nourishment and recognition of his limits.

That’s pretty good advice for 21st century folks, too, I think. The Rev. Charles Owens, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Somerville, is one of several ministers writing religion columns for The Daily. For more information, call Melanie Smith at 340-2468.

Rev. Charles Owens Rev. Charles Owens

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