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The Antidote to Restless Soul Syndrome

By Jodi Detrick | Posted In What Does the Bible Say

With all the traveling I’ve done, I should be a pro when it comes to packing and unpacking; yet it still seems to take for … ever! I’m always relieved to get into my hotel room — to unzip my trusty old suitcase, arrange my toiletries on the bathroom countertop, and put my clothes on hangers so the wrinkles can start to smooth out.

Still, since I know my stay is only temporary, even those familiar items placed carefully throughout the space don’t make it feel quite like home.

How different a hotel experience feels from the more complicated unpacking after a big move into a long-hoped-for home. With each freshly emptied box, each picture hung on just the right wall, each piece of furniture making the first dents in the carpet, there’s a growing sense of roots reaching downward and deep-breath feelings of ease and belonging.

Because we live in an ever-churning, always-changing world, many of us experience RSS: restless soul syndrome. We long for stability, for permanent attachment to something or someone solid and unchanging. What we ache for is the enduring belonging Jesus described in John 15:4: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” (NLT).

Words matter, and the original biblical language offers a wealth of insights. In the Greek text, the word “remain” is menó, meaning “to stay, to continue with, to abide.” The related Latin word, maneo, is the root for the English word “mansion” or “home.”

When Jesus asks us to remain in Him, He’s inviting us to settle our souls into His life-giving presence as a place of permanent residence. Our relationship with Him isn’t like a hotel room where we come and go at will but like a home where we choose to (get to) live forever!

So, what does remaining — tenaciously abiding with our tender God — look like in the real world that daily tests and strains our connection to Him?

While He was on earth, Jesus modeled remaining for us by constantly tending the connection to His Father. Jesus continually spoke of His Father and to His Father. He lived, loved, and acted out of His abiding oneness with God.

William Barclay offered poignant truths about the unbreakable connection between Jesus and His Father:

Jesus was always abiding in God. It must be so with us and Jesus. There must be no day when we never think of Jesus and feel His presence. For some few of us abiding in Christ will be a mystical experience which is beyond words to express. For most of us it will mean a constant contact with Jesus Christ. It will mean arranging life, arranging prayer, arranging silence in such a way that there is never a day when we give ourselves a chance to forget him (emphases added).

We live in Christ the same way a healthy tendril-branch lives on a grapevine — permanently and tenaciously attached.

I love that! Settling our souls into Jesus means “arranging life in such a way that there is never a day when we give ourselves a chance to forget him.” The way we “arrange life” to remain in Jesus isn’t merely checking off a list of rules or daily practices. Abiding in Him may even take on different forms in different seasons and circumstances.

For example, a person imprisoned for his or her faith might not have access to the Bible or fellowship with other believers. Periods of sickness may disrupt our regular pattern of prayer and devotional study. In those times, when the extremes of life whittle down our choices, it’s comforting to know that Jesus, our strong Vine, holds us securely.

But for most of us, for most of the time, we live out the basic elements of intentional, tenacious abiding through six practices:

  • We think about Jesus.
  • We talk to Jesus.
  • We talk about Jesus.
  • We love Jesus and let Him love us.
  • We trust Jesus and believe what He tells us.
  • We engage meaningfully with others who love Jesus.

We live in Christ the same way a healthy tendril-branch lives on a grapevine — permanently and tenaciously attached.

Are you ready for some great, game-changing news? You aren’t the only one in this remaining-abiding equation — and not even the most important one. This menó connection with the Son of God is a mutual one. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “and I will remain in you.”

The commitment to remain began with Him as we see from His words in verse 16 of Chapter 15: “You didn’t choose me. I chose you.” It’s hard to fathom that the King and Creator of the universe would choose to menó (abide, remain, make His home) with and in us! Yet John 1:14 says this about Jesus: “So the Word became human and made his home among us.”

One of my favorite titles for Jesus is found in Matthew 1:23, Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” The One who came to be with us, stays. He has no plans to leave — to skip out in the middle of the night — to abandon us to struggle alone against our failures and imperfections.

No matter what other forms of abandonment you’ve experienced in life, know this: Jesus is the great Remainer, and even when your grip weakens, His remains strong.

It’s OK to put away your suitcases once and for all, to settle your soul into the One who never leaves.

Adapted from The Settled Soul (GPH). This article appears in the Winter 2021 issue of Called to Serve, the Assemblies of God Ministers Letter.