Our Biggest Battle

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Episode Synopsis

The biggest struggle in our lives is the one going on inside of us—how we interpret and respond to life’s difficult circumstances. We need to go down deep into our souls to learn how to flourish amidst the battles of life.

Audio Transcript

Jani Ortlund: Hello, we’re so glad you joined us today for this podcast. Heidi and I have been asking God to pour out more of his restorative mercies through our times together, and we’re asking him also that you will be able to embrace deeper manifestations of his love for you. But before we get started, you might want to know who Heidi and I are. My name is Jani Ortlund. It’s kind of a goofy name—rhymes with Annie, granny, fanny—Jani Ortlund, and I’m married to Ray Ortlund, Jr. We have four married children and 14 grandchildren, at least at latest count. Ray and I have served Christ together all through our married life. I love to communicate God’s word to others in any way I can, whether it’s through speaking or writing or discipling, and now podcasting. Oh, how fun! I hope we can become friends on this journey.

Jani: My co-host is Heidi Howerton, my dear friend and sister in the Lord. Heidi, would you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

Heidi Howerton: Sure. Hello there guys. It is so wonderful to share this space with you all today. Jani and I are just honored to have you here and to get to have a moment to talk with each other. As Jani said, my name is Heidi Howerton. I’m 31 years old. I love Jesus with all my heart. I am a wife. I’m a mama to three littles. Our children are three years old, four years old and six years old. I’m passionate about discipleship and I love walking with women and studying the word together. For fun we have a little suburban farm in our backyard in the suburbs of Nashville where we grow spinach and we have bees. I primarily stay at home and we homeschool our kids and I pour all of my heart into them, but I also work part time for Renewal Ministries. And we as a family are just really about making memories together, seeking the Lord, trying to learn how to teach our children to seek the Lord, and making intentional memories together.

Jani: Thanks, Heidi. I’m so glad you’ll share this with me. We’re going to have fun, aren’t we?

Heidi: Oh we are!

Jani: It’s going to be so fun to be together. Two are better than one.

Heidi: Amen. I agree.

Our Goal for Today 2:29

Jani: Well, our goal for today is to take the next few minutes and slow down a bit and look deep into our souls. Heidi and I want to offer you some guidance for inner reflection and renewal, some scripture with which you can search your own soul. So let’s begin by asking ourselves some questions.

  • “What are thoughts or actions that deplete your life?”
  • “What’s draining you today?”
  • “What feels confining or limiting?”
  • “What feels like it’s a restraint on you?”
  • Ask yourself this question: “Is the love of my heavenly father real to me, near to me, dear to me. Do I feel his love for me?” If not, I wonder why.

Well, it could be our schedules after all. God has given us many responsibilities, hasn’t He, Heidi?

Heidi: Yes. So much is on our plates right now. I’m sure, as all of our listeners, I’m sure you all have a lot on your plates right now, too.

Jani: Yes. It might be a relationship, or maybe a health problem. Heidi, you’ve dealt with that before, haven’t you?

Heidi: I forgot to mention in my introduction, I’m also a thyroid cancer survivor. Um, the cancer has a great prognosis and it has a 99% survival rate and so we’re so grateful for that. But I know what it’s like in small ways to have a chronic diagnosis.

Jani: Maybe you’re facing that as well. Maybe you are in a financial crisis, or a church difficulty.

Most of life happens between your ears. 4:13

Jani: I am so grateful for my mother-in-law, Anne Ortlund. She has been such a godly influence in my life. She’s with the Lord Jesus Christ now and I really miss her, but now it’s my turn. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 78 to “…tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord and his might and the wonders that he has done that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn and arise and tell them to their children so that they should set their hope in God.” As an older woman in the Lord, I want to pass on some of what the previous generation has given me to you.

Mom Ortlund used to tell me, “Jani, most of life happens between your ears.” That’s true, isn’t it? Oh, the biggest struggle in my whole life is the one going on inside of me. Maybe that’s true for you. It’s not about our circumstances. Our biggest battle is how we interpret and respond to those circumstances. So today, let’s try to get beneath our circumstances into our inner lives, our spirits, our souls, where we interpret and respond to the circumstances we live in.

The Human Soul 5:33

The human soul is so vast and profound. It has a measurable capacity for love and delight and all the passions that make us human. We all know the Bible talks a lot about the human soul. You might remember Moses, when he was repeating the Law for the children of Israel right before they were going to enter into the Promised Land, in Deuteronomy 6:5 he says this: “Love the Lord your God with all your soul…” Our souls love.

Or Joshua, after conquering and beginning to settle the Promised Land, put it this way in Joshua 22: “Cling to the Lord your God and serve him with all your soul and with all your might.” Our soul clings to something your soul loves. Your soul clings. Your soul is passionate. Our souls are the seat or the home of our feelings of happiness or anguish. Psalm 103 puts it this way: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.” Have you ever been so happy that you could hardly contain yourself? Or think of the opposite end of that spectrum of your emotions? Job 7 says, “I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Our souls can feel great joy or profound bitterness.

You know our Lord Jesus felt passion deep within his soul. Isaiah 53 says, out of the anguish of his soul is talking about Jesus. Or in John 12 Jesus himself said, “Now is my soul troubled? And what shall I say? Father save me from this hour.” Our souls are our deepest inner self, and Jesus understands what it means to suffer there.

Not only are our souls passionate, they’re also active. They can change, they can expand and grow or shrivel and dry up. The human soul needs nourishment and care just like our bodies do. Think of the sons of Korah in Psalm 42:1-2. It says this: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God.” That feeling of longing for someone to be out there listening, watching, caring, planning…that springs from deep within our needy souls.

Did you know your soul can get tired and worn out? From time it needs restoration and refreshment. Job said in chapter 10 verse 1, “My soul is weary of my life.” Psalm 19:7 speaks of God’s word “reviving” the soul. And our theme for this podcast is “He restores my soul” from Psalm 23:3. Our souls are needy and they need restoration. Our passionate, needy souls grow tired and they need revival.

My soul finds rest in God alone. 9:13

What my soul finds that rest in matters deeply, because where I turn to look for that rest shows the inclination of my heart. I need to ask myself, “Where do I go to restore my soul? What do I turn to when I’m worried or tired or bored or angry?” Sometimes it’s the refrigerator, sometimes it’s Instagram or the games I like to play on my iPhone. Sometimes it’s Facebook or Netflix. Sometimes it’s a walk. What attracts and engages my soul? What innocence diverts my soul from the truest and best in life?

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Walt Whitman, the poet, but I love his poem, “The Wound Dresser”. Part of it says this: “What stays with you latest and deepest of curious panics of hard fought engagements or sieges tremendous. What deepest remains?” Hmm, that’s a good question. What deepest remains in your soul? In mine? Over the next few podcasts, we are going to look at where to go to find soul rest, real, authentic, lasting, and satisfying restoration for your soul.

Now, here’s one thing you can do today. Think about your soul. What makes your soul happy? What makes it sad, or bitter? What deepest remains in your soul? Then I want you to go to Psalm 62:1. It says this, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” Seven little words. I want you to write them on a few three by five index cards: “My soul finds rest in God alone.” And then I want you to carry those cards with you. Put them in places you’ll look at often, maybe your mirror where you brush your teeth or put on your makeup or comb your hair; maybe your kitchen cupboard, maybe in your car. And read that verse frequently throughout your day. Think what that could mean to you.

Heidi: Oh, Jani, this verse has meant so much to me this past week, when you first brought it up that this is what you wanted our first episode to be about. I’ve just been meditating on what it means: “My soul finds rest in God alone.” What a beautiful gift that verse is. I found myself a couple times this week wanting to fret. We forgot Hannah’s backpack at school today we drove 30 minutes, we got to her school and there my sweet little daughter is without her backpack. And my natural heart tendency is to say, “I’m such a guilty mom.” Or, “How could I let this happen?” Or, “I need to go drive an hour and drive 30 minutes and pick up the backpack and drive 30 minutes back…” and “How am I going to get all the work done that I need to do?” And the Lord brought that verse to mind: “My soul finds rest in God alone.” And it just reminded me it doesn’t…the backpack is…it doesn’t matter that God had that in our plan today, and so whatever would come and however our morning needed to change because of that, my soul could rest in God. It’s helped me to stop from fretting a few times this week. So I really appreciate you speaking to that.

Jani: I need it, too, Heidi. I’ve been fretting, too! Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t fret?

Heidi: Especially as women, I feel like we’re so prone to fret, but that’s, that’s my what my natural flesh wants to do. As soon as something changes from how I would expect it to go.

Jani: Yes, and the Lord understands that, doesn’t He? That’s why he gave us that verse in Psalm 62:1, and throughout our next few podcasts, let’s talk more about how our soul can find rest in God alone.

Jani: As we close today, let’s remember the wonderful words of God to us through Jeremiah 31:25 where he says, “For I will satisfy the weary soul and every languishing soul, I will replenish.”

Heidi: Thank you for joining us today. To discover more about Jani and Ray, visit their webpage at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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  • Keely Keith says:

    Beautiful and timely. Thank you, Jani, for allowing the Lord to speak through you in this way.

  • Mary Hand says:

    Thank you, Jani and Heidi! I so needed to hear your words of encouragement especially about fretting. I tend to fret about things! Thank you for reminding me of Psalm 62:1…My soul for rest in him alone!

    Love in Jesus,

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