As Your Soul Prospers

By Hilda R. Davis

March 27, 2024

Article, De Pree Journal, Third Third

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
3 John 2 (NKJV)

When I was director of the Faith-Based Initiative for the Tennessee Department of Health, we developed a faith-based training with a video called Power in the Pews: Having a Heart for Health. Our goal was to train Black and Hispanic congregations, which had higher rates of chronic diseases, on the benefits of developing a health ministry. I crossed the state building partnerships with congregations who were dedicated to enjoying both spiritual and physical good health. The training encouraged members of partner congregations to walk together, prepare meals with more fruits and vegetables and less fat; to include health messages in bulletins, announcements, and even from the pulpit. The training raised awareness of the connection between caring for our bodies and improved health outcomes. It reinforced that our behaviors mattered.

Focusing on Prospering

Though I began the Initiative over fifteen years ago, I remain proud of the reported improved health outcomes across the state at that time. Personally, I continue to walk regularly, eat less meat, and eat more fruits and vegetables. My diet changed to the point that I now live a plant-based, whole-foods lifestyle, which means that I eat more plants and fewer processed foods. Also, exercise (or some days simple stretching) is an important part of my daily routine—even 15 minutes of movement counts.

I have continued to do my part to stay physically healthy by living the mantra from my days at the Tennessee Department of Health: “Eat better; move more!” I fully expected to be healthy as long as I did the right thing. And I was. Until I wasn’t.

When Your Body Fails

A month ago I had an unexpected health emergency. When the ER physician delivered my diagnosis, I sat in shock and disbelief. He told me that my symptoms, blurred vision and dizziness, were caused by a mass on my pituitary gland (a pituitary adenoma). I told the ER doctor that he was surely joking and I waited for him to smile—he didn’t. Although I am grateful for an expected full recovery, I did not understand how this had happened. Wasn’t I eating well? Didn’t I move more?

I was shocked and disappointed that my efforts to follow “the rules for good health” were not enough to keep me from an illness that literally blindsided me. I thought about the disciples asking Jesus about the blind man, wondering whether it was the blind man’s sin or his parents that was to blame. In John 9:3, Jesus answers that no one’s sin had caused the blindness; no one was to bear the blame or shame. But, the man’s blindness would be used by God to change lives (my paraphrase).

Then what would this change in my physical abilities mean for my life? I was curious and more than a little anxious. “What next? What now?” And more to the point, what meaning could I gain from this unexpected shift in my life? In John 9:3 Jesus promises that God can redeem any situation. We don’t have to search to discover what went wrong or what we could have done differently. We can continue to trust that God’s work continues in us though it may take a different path.

What meaning could I gain from this unexpected shift in my life?

My path towards discernment began with the scripture that opened both the Power in the Pews training and this article: 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (emphasis mine). The passion that directed me to create the faith-based initiative in a state health department also made my purpose clear: To support the efforts of congregations to have a healthy body as well as a healthy mind and soul, which would allow them to prosper in all things.

However, despite my having spent my entire life in the church, when I received my diagnosis I focused primarily on what was happening to my body. It took me a moment to refocus and to take steps to draw upon my spiritual strength to support my physical health. When I let go of what my body couldn’t do, I became more receptive to how God was working in me and strengthening me spiritually. That is when my healing really began.

When I let go of what my body couldn’t do, I became more receptive to how God was working in me and strengthening me spiritually.

The Prospering Soul

The second verse in 3 John speaks to me of what God intends for my life—that I prosper in all things—especially that my soul, the part of me that is eternal and transcendent, will prosper. Dictionary definitions of prosper are to be successful (usually financially) or to be healthy and strong. I believe that the prosperity of my soul does not depend on my physical strength, my financial wealth, or my career success. For me, living with joy, peace, and in God’s will align with my use of this word, prosper.

Therefore, in addition to wondering, “What’s next?” I began to ask myself, “What do I need for my soul to prosper?” I will ask you too: “What do you need for your soul to prosper?” It doesn’t take brain surgery to think about a “soul assessment.” Maybe you have recently retired; maybe it was an unexpected retirement. Or possibly you have experienced a shift in a significant relationship or a financial change that caused you to wonder, “Who am I now?” Or you may be in a season where you can sense a drift in your spiritual practices and you need a spiritual reboot. There are times in our lives when it’s helpful to assess where we are spiritually and move from our comfortable routine to renewing our souls. This means that I reclaim practices that give me what I need to live at peace with the unanticipated events that are an expected part of life.

Therefore, in addition to wondering, “What’s next?” I began to ask myself, “What do I need for my soul to prosper?”

Practices to Help Your Soul Prosper

Here are some of my practices that allow my soul to prosper as I wait for the “what’s next.” I don’t expect the answers to come easily or quickly, but to quote Ranier Maria Rilke, “Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.”

Regular Prayer. I have had a daily prayer ritual for several decades. But, once I began using an app to record my prayers, it lost some of its intimacy. I will return to writing every name down on a sheet of paper and posting it on my prayer wall. I can then touch every name and feel a connection. I also recite the first paragraph of this familiar prayer every evening as a reminder that I don’t control anything and to “let it go!”: Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebhur.

Reading scripture. Again, I will lose the app and return to my Bible with the worn and highlighted pages that I’ve used for years. I especially love the well-known 23rd Psalm. These familiar words remind me that God does indeed restore my soul.

Playing hymns. Here is a favorite of mine. Not a new song (do you see a pattern here?), but one whose familiarity always allows me to transcend my situation: “It Is Well With My Soul,” Wintley Phipps.

Sitting outside. Few things restore my soul more quickly than sitting near water. Of course, a quiet beach is the best, but I can find peace sitting next to a fountain and listening to the soothing splashing. Another delight is sitting in a green space. My mood immediately improves.

Uplifting books. Once again, I am returning to my love of former years: sitting and reading a book whose pages I can turn. This is one of my favorites that I have taught in Bible study: The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm, Harold S. Kushner.

I’m leaving room in this conversation for you to list the ways you care for your soul that allow you to prosper. You may list them in the comments below, or simply discern what works for you and add to it, deepen it, or just begin again. Beloved, I pray that you will prosper in all things; especially as your soul prospers.

Hilda R. Davis

Cohort Guide

Dr. Hilda R. Davis , PhD, LPC, is the Founder of Creative Wellness. She has combined her vocational interests in spirituality and wellness to offer programs and ministries in congregations, government and private agencies, and educational institutions. Her work in local congregations led to ...

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Comments (11)

  1. Mark Roberts

    March 27, 2024

    6:41 pm

    Such a wonderful article. Thanks so much, Hilda!

    • Meryl Herr

      April 22, 2024

      9:05 am

      From Hilda: Mark, I appreciate your feedback. I am blessed by your contribution to my faith journey. Thank you.

  2. Susan Cosio

    April 1, 2024

    7:24 am

    Hilda, you are inspiring! Thank you for sharing your journey. Prayers for your continued healing.

    • Meryl Herr

      April 22, 2024

      9:05 am

      From Hilda: Susan, thank you for staying in touch. I value your thoughtful comments as I did in our 3/3 course exactly a year ago. May your ministry continue to have impact.

  3. Karen I Clark

    April 1, 2024

    12:06 pm

    I have found that journaling by hand has helped my soul to heal, process, and prosper. I’ve taken my Bible study to a different level by journaling and writing entire passages out. I have a “Journable”, in which I copy the Psalms and write my reflections. What a blessing to just sit and write, especially when I can’t think or process. The Word will just flow out and blanket my soul.
    I also found that doing something creative with my hands has prospered my soul as well. Crocheting, lettering, journaling, embroidery, paper embroidery have all become part of my life since retirement and surgery recovery over the past 6 months.

    • Meryl Herr

      April 22, 2024

      9:06 am

      From Hilda: Karen, may your soul continue to prosper as you recover from surgery and transition into retirement. Thanks for the reminder of the healing nature of “the work of your hands!” (Psalms 90:17)

  4. LaNet Dykes

    April 2, 2024

    8:20 pm

    Good evening dear. I truly enjoyed your story & your journey. I’m on my journey navigating being diagnosed with ms in Nov. 2015. I think I’m caring for my soul by not allowing myself (since a few days of hearing it) to wallow in self pity or “why me”? I dusted myself off & started being involved in ms programs, helping others with the diagnosis, taking charge of myself & the extra unwanted health issue.

    • Meryl Herr

      April 22, 2024

      9:06 am

      From Hilda: My Dear LaNet, I am amazed by your energy and faithfulness. I had no idea you are living with MS and helping others manage their MS while, at the same time, for over 30 years giving significant attention to feeding the hungry. Thank you for sharing as more than a conqueror. (Romans 8:37)

  5. Arlinda Turner

    April 19, 2024

    7:37 am

    Hilda, your article is “superb”, must I say “excellent “. I truly enjoyed reading it. I am thankful for the reminders of the importance of practicing spiritual disciplines- they are so important. That is how we stay connected to THE VINE- JESUS CHRIST and bear much fruit in our souls, health and everything we do.

    • Meryl Herr

      April 23, 2024

      5:51 am

      From Hilda: Arlinda, thank you for your wise comment and emphasizing that we benefit from our spiritual disciplines because they keep us connected to our source of health, strength, and flourishing—Jesus!!

  6. Sharon Sommerville

    May 8, 2024

    12:27 pm

    Hilda I plan to refer to this article during my prayer and meditation time. As a breast cancer survivor, I can identify with your experience in moving forward in spite of a health challenge. The wisdom that you impart is applicable in so many ways. This also reasonates with me as I reinvent myself while adjusting to retirement. I plan to become more consistent in journaling each day and spend more time meditating outside.