“The merciful man does himself good,
but the cruel man does himself harm.”
(Proverbs 11:17 NASB)

I gasped at my doctor’s question: “Tell me about the white space in your life.”

I raced to explain the reasons why “white space,” although necessary for some, was not a need in my life. “My husband and I are committed to being all in for the kingdom. We love Jesus and the opportunities He brings our way. Our season of life allows for the schedule we keep.”

Our doctor friend smiled and lowered his gaze. “The Sabbath is not a suggestion, Carrie.”

This wise and godly doctor went on to encourage me to prioritize time weekly to care for the needs of my own soul.

I could not escape the weightiness of his words. I do treasure my time alone with Jesus and His Word each day. Regular church attendance and fellowship with other believers is a sacred rhythm in our lives.

But allotting precious time to consider the needs of my own soul? The suggestion seemed horribly selfish and self-absorbed. I could not reconcile this with the urgency of the hour and the desperate needs that surrounded me. Surely this was not God’s way.

Then I read these words in Proverbs: “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” The literal translation reads, “The hesed man is good to his own soul, but the cruel man troubles his flesh.”

Hesed speaks of God’s persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy toward us. “Because Your lovingkindness [hesed] is better than life, my lips will praise You” (Psalm 63:3).

If we, as God’s people, are to manifest the character and ways of our God in the midst of a world gone mad, we must consider what it means to be kind to our own soul.

  • What does your soul need today?
  • What is the LORD bringing to your awareness?
  • What would it mean to be tender and merciful to the needs of your own soul?


Written by Carrie Gaul, Liaison for International Outreach and Staff Care with Revive Our Hearts, a brand of Life Action Ministries.