Review: How’s Your Soul?

Judah Smith, How’s Your Soul? Why Everything That Matters Starts With the Inside You (Nashville: Tommy Nelson, 2016), 224 pages.

Has anyone ever asked you, or have you ever asked yourself, “How’s your soul?” It’s a question that shakes us awake the rote pretenses of the question, “How are you?” and our often absent-hearted answer, “Good”—and it’s a particularly relevant inquiry as we begin the Christian season Lent. It’s one of my favorite questions for self-reflection, whether or not I’m comfortable with the answer.

In his newest book, How’s Your Soul? Why Everything that Matters Starts with the Inside You, Judah Smith suggests the health of our souls is the often overlooked, but always essential key living each day with eternal significance. I enjoyed this book overall, even if it is inconsistent in quality and Jonah doesn’t always write toward a cohesive thesis, primarily because it is written at a popular level that will be accessible to all. And for Jonah’s ability at times to actually make me laugh out loud.

For Christians, seekers, and just about everybody, it’s a good entry-level guide to exploring the inner you (your soul). For pastors, it’s good not for its theological depth, but for Jonah’s ability to model relatable storytelling (though at times he just seems to like hearing himself talk and I think more than one of his tangents are distracting)—he admits up front that he’s not going to spend time splitting “theological hairs about the difference between the terms soul and spirit.”

How’s Your Soul? is inconsistent, but inspiring. Jonah starts strongly. I loved the first two chapters for his ability to lead me into deep soul reflection.

  1. Home Sweet Home. The premise of the book, with which I agree, is that “your soul is healthiest when it comes back frequently and wholeheartedly to God.” In other words, when we find our home in God through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. Original Home. When Jonah writes about food, just yes…so funny! But more importantly, Jonah suggests four elements of a healthy environment for our soul from Genesis 2: rest, responsibility, restraint, and relationship.

For me, the middle of the book was weak. I’m not sure how these chapters relate to the overall thesis of the book, and I grew tired of his writing style by this point.

  1. Surprised by My Soul. I’m surprised that I don’t remember this chapter. Or not. It wasn’t particularly interesting.
  2. An Anchor for My Soul. Skip the first half of Jonah’s experience with boating, but dive into his riff on Jesus as the anchor of our soul. Good stuff.
  3. Is Love God or is God Love? Doesn’t seem at all fitting for this book, nonetheless the first half of the chapter is a should-read for everyone living in 21st century American culture. It will help us have better, more honest and truthful conversations about faith.
  4. A Quiet Soul.
  5. An Effective Life. If I may riff on Jonah—which I’ll be doing in my Lent sermon series, Jonah of the Bible that is—the foundation of an effective life is surrender.

Jonah finishes strong in the last few chapters, re-capturing my interest.

  1. New You. The heart of the gospel right here, clearly and compellingly. It never gets old. Well said, Jonah!
  2. Inside Job. “We trust and follow a living God, a real God, who is big enough to begin a process in the human soul and faithful enough to finish it.”
  3. Heaven. I’m troubled a bit by this chapter, confused by unclear statements about heaven, our bodies, our souls…about things spiritual and physical. The book would be strengthened by a little theological care here. Nevertheless, a helpful reminder and encouragement to “set our minds on things above.”

So, how’s your soul? (4 of 5 stars)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Book Look Bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review; the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About Joshua

Joshua is the lead pastor of Massapequa Reformed Church (RCA) on Long Island, New York. He and his wife Kathryn have one young daughter. He loves coffee and board games, ice cream and sports—he's an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers, UConn Huskies, Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers.
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