How God Comforts and Nourishes Our Souls


Chicken Soup for the Soul has sold more than 100 million books in the United States and Canada and has been translated into more than 40 languages. After the first book was published 23 years ago, it was so successful that more were written. And now, there are over 250 titles in what has become a Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

The book was developed by motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor, who used inspirational stories in their talks. When people repeatedly asked if the stories were written down somewhere, Canfield and Victor decided to compile their best 101 stories in a book — and they called it Chicken Soup for the Soul. Their hope was that they could help others by sharing stories and provide comfort and encouragement, much like a bowl of hot soup on a rainy day.

While the stories of others can be inspirational and motivational, and we connect to others through story and can be soothed by reading or hearing what others have gone through, our souls need to be fed by the Word of God and time spent with God. Just as our bodies need food and water, our souls need spiritual nourishment that can only be found in walking with God.

The Bible speaks of receiving our “daily bread” each day (Matthew 6:11). When tempted by Satan in the desert to turn stones into bread, Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). In other words, Jesus pointed to the reality that man needs spiritual nourishment and that our souls are designed to feed on the sustenance God provides.

We Find Nourishment When We Go the Way God Leads

Isaiah 49:9 says this: “[I will say] to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill” (emphasis mine). To give us the context of this verse, earlier in Isaiah 49, the Messiah is the speaker and is addressing the nations. He tells of His purpose in restoring Israel to himself and being a light to the Gentiles. Here in this section of the passage, the verses speak further of the Messiah’s purpose in bringing captives out of their slavery to sin and into freedom in walking with Him. Certainly these verses can speak of unbelievers becoming saved, but also can be representative of our Christian journey when we have put our faith and trust in Jesus and follow where He leads.

However, this verse also speaks of the Israelites in captivity to Babylon and talks about how they will be led by a Savior back to their home in Israel. (Side note: Obviously, at this point in history, Jesus had not physically come to earth yet as the Messiah, but was still very much present in the story of the Old Testament.) If we look at the history of Israel, the Israelites were taken from their homes and put into captivity in Babylon when they fell into idolatry and disobedience and broke the terms of their covenant with God. God allowed them to suffer the ruin of Jerusalem and their temple and be taken from their homes, but then, in his loving kindness, after a time period of 70 years, He allowed them to return back to their homes.

We can further observe 2 things:

The passage tells us that “they will feed beside the roads.” Here, the passage gives us a picture of the captives being led home. Like sheep following a loving shepherd, they were given nourishment and taken care of when they went the way that God led. In a similar way, we will receive nourishment when we walk in the path God has for us. In some translations it reads, “They shall feed in the ways” (emphasis mine).

We can’t miss that the food showed up alongside the roads. It wasn’t given beforehand. They were actually underway on the journey when they encountered the needed sustenance. As Alexander MacLaren points out, they were fed as they went. While we may hesitate to follow Jesus when His way looks hard and we don’t like what He tells us to do, we can be assured that we will be refreshed and strengthened when we make time to listen to His voice and follow Him. Though another way may be easier and more comfortable initially, if it’s not God’s way, it will lead to spiritual stagnancy and starvation.

Also, along those lines, as MacLaren also explains, the ways will feed us. Those things we do in obedience to Him will be those that give us strength:

If you wish to weaken the influence of any principle upon you, do not work it out, and it will wither and die. If a man would grasp the fulness of spiritual sustenance which lies in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let him go to work on the basis of the Gospel, and he ‘shall feed in the ways,’ and common duties will minister strength to him instead of taking strength from him. We can make the smallest daily incidents subserve our growth and our spiritual strength, because, if we thus do them, they will bring to us attestations of the reality of the faith by which we act on them.

Secondly, we should note that not only will we feed beside the roads, we will “find pasture on every barren hill.” We can easily miss the contrast here if we don’t examine the words closely, but a juxtaposition exists between the pasture and the barrenness of the hills in which they walk. To understand this, we need to know that the landscape described is such where the pastures in which the flocks feed are down in the valleys, or low parts. There is no grass or landscape to speak of on top of the hills or mountains.

We can be encouraged that not only will we be fed in the ways God leads, even when God leads us to a place that appears to be a bare place or wilderness, He will provide for us in those places and keep us sustained. Though we all want our walks with Jesus to lead us to places that are trouble-free, that isn’t the reality of what will happen as Christians. In many ways, our lives may get more difficult when we become Christians because we will encounter more stress and trouble when we attempt to live out the counter-cultural mandates of the Bible. In addition, we live in a fallen world where we have sadness, sickness, and many trials.

Yet, even in those places of trouble and hardship, though God won’t necessarily take those trials away, God will be with us providing strength and encouragement. We may be lead to barren places where we are in great pain, but in those places of pain, we will have the help of God. Though it may be a struggle every day for us to get out of bed, when we turn to God, we have a place where we can take our anxiety, depression, guilt, sadness, anger, frustration — whatever ails us. Scripture tells us that God is close to the broken-hearted and crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18; Psalm 147:3). It is better to walk with Him in those hard places than look for the comfortable path where we may have all we think we want, but be destitute in our souls.

Drawing the Sustenance God Offers

Friend, through our everyday trials, God is with us. He nourishes our souls in a way that only He can. And yet, we have to reach out and grab hold of the nourishment He offers. As MacLaren points out, “It is only an active Christian life that is a nourished and growing Christian life.” We have to intentionally draw close to God each day and read from His Word, and also obey His precepts. When we walk after Him and complete the tasks that He asks of us, He offers refreshment and strength and instruction to us in the process. We grow spiritually dry and stagnant when we neglect to carve out time for Him and His Word and ignore His voice or don’t attempt to hear His direction for us at all.

And what if we are far away at the moment? We can turn to Him and ask Him to help us get back on the right path. We can’t miss that the Israelites led were former captives — captives because of their sin and rebellion. And yet, God freed them from captivity. Just as the Jews are depicted in this passage as sheep led by a shepherd, we, as Christians, are also depicted as sheep elsewhere in the Bible (Psalm 100:3, Luke 15:4-7, John 10:11). When we allow God to lead us, He takes to places where there is an abundance of “food” for our souls. This truth can give us hope no matter what place we walk through — whether fertile valleys or barren heights.

Related Bible Verses:

Psalm 42:1: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.”

Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Related Resources:

This article is the second in our series “Finding Hope in the Midst of Disappointing Circumstances.” Check out Part 1: “Work That Truly Matters” on finding meaning and purpose when you are disappointed in the work God has given you because you aren’t seeing the results you want or you feel hidden in your place of service. Stay tuned for the next two weeks as we will continue through the series.

Podcast Notes and Corrections:

Proverbs 11:25 says: “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Many scholars and Bible teachers recognize the proverbs as providing principles, rather than sure-fire promises. However, because this idea can be found as a guarantee in other places of Scripture, we can refer to it as a promise.

For more study on Isaiah 49, and provide some great free commentaries. I referenced Alexander MacLaren’s, in particular.

In reference to Canfield and Victor, founders of Chicken Soup for the Soul, they used the inspirational stories of others in their talks — not their stories.

*Updated February 9, 2019



Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why God Considers You a Refugee


Throughout the Bible, there are numerous names given to followers of Jesus.

We are God’s children. We are brothers and sisters. We are bond-servants and co-heirs. We are His priests. We are a peculiar people and vessels. We are witnesses and temples. All of those titles provide us with encouragement as, over and over, the Bible reassures us that our identity as God’s people is a position of stability and peace. We are sons and daughters of the King of all things, and that is a place of honor. But there is another word to describe Christians that the narrative of the Bible infers — a different side of the coin. And given current world events, that word is becoming increasingly more relevant and meaningful.

That word is “refugee.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines a “refugee” as a person who flees his or her home to avoid and to escape persecution or danger. In my lifetime, there hasn’t been such a clearly demonstrated illustration of this word as there is right now. The millions of Syrian citizens who are quite literally running for their lives has been called the biggest mass exodus of refugee people since the Holocaust. Similarly, the Syrian exodus is a stark reminder of the darkness in man’s heart.

And as we watch our news stations and keep up with the headlines, we see more and more visual proof that the life of a refugee isn’t an easy one. Yet, while this label in reference to Christ-followers is more implied than directly stated in Scripture, natural theology leads us towards a clear understanding that God, in all of His abundant understanding and knowledge, says that is exactly what we as Christians are. And while it’s hard for most of us to relate to it, there is a reason why God chose to attach that particular characteristic to us.

I have never been in a position where I have had to cross country lines and rely on the hospitality of others in order to survive. I have never had to run to escape persecution or death. But I do know what it’s like to be on the outside. I do know what it’s like to feel other and strange and looked down on.

Now, please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I am in no way suggesting that my experiences of being excluded on account of my religious beliefs are in any way similar to what millions of displaced Syrians are experiencing at the moment. I am not naïve enough to suggest that. But according to the Bible, we are sojourners. We are exiles. We are refugees. So there must be something to that idea.

There must be a reason that God chose to describe us that way. And I believe the reason is that being a refugee, a noncitizen, a sojourner, and an outsider is as much a part of our identity as Christians as being children and priests and co-heirs are. When we accept God’s call on our lives, when we exchange our will for His grace, we become all of those wonderful things. We become God’s children.

We become heirs of His inheritance. We become the righteousness of God. But as we draw nearer to Him, all of those things pull us further and further away from our own sinful nature. As we become more like Christ, we become less like the world. And the less we look like the world, the more we will be hated by it. The plain and simple truth is that we are refugees.


We are foreigners and aliens. And we have a responsibility to recognize our citizenship and to remember that where we were is no longer who we are. I am God’s. You are His. He is ours. And this world is not our home.

Hebrews 13:14 says, For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

So, in that regard, while I have been fortunate enough to never have had to suffer the hardships of a physical refugee, the Bible is clear in that I do have to live the life of a spiritual one. And just like the Syrians are having to flee their homeland and are having to make do in a land that isn’t theirs, we have had to adjust to life in a broken world — a world that is not for us. Our citizenship is somewhere else. We will never fully fit in. The day that we do fit in is the day that we have lost our sense of identity and purpose.

The word “refugee” isn’t a positive one. However, it wasn’t meant as a death sentence when God inspired Bible authors to write it about Christians in general. Yes, we are outsiders, but we are not without hope. Unlike the Syrian refugees, the life that God offers us shouldn’t look like displacement. It shouldn’t feel like running and hiding. We shouldn’t come across as a people with nowhere to call home. Just because our home isn’t in this world doesn’t make it any less real. And that is the light that we have to extend to this world.

This world is full of people without a home because without Jesus, that is what we are — homeless. God is our place of safety. And that is the truth that we ourselves must be convinced of. Because our hearts belong to Him, while we are exiles in a foreign land and strangers in a world that isn’t ours and foreigners who will never truly belong, we are not without a safe place. The Bible may say that we are refugees, but it also calls God our refuge. And there is no way to separate those two words.

“LORD, you are my fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble” (Jeremiah 16:19).

“This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety” (Psalm 91:2).

“Those who fear the LORD are secure; He will be a refuge for their children” (Proverbs 14:26).

“But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O LORD, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4).

Over and over, God assures us that He is our safe place, our hiding place. Whatever you are going through, wherever you are, however hard life is raging against you, God is your shelter from the storm. You may be a refugee in this world because of your faith in the Lord. You may be an outsider and foreigner. You may be hated because of who you are. But you are not hopeless. You are not at the mercy of this world. You are not storm tossed like the millions of Syrian refugees currently without a home. You have a refuge. His name is Jesus.

In Him, we have hope. If the life of Jesus taught us anything, it is that a life consecrated to God isn’t one that follows worldly convention. It isn’t one that is accepted by man. It isn’t one that is rewarded in the typical sense. In fact, a consecrated life is increasingly looked down on and hated. And in so many countries, a consecrated life even leads to harsh persecution and death.

But Jesus was hated. He was rejected. He was even put to death.

So we are in the very best of company. A Christian life is a contradiction. We are refugees with a home. We are simultaneously rejected and accepted. We are hated by the world, but we are also envied by angels. That is the price we must pay to be His children. Actually, I take that back. That is the price that we are blessed to even have the chance to pay.

If you aren’t praying for the Syrian refugees, I encourage you to do so. The majority of them are Muslims which means that they don’t know the grace of God. They have been deceived. But He loves them. Salvation is for them as much as it was for us.

Whatever you think about the current situation, they need Jesus. On that, we should all agree. They are in a desperate situation, and I pray that God intercepts them as they wander. And I encourage you to relate to them in their wandering. They are refugees. And so are we. We are outcasts, foreigners who don’t belong. But, we can remember, every day, every breath, every beat of our hearts brings us closer and closer to home.


Adriana Howard

Adriana Howard

Adriana Howard describes herself as "sort of a mess in pursuit of a great story." Adriana spent a year teaching high school English, and currently, she is teaching theater after school at a local elementary school. She also serves with her husband as a youth pastor at her church. One day, Adriana hopes to be a published author. For the time being, she wants to travel the world, adopt children, learn how to really love people, maintain a garden, go back to India, and work alongside her husband in ministry. Other passions of Adriana's include love war films, cooking, bulky typewriters, crowded airports, winter’s first snow, Elizabeth I, and books of all shapes and sizes. Last but certainly not least, Adriana has a passionate love for Jesus. You can connect with Adriana on her blog where she dabbles in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

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