What did Jesus mean when he admonished, "Do not fear him who can kill the body, but him who can kill the soul?" For years I pondered what it might mean for my soul to be killed. Eternal damnation is the obvious meaning, but there's surely more.
Jesus is also the one who said, "I came that you might have life and have it to the full." Did he only mean, "I came that you might go to heaven after your body dies?" Again, I've often felt that there had to be more.
Life in the here and now is the gift of God, and depending on our inner condition, we can enjoy it—or not. For example, can we relax and appreciate our blessings if we are worried, angry, or stressed? No; these conditions force our attention onto themselves, crowding out or annihilating the peace and happiness God intends for his children. And, as Jesus observed, who by worrying can add a day to his life? Yet we lack the power to prevent worry. The difficult circumstances of this world, which evil sometimes causes, are too powerful for our best efforts at fortitude and good cheer. God is our only hope for the life of inner abundance and peace he has in mind for us.
So how does Satan operate to kill our inner life? As an illustration, a scene comes to mind that I'll never forget. My husband and I were at a city park one summer afternoon, watching our two children play. It was Saturday and the park was crowded. Nearby, a couple of picnic shelters held a crowd of adults, obviously all together, eating and chatting. On the playground itself, I soon noticed that one boy was chasing another around the swing sets, under the monkey bars, and between the teeter-totters. The faster the quarry ran, the faster the pursuer came on after him.
The boys were nearly the same size, but the smaller—the one running away—was terrified. No matter where he fled, nor how fast, the bully was on his heels wearing a ferocious, crazy grin. Even when the smaller boy ran into the midst of the crowd of adults, he emerged a few seconds later, obviously having found no safety. His fear fed the other's lust for violence, and there seemed no way for the victim to turn the situation around.
This is what we face if we try to deal with Satan outside of the power of God. He can bully us with our fears; chase us with our worries; pummel us with our resentments. However, unlike that hapless boy at the park, we can run for shelter and expect protection—if we run to the right place. Jesus promised that if we take his yoke upon us and learn from him, we will find rest for our souls. Learning from him and bearing his yoke means we have to listen with our entire hearts and minds, and in so doing find complete protection from him who could otherwise kill our souls.