Soul Keeping by John Ortberg (Book Review)

Soul KeepingEditors note: This isn’t a traditional book review in the sense that I write more about my thoughts and reflections after reading this book.  All quotes are taken from it. 

“I wanted to know that my soul is not alone”

My soul yearns for something more than the gratification of instant and temporary pleasures. For 29 years I did whatever I wanted. I quenched my souls thirst when the urge was there. I was the master of my fate and captain of my soul.

I despised Churches and those who filled it’s seats. I mocked them because they appeared weak to me. They gave away their money freely. So why did some of them have an eternal hope and happiness? Shouldn’t they be constantly seeking the next best thing like I was?

“In one condition a soul is dead but thinks it’s alive; in the other, the soul is alive but believes it’s dead.”

When I was in the Army I would give one of my Christian soldiers a hard time because externally he didn’t have all his ducks in a row. “What has Jesus done for you and where is he now?” are some of the questions I’d throw his way. I didn’t understand and he knew I didn’t get it. Instead he offered me ‘grace’…a foreign word to me at the time. I thought Christians were supposed to be “better” and have all the answers. I didn’t know that Jesus came for those who didn’t have the answers.

A close friend of mine started following Christ when he was 18. We met when we were 19 and for 10 years I appeared to have the better deal. My career was going better, I had more money, I did whatever I wanted and I submitted to no one. It depends on how you measure “better” though. My soul constantly pursued the next best thing. He was content right where God had him. He was centered on God as his foundation. I didn’t understand. I even envied him a bit. My soul was alone. I was my own god. God was holding his soul. God was his happiness. I focused on the external, my friend focused on the internal.

“Acquiring the whole world could not even produce satisfaction let alone meaning and goodness.”

I was the Captain of my soul and I steered myself into an empty abyss.

What I love about this book Soul Keeping by John Ortberg is that it reminds me of my own search for happiness, fulfillment, inner peace and the answer that finally came. Until I was 29 I tried many routes that should lead to happiness, contentment and peace of mind. I traveled, I fought, I joined corporate America, I had a beautiful girlfriend and I was free. At least I thought I was free because I didn’t know what true freedom was. I even tattooed the words “Freedom” with an eagle to show how free I really was. If I was honest I would tell you that I was a slave to everything I listed. But I couldn’t even be honest with myself, because that would mean I knew nothing.

“What matters is not the accomplishments you achieve; what matters is the person you become.”

My accomplishments made me arrogant, selfish, condescending and a morally good person. People got sick of me. I loved myself more…and one day I was alone. There were many friends around me but I felt alone. I did not like who I was becoming.

“Superficiality is the curse of our age.” Richard Foster

I was under this curse but I thought I was being ‘real’. My soul was searching, dying to break out of this false persona that I was encased in. I finally stopped pretending and faced my biggest fear – I did not have the answer. Deep down, in my soul, I knew there was an answer somewhere. I started listening.

What the soul needs

“You’re a soul made by God, made for God, and made to need God, which means you were not made to be self-sufficient.” Dallas Willard

What? Are you saying I don’t have to have all the answers? I don’t have to fight the battle of life alone? This doesn’t make me less of a man? It’s ok to accept that I make mistakes, that my heart is not good and I need someone greater than myself to save me? God will still love me if I’m a sinner?

“Our soul begins to grow in God when we acknowledge our basic neediness.” 

Centering my soul on all the external’s sent me through life’s maze with no end. I was so lost yet still trying to find an out. Once I accepted my need for a savior and that Jesus died on my behalf to restore a relationship with God I suddenly found myself centered on a solid single foundation. I didn’t have to constantly swap it out for a new foundation because God never changes and my salvation is guaranteed through Christ’s death on the cross, for eternity. My soul had found peace. Even in the storms I was happy because my soul was anchored on God.

“The soul cannot be centered without God.”

Your soul needs rest and freedom. It needs God

In Soul Keeping, John Ortberg articulates why our soul pursues external pleasures, why it feels alone and finally how God is the answer. While this message may seem basic to many Christians and you might feel that you’ve heard it enough times. Don’t let that stop you. He answers questions we ask every day. He provides answers we need every day. I encourage you to read it. Our soul will find freedom only in God. John Ortberg provides a road map to get us started and the journey doesn’t end until Christ returns.

“Your soul is not just something that lives on after your body dies. It’s the most important thing about you. It is your life.”

Who is this Man? by John Ortberg (Book Review)


  1. John,
    First off, thanks for giving me the heads up on this article. I am impressed to say the least. This is definitely more than a book review, it’s a personal testimony. And a powerful one at that. This story can and will relate to so many men going through similar issues and ones that need answers like you did. What God is doing with you now is nothing short of awesome. Keep up the great work and keep living for Christ.

    • Thank you Bryan! I didn’t intend to write my personal testimony but upon reading this book it moved me so much the writing just flowed. Maybe it’ll help someone else in their search or struggle with God.

  2. John, thank you for this review and being open and honest with us on where you have been and journey to today. I appreciate that kinda of vulnerability in your post.

Speak Your Mind