I heard a phrase on the radio the other day I can’t get out of my head – orphaned souls. K-Love was plugging an organization that gives shoes to orphans, and they call their benefactors orphan souls. But the DJ on the radio kept saying orphaned souls, and that misspeak intrigued me.

When I heard it, I immediately pictured sad, abandoned, third-world children, but I quickly mused orphaned souls can come in all ages, financial conditions, and countries.

I struggled with an exact definition of what an orphaned soul is.

It could be a child with no spiritual parents. This may be a result of not having actual parents, or the actual parents may be present but unaware of and/or uninterested in spiritual things. With no parents willing or able to direct the child’s spiritual formation, he or she becomes an orphaned soul. As they enter adulthood, these children continue to feel the effects of having no idea how to care for their souls. So I hear…

An orphaned soul could also be someone whose soul was tended to when they were growing up, but, upon becoming adults, they are no longer being shepherded. Maybe they’ve given up their former beliefs. Maybe they buy into the idea that spirituality is private. Maybe they used to go to a church but got burned and don’t want to go back. Or maybe they still go to a church, but their hearts aren’t in it – they are simply there out of ritual or because they think it earns them some points with God somehow. In any case, they are adults who all but neglect their souls.

A large percentage of people in this world fit these definitions.

I think the reality is everyone, no matter their age, can become orphaned souls if they aren’t purposefully pursuing a relationship with Jesus within the body (i.e., not on their own). It’s hard to be your own parent, and, spiritually speaking, we all need parents to help guide our souls in our faith.

Pastors, priests, ministers, elders, chaplains, deacons, mentors, etc., can all be, and hopefully all are, spiritual parents, shaping souls via sound Bible teaching and consistent displays of Jesus-like love.

But they will, at some point or another, fail us.

They will move away. They will die. They will have an affair. They will teach you something nutty. They will give you bad advice. They will let you down. So I hear…

And then you’ll feel spiritually orphaned again. You may even be spiritually orphaned again.

What will you do? Who will shepherd your soul to ensure it is well taken care of?

Psalm 68:5 says God is a “Father to the fatherless.”

Psalm 146:9 says God “sustains the fatherless.”

Hosea 14:3 says “the fatherless find compassion” in God.

And, of course, Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10), longing to take care of His sheep’s souls.

We all, at one point or another, have been orphaned souls. God places people in our lives to help direct us, but, ultimately, He is the Director, the Father, the Shepherd we need. The most amazing men and women are no substitutes for the Lord. Cultivate your personal relationship with Him daily that He may father you.