Is spiritual apathy creeping into your life? Here are five indicators that it may be time to startle your soul awake.
There’s a term in the art and film industry called “visual lethargy” to describe the process of becoming desensitized to the same sight. You’ve probably experienced it. The first time you see the view from a vacation rental, you’re stunned. You drink in every detail, filled with awe and gratitude. By day five you scarcely notice the view, and really, you just wish the kids would quit fighting so you could hear yourself think. Heaven knows, if you were to buy the vacation rental, the view would become so commonplace it’d be virtually invisible.
So it goes with the things of God. The grace that once left us breathless can feel humdrum over time. Scripture that brought us to our knees sounds hollow and rote. “Yeah, I can do all things through Christ…what else is new?” When this happens—when the sacred becomes common—Princeton professor B.B. Warfield writes, “God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God!”
Familiarity is a powerful force. It can drive us to intimacy or apathy. Just as a married couple must strive to rekindle their affection, so believers must strive to recapture their awe of God. To sit before Him in silence. To worship without an agenda. To taste His goodness and drink of His presence again and again.
Jon Bloom defines boredom not as the opposite of busyness, but as the opposite of interest. Everyone feels disinterested from time to time, but pervasive disinterest could be a sign of spiritual apathy. G.K. Chesterton said, “There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.” If you can’t muster up any interest in what your pastor says, or your spouse says, or your child, friend, boss, or coworker says, it’s worth getting curious about your boredom.
Bloom writes, “Listen carefully to your boredom. It’s telling you something important. It’s a hunger for happiness. Don’t just feed it the junk food of easy entertainment and stimulation or the malnourishing diet of selfish pursuits. If you heed boredom’s warning, it will show you your broken joy cisterns. If you accept its invitation, it will lead you to where the true fountains of joy are found.”
Another indicator of spiritual apathy is the acceptance of mediocrity. Ordinariness and mediocrity are not the same thing. Living an ordinary life with extraordinary faithfulness is an inspiring hallmark of Christianity. God hasn’t called us to fanfare, but He has called us to excellence: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).
Where has mediocrity crept into your life? Are you satisfied with a cursory five minutes in God’s Word so you can invest fifteen hours at work? Do you pursue purity with mediocre conviction? When it comes to serving, giving, loving, or leading, are you the person who does the bare minimum? Christian blogger Neal Samudre writes, “Mediocrity is the sum of all the times we choose to take the easy path with our faith.”
With the dawn of the digital age, disconnection is a real danger for all of us. Carey Nieuwhof writes, “We live in a world where you can have five hundred friends and still feel isolated and abandoned. Solitude is a gift from God. Isolation is not—it’s a tool of the Enemy. As a culture, the more connected we’ve become, the more isolated we’ve grown. This is our strange twenty-first-century paradox: we’re connected to more people than ever before and we’ve never felt more alone.”
The trouble with disconnection isn’t merely social or emotional, but spiritual. We were designed by God to live and thrive in community—with accountability, encouragement, and genuine relationships (Genesis 2:18, Ecclesiastes 4:10, Hebrews 10:25). It should come as no surprise that apathy feeds off isolation. The fastest way to shine a light on apathy is to let another believer into your life. Tell them what’s really going on. Confess the ways you’ve embraced mediocrity. Explore the source of your boredom. If it feels uncomfortable, you’re on the right track.
In general, the antidote to apathy is action. In 2009 Kevin DeYoung wrote a book aptly titled Just Do Something. In it he writes, “Some Christians need encouragement to think before they act. Others need encouragement to act after they think.”
If you sense the Holy Spirit convicting you of apathy, don’t be passive any longer. Do something. Take one action, one next step toward Christ. Have an honest conversation with a spiritual mentor. Join a Grace Community. Tell your wife you’ll give counseling a try. Turn off your phone for a whole day. Sign up to serve at your campus. Say “yes” to that thing you’ve been meaning to do, or “no” to that thing you really shouldn’t do. Just do something. Take one step, today, to stir your soul to life.