Ask Smooth – Apathy

In our weekly High School only gathering on Sunday nights (entitled 3:12), we started a new deal called "Ask Smooth." On our Journey Students blog, there is section where they can ask any question they want (no question is off limits) and we will more than likely attempt to answer that question. After the weekend, I will also post the answer here on my blog.

A recent question:

What should you do when you just don't care anymore about anything? Nothing matters or seems to be significant or impacting in any way. How do you get out of feeling like that?

In a word, the problem that this question describes is "apathy." Apathy can be described as the absence (or suppression of) passion, excitement, and/or emotion. It is a lack of concern for things with which one ought to be concerned. It is complete indifference. Apathy is a problem which plagues the church in general, and is rampant among teenagers today.

So how does one fix that? How do you get out of feeling that way? Well, this is probably not what you want to hear, but there is no formula. Regardless of what some people may tell you, there is no 12 step program that will move you from apathy to ardor or from passivity to passion. There are, however, some things that I noticed in my own life that have helped me pull out of a "funk." So the three suggestions that I am going to put forth here, are not meant as a "sure-fire way" to recover the passion you once had. They are simply things that have helped me at one time or another. Maybe one of them will help you.

In Ephesians 1:17-19, Paul's prayer for the church at Ephesus is that the eyes of their heart would be opened so that they would know "the riches of his (Jesus) glorious inheritance in the saints." Do you understand what this verse is saying? The word "in" here should be understood as "which consists of." In other words, what this verse is saying that Jesus' inheritance IS the saints. You are his inheritance. I am his inheritance! And it's not a sorry sad inheritance. The bible says that we are a "glorious" inheritance! In the past when I've thought about the Lord and all he has done for me, I have often wondered what was in it for him. Why would he go through all of that for us? Well, here Paul gives us the answer. He did it because he wants us as his prize. He wants us as his inheritance. And though you may not often feel this way, Jesus views you as a glorious inheritance! So one of the things that has helped me is to KNOW who I am and how Jesus views me. You are Christ's inheritance, his glorious inheritance.

Burnout happens. In fact, it happens a lot. It's easy to burnout because we in western society live such busy lives. Jesus was a busy man. Once he started his public ministry, people almost never left him alone. People were always demanding his time. So what did Jesus do? He got alone, and he rested. Mark 6:31 says, "Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not
even have a chance to eat, he (Jesus) said to them, "Come with me by yourselves
to a quiet place and get some rest."
If you observe the life of Jesus, you see that this was a habit of his. He always found time to "disappear" and be alone with no one but God and himself to rest. If Jesus needed time to be alone, what makes you think that you can make it through life without it? Oftentimes, apathy is the result of burnout or being "burnt" by someone else. This can often be avoided and/or rectified by just getting alone with Jesus. Don't worry about what you are "supposed" to do during your time with Jesus. It's not about reading your Bible for a certain amount of time, or praying a certain amount of minutes. It's not even about doing those things at all. It's about getting alone with Jesus. Take time to rest in his presence.

The writer of Hebrews gave us a solid principle to deal with this issue. He wrote, "Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." Simply put, focus on Jesus and what he did for you so that you don't burn out. It's hard for me to be apathetic, when I put aside all the other issues of life and simply focus on him and what he has done for me. It still baffles me to this day that God would do what he did to redeem me. When I think through it logically, it doesn't make sense that he would love me so much. That's what I focus on. In this life there are so many sorrows, injustices, and evils. There is so much distraction, commotion, and preoccupation. There are so many questions, so much confusion, and so many issues that genuinely confound us. Through it all, most of us have been taught that we must simply "tow the line." We are taught by both word and example that we should simply suck it up and push on through. In my own life, I've noticed that it's been the times I was in "just get it done" mode that I have been most vulnerable to becoming apathetic. Sucking it up and pushing on through while ignoring the way that you are feeling doesn't fix the issue, it compounds it. Whatever your distraction is, whether doubt, disbelief, injustice, problems, sorrow, confusion, or busyness, it isn't going to go away. For once, take your focus off of you own problems, and begin to focus on one thing and only one thing: Jesus and what he did for you.

To restate what I said at the beginning, these are not "steps to take" to pull yourself out of apathy. These are simply things that have helped me in my own life as I struggle through the Christian life just like everyone else. My prayer is that they will help you as well. If you've found something else that has helped you, you are invited to post it in the comments, and we can all help each other.