Dear Ginger: Apathy
Hi Ginger. Lately I have been struggling with the sin of apathy in my Christian life. It has become so bad that it has started to affect my prayer life and reading of the scriptures drastically. I feel like I have tried so hard for so long to climb out of this rut, and I simply don’t feel that I have any more strength left in me. I recognize that this is a problem, but I just don’t know how to deal with it anymore. I yearn for the passion and zeal that I used to have for the Lord and I want to get back to that place so badly, I just don’t know how. Please help me!
Fallen and I can’t get up
As I read your question, I thought to myself: From one “Fallen to another “Fallen.” That’s the truth of it. If only we stayed up for the whole journey, right? But this tug and give seems to be part of the human experience, even in the life of faith.
My first hope is that you aren’t living under the yolk of a “try-hard life.” Obviously God desires us to be walking toward Him, leaning forward, drawing near on a daily basis… but at times in my life I let the guilt of my own stagnation actually push me FURTHER from Him
Imagine you and I meet up for coffee regularly. We have a 4:00pm date each and every Monday. And say I missed one Monday, just totally forgot about it. You would expect me to be apologetic. I might buy your coffee the next time and beg profusely for your forgiveness. Not that ridiculous… but imagine if I did that EVERY time we met up for the following year. You couldn’t get a word in edge wise for the first half hour of every meeting because I was talking about the guilt I feel. Guilt has a way of keeping us from an intimate relationship. Because the truth of it is, you would likely grow tired of the routine and might eventually lament, “Would you please stop apologizing? I just want to spend time with you!”
I recently pulled out my prayer journals from high school and college and discovered a common theme at the start of every entry. I expressed so much guilt. All. the. time. 95% of my interaction with the Lord was just me apologizing. I wonder now if God ever wanted me to just enjoy my time with Him – to let Him speak to my heart and encourage me in my walk… even if it wasn’t perfect. Confession to the Lord is a beautiful thing, but I was living in the land of self-condemnation… and I just want to make sure you aren’t camped out there as well.
For MANY years I spent most of my prayer time asking for forgiveness for not being focused or passionate. I began to feel burnt out and unsure of how to initiate the growth I desired. I know that I fall into thought patterns where I assume that I’m the only one who struggles. I’ve been a believer for as long as I can remember. I have lived in church all my life. And yet, I sometimes worry that I’m the only one who’s thinking: “I don’t know how to do this… pray, fast, be spiritual, choose which way to go. I should be better than this!”
And then I read a book that spoke right to the heart of my struggle: Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli.
“Spirituality is anything but a straight line, it is a mixed-up, topsy-turvy, helter-skelter godliness that turns our lives into an upside-down toboggan ride full of unexpected turns, surprise bumps, and bone-shattering crashes. In other words, messy spirituality is the delirious consequence of a life ruined by a Jesus who will love us right into his arms.” –Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality
Amen to that. I feel like I’m in a life-long journey of admitting my mess. I spent a large portion of my life being terrified that someone would figure out just how much of a mess I was. But the first step is admittance.
Hi, my name is Ginger and I am a spiritual mess. My time in the word is sometimes sporadic, my prayers distracted, and my heart selfish.
But thank God for grace that covers my fears… and mess. Thank God for grace that covers us both!
Now that we’ve covered that side of things, I wanted to tackle the rest of the question. How do we fan the flame in our relationship with the Lord?
Some ideas for you – as it seems like you already have some sort of a routine in place:
- Change up your routine from time to time. (Sometimes I read from a different translation or at a different time in the day. Sometimes I read a book, and sometimes I take a walk outside while listening to a podcast. Watch the checklist – this is a relationship!)
- Remember that walking is still moving! Just keep moving forward. (Some days I can read a whole book of the Bible in one sitting and other days I only make it through a verse or two.)
- Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or if you’re just off your game. Pick it back up tomorrow. (Don’t let guilt keep you away from a gift!)
- Find exciting new ways to pray. Try writing out your prayers, doodling and drawing, praying with someone else, making a prayer box… write your requests on slips of paper and then draw 1-2 a day to specifically pray for. When they are answered, post them somewhere visible.
- Volunteer/serve/encourage someone else! Write out Bible verses and send encouraging notes to friends and family who might need a pick me up. Maybe even try it anonymously. Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others, rather than focusing on our own needs. When life is “all about me” it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through loving people.
Remember, if a relationship is worth growing, it’s worth pursuing even on our lamest of days. Your efforts will be rewarded!
“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7, NIV
I love this reminder from Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman:
“Emotions don’t have a brain. They are reactors. They may respond to truth, but they may also respond to lies with the same passion and conviction, sometimes more so. You must decide if you will trust the feeling or if you will trust the truth.”
It’s important to remember that your spiritual journey is a marathon, not a sprint. You will get tired, just like a runner. That’s why you need the nourishment of God’s Word, the encouragement of fellowship, and the care for your temple to see you through the tough days of training! Hang in there. Keep talking to God. He is FOR you, and not against you!
Remember that He’s not holding out on you, waiting for you to get it together.
Remember that He sees you and He hears you.
Remember that His promises are precious and great.
Remember that He loves you and He has given you everything that you need to live a great story and grow in His love and Word. Hang in there.
When your strength runs out – that’s when He goes to work! “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)
Praying for freedom from guilt and the passion you so desire.