On Saturday I was at a wedding. It was an absolutely gorgeous September day and the outdoor setting was lovely. As I sat there listening to the pastor speak of married love to this young couple on the cusp of their new life together, my thoughts went back thirty-odd years to a rainy day in August. As my husband and I stood there in front of the church and all of those witnesses, we spoke our vows to each other. But, honestly, we really had no idea what was ahead of us. Just like none of us do.
As the years have passed so quickly, we have been thrown many challenges but have also experienced so many blessings. One thing, however, that I noticed is that during our earlier years we made more efforts to keep our marriage healthy. There was always an unspoken goal to have a better marriage.
Until one day there really wasn’t.
What I mean is that somewhere in our 40s, we just kind of got lazy. It’s not that we didn’t want to have a better marriage but life was so busy and there were so many other things to think about. Our marriage was pretty good without putting in a lot of effort. I mean it’s not like either of us was going to be changing much, anymore, anyway.
As I sat there at that wedding, I realized how often we can tend to get apathetic–and not just about marriage. This is especially a temptation for those of us who have been disillusioned or betrayed. Some of you probably feel pretty hopeless today. Like why try? You are tired and do not feel like working at anything anymore. And so you just resign yourself to being who you are and living the life you have been given. Apathy has crept in and stolen your joy.
But is this really what God would call us to? Is apathy an option for a believer?
I Corinthians 15:58 says–
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
And Colossians 3:23-24–
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
These two verses are only a smattering of what we find in scripture, where we realize that, as believers, we are to continue trying and growing for the rest of our lives.
So what are some of the reasons we grow apathetic? What steals our joy and makes us feel hopeless?
Disillusionment— Life doesn’t turn out like we had hoped. Perhaps our spouse is unloving and hard to live with. Or the bright hopes we had for our children are lying in ashes at our feet and in their place we find a drug addiction or some other heart-wrenching trial. Maybe we just thought our life would look different than it does and we are just a bit bitter about this.
Exhaustion— Many of us struggle with apathy simply because we are just so tired. Every week is a fight to get the bills paid. Or to deal with our health needs or the needs of loved ones. Life can be taxing and oh, so hard. Many of you are dealing with unimaginable trials and burdens. Sometimes, they are private burdens that you carry alone. These make you tired and worn out, leaving little energy to grow and learn.
Cynicism— And then there is the natural cynicism that comes with aging. As we grow older, we tend to become more realistic with our expectations. We come to understand that there just aren’t that many happy endings in life. This can knock the wind out of our sails and make us throw our hands up in the air and say “Why bother?”
Distraction— And, then, of course, there is the everyday craziness that so many of us live in. We barely have time to do daily chores, much less worry about growing spiritually. If we do have a minute or two at the end of the day, it’s easier to just sit down and watch TV. Who has time to think about improving or growing?
All of these things are tools that Satan uses to keep us from growing in the Lord. They overtake us and soon we allow them to render us not only apathetic but also ineffective. You see, although we can’t change other people, we can change ourselves with the help of the Holy Spirit. Not only can we, but we are called to.
We must keep going, even when things around us are discouraging and frustrating and look hopeless.
So what are some things we can do to rid ourselves of the apathy we are feeling?
1 PRAY. Ask the Lord to help us want to change. We need to ask Him to remove the apathy and return our joy and give us a heart that desires to grow.
2 EXAMINE. We need to examine our lives to see if there are intentional changes we can make to help. Perhaps there is a bad attitude that is making our marriage harder than it needs to be? Or can we free up our schedule a bit? Perhaps planning a budget or organizing our week may help us during this season of life?
3 SUBMIT. After we pray and we examine, there comes a time that we need to submit to the place that God has us. We cannot change the hearts of those who bring such heartache to us. We can’t magically fix our health or conjure up extra money. But we can submit to God’s Sovereignty in our lives and trust Him to fulfill His promises. When we can reach this point, life takes on a sweetness and joy again. This is not to say that life becomes easy. No, this is not true at all. But God walks with us when we submit to Him instead of fight against Him.
Apathy is a real joy-stealer. It creeps into our hearts and lives, often before we even realize it. And when it settles there, it hinders our growth and makes us feel hopeless.
How important that we never cave to this “feeling”. How critical that we be intentional about our walk with Christ and our desire to keep growing as Christians. Because, while life can throw all kinds of things at us, we still have a choice. A choice to feel discouraged and flounder in apathy or the choice to turn to Christ for our strength and comfort as we continue to grow through the challenges and trials of life. Which choice will we make?