Today, a friend and I were talking about how it seems that when hard, disappointing things happen, they happen in waves. Have you ever had one of those days (weeks, months, or years) when the hits just keep coming, pummeling your faith, your optimism, and your happiness?
I had one of those days recently. At the end of it, I laid down on my bed and felt numb. Comfortably numb, as the old Pink Floyd song goes. I didn’t want anything to disturb me, and I didn’t want to care about anything or anybody. I was apathetic.
We all experience days like this where we crumble in fatigue. The challenge is not to let the apathy infiltrate our inner being and become a part of our character and outlook.
Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.
So I say to my soul, “Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be disturbed. For I know my God will break through for me.” Then I’ll have plenty of reasons to praise him all over again. Yes, living before his face is my saving grace!
These Scriptures hold two truths. First, consistent disappointment can rob our hearts of all that makes them healthy. And, God is a God of good breaks who restores our heart and soul to health.
Before we get to the good part of God restoring our heart and soul, we need to understand more of what happens when our heart is sick and neglected. If we don’t turn to God for intervention, unrelenting disappointment will lead to pessimism, and pessimism if left untreated will turn into apathy.
What does an apathetic life look like?
Apathy literally means “without feeling.” Dr. Leon Seltzer describes it like this.
True, apathy is a feeling. But it’s also an attitude. And sadly, that attitude is one of indifference . . . unconcern . . . unresponsiveness . . . detachment . . . and dispassion. Such an attitude saps you of so much energy that you feel lethargic, listless, and enervated—almost too “paralyzed” to act—and certainly without the will to do so.
Which is why apathetic individuals are easily identified by their very passivity. Their interest in confronting life’s challenges is seriously compromised. They just don’t care enough. And frankly, they don’t care that they don’t care.
I have reached the point before in my life when my heart was so beat up and so hard that I just didn’t care that I didn’t care. When my wife and I first moved to California, we had just come out of the ministry, I contracted mono, my mother was given six months to live, and I was feeling like a failure. This was my unrelenting disappointment.
I was angry and discouraged all of the time. At first, even though I was so angry, I was fighting and struggling through it. But as I drifted from God, I stopped caring, stopped struggling, stopped fighting.
I met the quitter that lives inside of me. I definitely felt like Rocky after his first fight with Clubber Lang. My problem was that I couldn’t see how God was moving and the opportunities he was giving me in the struggle.
Jesus tells us that the great tragedy of apathy is that it makes us “miss the moment of opportunity” when God comes to work in our lives.
I’m not just talking theory. There is urgency in all this. If you’re apathetic and complacent, then you’ll miss the moment of opportunity. You should be wide awake and on your toes like servants who are waiting for their master to return from a big wedding reception.
My wife and good friends had to help me face some truths, wake up and turn back to God. As I did, he showed me the opportunity he was giving me to change my marriage, develop my character, and deepen my faith.
Pause and reflect
Are you struggling and fighting? If so, you have not yet given into apathy. Keep fighting, though it is messy. It is worth it.
Which face of apathy best describes you?
How is God trying to help you see the opportunities he is presenting you?
How did I get here?
It helps me to trace the path I took to get to apathy so I can both recognize when I am traveling down that road and also understand how to get out of it. God uses Paul to describe a person who is on that path this way…
…for their [moral] understanding is darkened and their reasoning is clouded; [they are] alienated and self-banished from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the [willful] ignorance and spiritual blindness that is [deep-seated] within them, because of the hardness and insensitivity of their heart.
 And they, [the ungodly in their spiritual apathy], having become callous and unfeeling, have given themselves over [as prey] to unbridled sensuality, eagerly craving the practice of every kind of impurity [that their desires may demand].
Ephesians 4:18-19 AMP
This scripture outlines four steps that lead us toward an apathetic heart and life.
My understanding of God is darkened – I disregard what the scriptures say about God and create my own false image of him. If my view of God is misdefined and I believe he is distant, cold, or uncaring, then my heart will become just that.
I am alienated from the life of God – I avoid prayer and emotionally connecting with God. If I avoid all vulnerability with God and refuse to build intimacy with him, God can never soften and encourage my heart.
I become spiritually blind – I stop seeing how God is working and moving in my life and the lives of those around me. I start attributing everything to human power rather than God working in the spiritual world.
My emotional sensitivity has turned into sensuality – I stop having emotional connections and only crave physical sensations. When we become apathetic, we can only be stimulated by sensual experiences. This ultimately makes us empty.
The difficulty is that while all of these things are happening to us, we can still be going to church, participating in “Christian” activities, and leading in our small groups. But, we have become a hollow Christian with an empty soul who is “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5 NIV).
Thankfully, God always gives us a way out and a way to escape this trap! And with the way out, God always gives an opportunity to grow in our trust for him.
We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.
We will rediscover our convictions when we decide to read our Bible in a way that helps us understand who God really is. All of our faith is determined by our conviction of who God is.
David had a conviction that God was his rock, his fortress, and his deliverer. God was where David went to be safe, calm, and secure. He was also who David turned to in the battles he faced in life and the one he was excited to fight for.
Rediscovering my ambition
You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.  With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
David did not want to just sit tight and settle into a comfortable life. He was ambitious and believed God could help him overcome any obstacle that stood in his way. He was always determined to advance and take new ground.
When we pray through everything that is in our hearts, God will free us to rediscover an ambition that is greater than we have ever had.
Rediscovering my desire to grow
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.  He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.  You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.
Finally, David wanted God to train him. He had an unquenchable desire to grow and to ask God to mature the parts of him that were yet untapped and underdeveloped. With this attitude, we will see that God still has so much he wants to build in and through our lives. We will not fail out, sin out, nor age out of being in God’s classroom.
If you find yourself on the path to the apathetic life, recognize what is happening to your heart. Then find your way to God, and he will help you rediscover your conviction, ambition, and desire to grow.
Pause and reflect
Which quality do you need to rediscover first?
Are you searching the scriptures to get a conviction about who God is?