Have you ever felt as though you just don’t care any more? I don’t like to think of myself as uncaring. That’s not a very pretty picture. I like to see myself as always loving, always giving and always caring – kind of like Santa Claus. But the reality is I’m always not like that. Can you relate? Life can sometimes steal our passion and excitement and we can become cynical and even indifferent at times.
Children are naturally passionate. They have not yet become tainted by the failures and challenges of life. They are not afraid to pursue the impossible. I work at a school, and every graduation we ask the preschool children what they want to become when they grow up. They will shout, “a teacher!” “a doctor!” “an astronaut!” and are undeterred by the chuckles in the audience.
But life and negative experiences can make us cynical and as we get older, there are times when we no longer believe that we can become anything. These are times when I have lost my passion about friends, about life or about learning new things. We see this as children become teenagers and a seemingly apathetic “I don’t care” attitude at times takes over their wide-eyed wonder about life. This can be both infuriating and discouraging to desperate parents who want their children to believe in themselves.
Have you become apathetic? How about in your relationship with God? Are disappointments, challenges, and the grind of daily life slowly replacing the excitement of having a relationship with God?
Apathy is an absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement; a lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting. Complacency, on the other hand, is being pleased, especially with oneself or one’s merits, advantages, situation, etc., often without awareness of some potential danger or defect. Each sentiment is a bit different, but they have the same effect – destruction of the heart.
12 “I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to punish those who sit complacent in their sins. They think the Lord will do nothing to them, either good or bad.
Zephaniah 1:12 (NLT)
There is a quote that says “Apathy comes before calamity.” Apathy and complacency are perhaps the most destructive heart conditions of all. Being apathetic or complacent means we’ve given up. We’ve become disinterested in spiritual things and turned our hearts to other things in which we think we can find success and immediate happiness. Sometimes it’s our jobs. Sometimes it’s just finding pleasurable things to do. Because we don’t usually think that this is going to have any negative effect on our lives we keep going without trying to change.
What are some signs that you’ve become apathetic?
- You look at people who work hard at their relationship with God and wonder why they are working so hard.
- Prayer is a ritual without emotion, faith, or brokenness.
- You find reasons to not spend time with friends.
- You don’t participate in activities; if you are present, you don’t say anything.
- You don’t find pleasure in the same things you used to.
- You can’t see what other people are talking about, nor are you interested.
- You prefer to be isolated.
- Normal life activities now have become a chore.
- You find yourself engaging more and more in mindless and heartless activities like scrolling through social media or playing video games.
- The thought of setting a goal is very undesirable to you.
- You haven’t tried anything new in a long time.
- You don’t get excited about things outside of yourself.
One of the main reasons that I became a Christian is because I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t feel happiness or sadness. I was mostly numb. I couldn’t have empathy or compassion. If something was sad, I couldn’t feel it. This scared me. I realized that I had hardened my heart to deal with hurt, pain and just with everyday life. I had taught myself to become one emotion so that no one would know what I really felt. I learned to remain quiet and just watch others so that I didn’t have to be vulnerable, open or even involved with other people on a heart level.
Even though I learned to engage my heart when I became a Christian, it’s something I have to work on every day. Now I feel something about everything! I am definitely not known as being quiet any longer. Feeling so much can be exhausting but it is much preferred over a dead heart.
What causes apathy?
22 “But, dear family of Jacob, you refuse to ask for my help.
You have grown tired of me, O Israel!
23 You have not brought me sheep or goats for burnt offerings.
You have not honored me with sacrifices,
though I have not burdened and wearied you
with requests for grain offerings and frankincense.
24 You have not brought me fragrant calamus
or pleased me with the fat from sacrifices.
Instead, you have burdened me with your sins
and wearied me with your faults.
Isaiah 43:22-24 (NLT)
This scripture talks about people who have become tired of God. There is a psychological term known as “habituation”, where we no longer respond to a stimulus because we get used to it. This can happen in all areas of our lives. Sometimes it’s a good thing – we don’t react every time we hear a fire engine siren. Mothers experience this when they react to the cries of their first child with alarm but sometimes the second child’s cries don’t get as much attention. We’ve come to learn that we don’t have to panic and come running every time our child cries.
We can get this way with God. What once struck us with awe and excitement, now doesn’t have any affect. We’ve seen God do miracles for so long that we don’t even recognize them any more. Have you grown tired of God? How do you see this familiarity play out in your life?
He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people:…
Luke 18:9 (Message)
This scripture describes someone who did not see the need to change because they were already pleased enough with themselves. They felt like they were doing well enough on their own and didn’t really need to examine their hearts. When we are complacent, we may be engaged enough to have people tell us what we have to change, but their words fall on a hard heart because we are pleased enough with ourselves. We sit and listen to what they have to say, but we don’t take their words to heart and definitely don’t change. It’s because we don’t really believe what they are saying. We’re happy with what we consider moral behavior – we go to church, give money, are nice to strangers, and may even share our faith, but we don’t see the need to work on our hearts or to struggle to grow in our relationship with God.
10 The Eternal your God promised your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that He would give you this land. When He brings you into it, you’ll live in beautiful and spacious cities you didn’t build. 11 You’ll have houses filled with good things waiting for you—cisterns to hold water already dug out of the rock for you, and vineyards and olive orchards that you didn’t plant. You’ll have all you want to eat and more. 12 When this happens, be very, very careful! Don’t forget it was the Eternal who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves.
Deuteronomy 6:10-12 (Voice)
This scripture reminds the Israelites that they should not forget God when he blesses them after they had been slaves in Egypt for so long. It is a reminder to us also. Perhaps we’ve gotten what we want in our lives – the job, the husband, the babies, the house, and we are satisfied. We don’t feel the need for God any more because we have all we want. Why work on our pride, our selfishness, or our fear when we are successful in life? We got what we wanted without really working hard spiritually. When this happens, spiritual pursuits can seem unnecessary and we can forget where we came from and who gave us what we have. As a result, we become apathetic toward change and toward God. Have you forgotten what God has done in your life? Has that made you complacent toward your relationship with God? In what areas of your life have you become complacent?
Constant failure and disappointment
6 “Tell the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord. I will bring you out from under the oppression of the Egyptians, and I will free you from slavery. I will rescue you with my powerful arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 Then I will make you my people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the forced labor of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you to the land I solemnly swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your own possession. I am the Lord.’”
9 Moses reported this to the Israelites. But they would not listen to him because they were so discouraged by their back–breaking work.
Exodus 6:6-9 (GW)
The Israelites were unmoved by Moses’ words from God. They were discouraged because they had such a heavy load of slavery and they felt like they had seen and heard it all before. They had been slaves all their lives – why should they believe anything was going to be different? We can feel this way about God as well. Sure, he’s going to lift my burdens. Sure, he loves me even though what I’m going through doesn’t feel like love. Sure, he’s going to come through when I’ve been waiting for my situation to change for years. Unrelenting disappointment and hardship from chronic health challenges, difficult family situations, emotional health challenges, the slow progress of children with special needs or whatever affects our faith can make us apathetic toward God. Sometimes we don’t realize that the burdens in our lives have affected our relationship with God so much. What burdens have hardened your heart and made you apathetic? Have you stopped believing that God cares?
Changing an Apathetic Heart – 3 Ways to Rekindle Passion
When I was little, my dad would take my big brother to the batting cages. I always wanted to know what they were doing and where they were going. They would try to sneak out without me, but our apartment was small and it was almost impossible for them to leave without my knowing. I wanted to do whatever they were doing. My dad couldn’t help but bring me along. When we got there, the batting helmet was too big, the ball came too fast, and the bat was too heavy. I don’t think I ever hit one ball – I don’t even like baseball – but I didn’t care. I was with my dad and brother and I would go anywhere and do anything with them. I was passionate about being with them!
Passion is the opposite of complacency and apathy. It is an intense emotion. We can learn the right kind of passion from God:
His leadership will bring such prosperity as you’ve never seen before— sustainable peace for all time. This child: God’s promise to David—a throne forever, among us, to restore sound leadership that cannot be perverted or shaken. He will ensure justice without fail and absolute equity. Always. The intense passion of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, will carry this to completion.
Isaiah 9:7 (Voice)
God looked and saw evil looming on the horizon— so much evil and no sign of Justice. He couldn’t believe what he saw: not a soul around to correct this awful situation. So he did it himself, took on the work of Salvation, fueled by his own Righteousness. He dressed in Righteousness, put it on like a suit of armor, with Salvation on his head like a helmet, Put on Judgment like an overcoat, and threw a cloak of Passion across his shoulders. He’ll make everyone pay for what they’ve done: fury for his foes, just deserts for his enemies. Even the far-off islands will get paid off in full. In the west they’ll fear the name of God, in the east they’ll fear the glory of God, For he’ll arrive like a river in flood stage, whipped to a torrent by the wind of God.
Isaiah 59:15-19 (Message)
When I read about the passion of God, I can’t help but think about a warrior who wins every battle; fearless, relentless and who will go to any length to bring justice. They race toward the enemy, afraid, but unabated. I love the movies where the good guy wins. Yes, they get beat up at first and you know it’s going to happen, but ultimately, their grit and determination win out. From the Rocky movies, to Maze Runner, to Harry Potter, to the Avengers – I love them all, no matter how predictable. At first the hero seems to fail over and over. It all looks hopeless. They appear to be badly beaten, and then at the last minute they figure out how to win, usually with the help of friends and driven by their own passion. They overcome despite all the odds.
God is like that. And he’s fighting for us. He is unrelenting in his passion for what’s right, fighting for those who choose to follow him – even if it’s us that are standing in the way. He wins out every time – what a fantastic warrior! I can envision him watching the injustices all around, strapping on his weapons and sweeping across the sky to fight the battle. Yet we lose our sense of awe and amazement of him so easily.
Here are 3 ways to begin to rekindle your passion for God:
1. Admit apathy
9 Fools don’t care if they sin, but honest people work at being right.
Proverbs 14:9 (NCV)
Do you care about the condition of your heart? Do you let stray thoughts live in your mind? Are you thoughtless in your conversations with others? Do you forget about your friends? Do you see needs and make excuses why you can’t meet them? How hard do you work at being right? The first step to changing anything is admitting where you have been in this area. Try to figure out when and why you stopped caring. Talking about the indifference and apathy can help us want to change.
2. Start somewhere
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.
Galatians 5:24 (AMP)
Perhaps we’re not ready to sweep across the sky in an amazing battle, but we’ve got to start somewhere. Sometimes we actually are passionate, but about the wrong things. Identify the areas where you do have passion and learn to turn those things into passions that God can use. Turn passionate selfishness into service. Turn passionate pride into humility. Turn passionate fear into courage. Find scriptures on each positive attribute and pray to turn it around. Doing something – anything – can only get us closer to a softened heart.
3. Get help from friends
11 It happened that whenever Moses raised his hand, the battle went well for Israel; but whenever he lowered his hand to rest, Amalek began to win.12 When Moses became too tired to hold his hands up any longer, Aaron and Hur took a stone and sat him down on it. Then both men stood beside Moses, one on each side, holding his hands up and keeping them steady until sunset.13 In the end, Joshua and the men of Israel defeated Amalek and his soldiers with the sword.
Exodus 17:11-13 (Voice)
Rarely are people victorious alone. I love this scripture because it shows friends helping Moses during a great battle. I can imagine what it must have been like. Moses was fighting as best he could, but his friends saw that he was getting tired. They knew they needed him in order to win, but he did not have endless strength. He needed his friends. How ingenious it was for them to hold his hands up for him! Do you have friends that help, or do you push them away? Are you one friendship away from winning a victory in your life? Start by letting your friends know how tired you are and let them help!