How can I light a fire and get you engaged and active in wanting to grow when you don’t really seem that interested? You’re “eh,” “meh,” and “whatever.” What could shake you out of apathy and indifference? What could shake you out of plodding along through life, going through the motions in your Christianity?
There’s no magic answer of course. But let me share a couple of things that I’ve found that have affected my own lethargy and apathy. First of all, I often look at myself in light of the seven deadly sins. (These are actually the seven daily sins, things that are endemic to what it means to be a human being!) The one that always gets me is sloth (Latin: acedia).
Sloth doesn’t just mean you’re just sitting around watching TV all day, popping bonbons. Sloth also means indifference. Feeling apathetic. Sloth says, “I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter. What’s the use? Whatever.” It’s a pretty accurate characteristic of the modern era, a mild cynicism that questions whether or not anything really matters.
The thing is, everything actually does matter. It matters a whole lot. The tiniest things we do, the most careless words we say, the smallest act of kindness towards another person—all these things actually count. We live in God’s world. From God’s perspective, there’s nothing we do that’s outside his concern or gaze.
Think of how Jesus chose to single out giving a glass of cold water to somebody who is thirsty, and talked about how you won’t lose your reward in heaven when you do something that small. He thought that spotting someone else and serving them in some small way really, really mattered. It’s the opposite of indifference because someone else’s need matters to the point that you put yourself out.
Also, let’s think about the way in which people who are apathetic also often complain and grumble. We can become negative, mildly sour, skeptical about stuff that happens. You know, in the Bible, the people of Israel were killed for grumbling! It was a death-sentence crime to grumble, because God is truly good, and we lose sight of that when we become absorbed in our own needy desires.
We forget, but God doesn’t forget. Grumbling matters before him. He is continually calling for us to wake up and remember. He reminds us not to fall asleep or lose sight of what it’s all about. He says, “Don’t forget who you are, and don’t forget who I am.” Don’t forget that everything we do and say actually matters. Every careless word or unthinking comment actually matters, and our God is committed to touch us right down to the throw-away comments, the casual bad attitudes and “whatevers” that can so degrade our lives into apathy.
Human life—every choice, every thought, every word, every deed, and every attitude—really, truly matters. As you awaken to that, you awaken to the fact that you really need help. You’re able to say, “God, I really need you. I need your strength. I need your forgiveness. Give me the grace to care about things that really matter.”
Dr. David Powlison is Professor of Counseling at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and President of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF).