“A sleepy soul is already an ensnared soul. That soul that will not watch against temptations will certainly fall before the power of temptations. Satan works most strongly on the imagination when the soul is drowsy.” —Thomas Brooks
The Cambridge Dictionary defines apathy as a “lack of interest or the attitude of not caring resulting from it. Behavior that shows no interest or energy and shows that someone is unwilling to take action, especially over something important.”
Does my heart respond with anticipation at the sound of my Savior’s voice? Or is its response a mere shrug of the shoulders or indifference to His voice? Apathy is rampant. Apathy means “I don’t care.” It’s not the same as ignorance (“I don’t know”), complacency (“I am satisfied with my current status”), or laziness (“I don’t want to do anything”). But spiritual apathy is deadly for the soul. Speaking through the prophet Hosea, God rebuked the Israelites for spiritual apathy: “But when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me.” (Hosea 13:6)
How could they forget the God who delivered them from Egypt and fed them in the wilderness? It seems spiritual apathy can creep in unnoticed, even when God is working in powerful ways.
In the New Testament, James reveals the problem of spiritual apathy when he says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). Notice that the problem is not ignorance, since he knows what to do, but apathy—he doesn’t care. To get comfortable. To get entangled in worldly pursuits. To get away from serving your King and the hope of Heaven. To lose sight of the mission and vision. Apathy is a dangerous component of spiritual fatigue.
Spiritual apathy can be tricky because it takes root in places we can’t even see; it’s very subtle. It’s hard to pinpoint. It’s the precursor to sin because it dulls our hearts from desiring Jesus. Identifying it is the first step to unrooting it.
Here’s the antidote to apathy:
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:9–13, ESV)
Look at the middle of this passage, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
Sure, it doesn’t say “Do not be apathetic” in plain English, but it does tell us to not be slothful in zeal, which is essentially the same thing, “zeal” being passion, the opposite of apathy. Instead, Paul writes to be fervent in spirit and to serve the Lord.
Look again at Romans 12: 9-13 from The Message:
9–10 “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.”
11–13 “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.”
The way to combat apathy and the way to reignite your passion for Jesus is to do the very thing that apathy is trying to deter you from. Press into the spirit. Serve the Lord. Read the Bible. Pray. Worship. Get into a trusted community of believers that can see apathy in you and is not afraid to point it out with grace and truth.
The best way to fight apathy is to strong-arm it into submission. You have to push past your self-centered desire and reorient your attention to Jesus. Apathy gives you an excuse to sin, which leads to unrighteousness, guilt, shame, and condemnation.
The answer to spiritual apathy is a faithful and diligent routine of devoting time to Jesus and serving Him.
When we lose our passion or neglect our first love, God, in His tender mercy and grace, doesn’t go anywhere. He doesn’t abandon you, betray you, or desert you. Instead, He weeps and grieves with you, welcoming you back with arms open wide, saying, with a gentle whisper, “I missed you.”
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