Thursday, April 24, 2014

Struggling through Acedia

Maybe the one or two of you that happen by this blog from time to time have noticed something recently. Or a lack of something. For about the past month, I have sensed in my heart a growing desire for . . . nothing. And this lack of desire has displayed itself in not many blogs.

Yes, from time to time, I have posted a video or two or three about some song or movie that is coming out. But I haven't really cared much about anything and so I haven't written anything about anything. What once concerned me (keeping fresh content on this blog) hasn't really bothered me at all recently. I missed a day, which turned into two days, which turned into a week . . . then two. You get the point.

But honestly, it's been deeper than fresh content on a blog. There has been something in me that hasn't care much about anything. The best word I have heard that describes this feeling is . . .

Acedia 

It is a word that is foreign to most of our vocabularies. It means apathy or boredom. It is a word I have used and talked about with a few people the past year or so, but it hasn't really meant much to me until recently. I was reading a book the other day by Dr. Larry Crabb in which he describes his dealings with acedia. He described his feelings as . . .
"the inability to care deeply about anything, apathy toward opportunities for both pleasure and ministry that once excited me, boredom that drains the spirit of adventure out of life. Acedia greets me nearly every morning . . . Why do I feel so empty, so passionless? Am I afraid? Has some swamp of terror become the breeding ground for the devouring insects of futility? Does a strange fear that I have nothing to offer extinguish my desire to offer anything?" (Fully Alive, pg. 111)
A few weeks ago when I read those words, they resonated with my soul. That was me. That was my feeling. Apathy. Boredom. Drained of any spirit of life. I used to read all the time, but recently . . . no desire. I loved writing, but during this time . . . nothing. I enjoy studying the Bible, but now . . . not so much.

My guess is that not many people knew anything was wrong with me. I functioned as if nothing was wrong. It's not like I was debilitated with a form of depression that left me on the couch with the shades drawn all day. That's not what I'm talking about. I was able to function, I just didn't have any motivation to do much of anything.

I have no doubt that there are some people that would simply tell me to buck up and be joyful in the Lord. Such good advice. "Choose joy!" they would say. I know that's what some people would say because that's what I would say. I can choose joy. I want to choose joy. It's not like I didn't want it. And I certainly had moments in those weeks that were joyful. I was just drained of any adventure in life. I just didn't care much about anything.

After a few weeks of this feeling in my heart, I had to reach out to a few guys from the church. As I talked to them about it, there was one trigger that kept coming up in the conversation. I couldn't wait until my next week when I didn't have to preach. I began looking ahead and thinking, "three weeks until I don't have to preach; two more sermons and then I get a week off; I can't wait until next week." That is never a good sign. 

As I reflected back, I had preached for sixteen straight weeks. Many preachers excel in this, but it is not good for my soul. It's not good for my heart as the sermon becomes academic. When it becomes academic, it becomes something to do instead of something I am. I simply go through the motions. My recent words of counsel to a friend of mine haunted me as I had encouraged him to take more time out of the pulpit, for the sake of his church and for the good of his soul. Laymen might not get this; I think most preachers will.

And so I had a week off of preaching the week before Easter as our team from Cambodia shared about their trip. And it was amazing how much better I felt. I remember sitting there on Saturday night thinking, "I'm so glad I'm not preaching tomorrow." And since that week off, I have sensed more excitement in my heart to read, to write, to be curious about the lives of others. I have had more of a desire to study for my sermon; not for the sermon, but to learn about God. I have felt more a sense of community with the Lord. 

I know I have sort of rambled through this. But hopefully it will help someone who is struggling with Acedia. I have no doubt that Acedia (a lack of care) can be a direct result of sin in someones life. But I think it also can be a result of burnout. Tiredness. And so whether you need to repent or take some time away from the rigors of life, I pray you find hope. Even if the hope is found in the middle of your hopelessness. 

2 comments:

  1. Thad - I had noticed that you were not updating your blog much but I just wrongly assumed that you were living the normal American Christianity(crazy busy) life and right now blogging was down on the list or you ran out of gas and went to go get some more. Your Good Friday message was better than a weeks’ worth of blogs for me - thank you for that message. To add an AMEN to your - I pray you find hope. Even if the hope is found in the middle of your hopelessness.
    Hope in the middle of hopelessness -
    Spurgeon says -
    Without Christ there is no hope.
    Do not look to your hope, but to Christ, the source of your hope.

    The web site - hopefaithprayer.com has some good encouragement about having hope in hopelessness and depression.
    Scriptures Against Hopelessness
    These scriptures on hopelessness will give you hope and will build your faith. Confess and meditate on them to win the fight against hopelessness. The whole fight is about not losing Hope. Allow the hope of God to flow into you. Remember, there is a real Person (God) behind each and every one of these promises. He promised them to you for a reason – to help you. Depression is the emotional result of hopelessness. Joy is the emotional result of hope. Peace is the emotional result of faith.
    God’s hope encourages, motivates, and keeps you on the road to faith, peace, and victory. Hopelessness breeds and creates the ‘feeling‘ of depression. Fight it with the Word of God. And if you suffer from deep ongoing depression, PLEASE READ THIS – Helping Others Is God’s Prescription for Depression. Send me a comment, we love you and we want to help you. You are important and you have value. You will get out of this hole.
    Anyone who is among the living has hope. Ecclesiastes 9:4
    No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame. (Psalm 25:3)
    You are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:5)
    Those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. (Psalm 37:9)
    Why are you downcast, o my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5)
    In your name I will hope, for your name is good. (Psalm 52:9)
    Find rest, o my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5)
    You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. (Psalm 65:5)
    But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. (Psalm 71:14)
    I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:74)
    Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. (Psalm 119:116)
    For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.(Romans 15:4)
    May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
    Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. (2 Corinthians 3:12)
    I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19)
    There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called– one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, whois over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
    May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ form the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)

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