Spiritually Apathetic?

Throughout the year, I observe questions from college students.  This really shouldn’t be a surprise since I work with college students… and they adore me (sarcasm anyone??).  This is the fourth installment of the semi-annual series of posts of questions from students with my responses. Here is another question posed by a student; and then my response.*

At the beginning of the summer I was on fire and growing like crazy, but as the days drew on I read (the Bible) less and slept more, it became a chore which it shouldn’t. So it showed me that I am not strong enough by myself and when I try to do things by myself I fall flat on my butt.

So where I am right now it still feels like a chore, I need some direction in reading the Word.

I don’t know what to read, when I try to pick something random it doesn’t go well and I just end up skimming it or I end up reading something that I have already read and skim that.  I actually woke up early today to read and it was really good, because I happened to stumble upon something pertinent to me right now. And I think that it seems like a chore not because I don’t want to do it, but because I spend so much time flipping trying to find what to read and I just get frustrated

I want to go deep and have it permeate all I do, say and think…

So that’s where I am, anything to help?

A couple of initial responses, then a few suggestions.

It is absolutely not uncommon for someone like yourself (and even me) to go through periods and times where reading the Bible, praying, meditating on Scripture, singing songs to him, reading books about him, looking at art of him – sometimes our love for all that (& him) just goes cold.  It’s frightening really.  Scary even (at least for me).  I mean, we’ve been taught and thought all our lives that our love for Jesus should never grow cold – and those that are lukewarm will be spit out…  So, we try not to even have a hint of that mess in our lives so we won’t be vomited out by Jesus.  Yet, there still remains moments in which we grow cold.

Again, for me at least – it’s quite frightening.  I don’t like it; thus, I fight it.  But more often than not, I continue to grow cold to the things of the Lord and I arrive at a place where I didn’t want to be in nor desire from the beginning to be at.  I think you coined it as “fall flat on your butt.” What then happens is that we feel guilty.  Like big-time guilty… along with a laundry list of frustration.

So, how do we prevent the reading of Scripture; praying; loving Jesus; etc. from becoming a chore.  Besides, nobody LIKES folding laundry, but the know they must, or the room’s going to be in a big mess.  But still… how?

For me, I ask my self constantly this question: “What stirs my affections for Jesus?” (BTW – this question was something I heard Matt Chandler speak towards a long time ago and found similar things on his list that are on mine w/o hearing his list… it was actually quite weird when he listed things that were eerily similar.  He recently posted about this very sermon and you can see what he says at www.dwelldeep.net).

Then I made a list of things that stir my heart’s affections for Jesus:

1. Early mornings and a cup of coffee (splenda and cream please).
-I found that the world is most quiet in the morning hours.  This took some time of adjustment; I mean, I had to go to bed earlier.
2. Listening to Abby sing.
-There is something profound that happens in my heart when she sings to Jesus.  In fact, hearing her sing stirred in my heart before I really even knew her – her voice is glorious.
3. Reading dead mens’ words.
-This is actually something I started after I graduated Seminary.  I purchased John Owen’s entire works and after reading Scripture in the morning, I’ll read a chapter, a page, a paragraph or sometimes just a sentence and there is something that this dead man says that makes my heart more affectionate for Jesus.
4. Walking through Graveyards.
-This was a practice I had early in college inspired by a friend who is studying in Scotland right now.  Walking among the graves truly reminds me of how quick I’m going to go when I go.  (really, it puts me in my place).
5. Being physically active.
-For me recently, it’s been riding my bike.

In his blog post, Chandler includes something else that I hadn’t really thought about.  He listed things that distract him from his affections being stirred.  So, I think is another good step to take, figure out what distracts your affections from Jesus:

1. Staying up late (on tv or online)
– this goes along with waking up early… and coffee.
2. Playing mindless games on a system (PS2, etc) or phone.
3. Sports (too much of it)
4. Being Lazy
5. Sin.

I would first suggest looking at your life and seeing what things stir your heart, what distracts.  What I think you’ll realize is that your list will/may look drastically different from my list or even Chandlers.  That’s okay.  We all tick differently.

ALTHOUGH – I’m afraid that I may not have really answered your original question… so let’s refresh ourselves:

“I need some direction in reading the word.”

Any time I’m at a frustrating point in doing anything like painting, tie-ing my shoes, building something, reading Scripture… I typically just give up.  I’m a quitter.  So, here’s some things that I do to help me when I’m faced with feeling like giving up:

1. I pray.

-Pretty typical I know, and not even really that surprising that I’d say… “you should pray.” But maybe your prayer is something along these lines: “Jesus, help me by the power of your Holy Spirit to receive that which I read; to hear what you’re saying;  to obey where I’m not; to grow in new and profound ways; and to see you more glorious than before.”

2. I begin in a book (of the Bible).

– typically a Pauline Epistle that tends to be shorter than an OT book like Numbers.  Or a shorter gospel like Mark – that is quick, gives details, and is rich in stories about Jesus… also Mark is chronological.  Don’t read the entire deal, just maybe a section at a time, maybe a paragraph, a line; a sentence – and think on it, ask questions about what you read.  Maybe even write it down so you can carry it around.  Here is a link to a place where there is a litany of Bible Reading Plans for you to even consider if you want more structure GO HERE.

3.  I journal about what I’ve read.

-There is nothing that helps me more than to process what I’ve read through.  It may be questions you have about the text.  It may be insights gained from the text.  Within this journaling experience, review how what you’ve read can change you and is changing you.

4. I Memorizing Scriptures.

-Maybe start with passages of the the gospel: 2 Cor. 5:21Rom. 8:31-34Is. 53:3-6Rom. 3:23-26Rom. 5:6-111 Cor. 15:1-11.  When I begin to memorize it seems to stick with me throughout the day rather than just at the beginning of the day (or end if you like).

5. I remember that in the end, I’m not the teacher of Scriptures, I’m the learner.

-When I place myself below the Scriptures I tend to learn a whole lot more.  I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not the one at the top of the food chain, Jesus is.  So, he’s the teacher, I’m the disciple.  Here’s a quote from www.theResurgence.com on this whole subject: “Because Jesus humbly entered into history as a human being, He had to grow and learn just like we do (Luke 2:52). Subsequently, when we see Jesus frequently quoting Scripture from memory throughout His life, we must infer that He spent considerable amounts of time hearing Scripture, reading Scripture, studying Scripture, and memorizing Scripture.”

Hope this helps.  Let me know if you need any clarification or desire to meet.

for his glory,


*this is a re-post from October 31,2008