All alone, I found myself aimlessly wandering up and down a quiet and empty shoreline. My skin longed for the sweet caress of warm and vitalizing rays of sunshine, yet when I looked up I found nothing but deep, dark clouds of disappointment. The dismal sky above had been teasing us with the possibility of moisture for days. Oh, how we needed it. But instead of big luscious drops of hydration, the air was pregnant with thirst. Most of the daily outdoor activity had come to a halt, as everyone awaited a forecasted rainstorm that seemed it would never come.
Finally, I decided to plop down on the sand. I stared out blankly at the vast ocean before me. The shallow water on this side of the island made for the most subtle waves. You could easily float on them without being disturbed by water flooding in and out of your nostrils. There was something very anticlimactic about the scene around me. It felt like a perfect reflection of what I felt inside.
Empty. Flat. Stagnant.I imagined myself floating out on that water. Not being pushed any which way by the waves, just sort of suspended in space and time. I longed for something to reach out and push me. Something that would startle me out of this lifeless sleep that was pulling me under its tide. I knew something needed to change. I didn’t feel like myself. I just couldn’t seem to care enough to do something about it.
In my heart, I cried out for help. At the time, I wasn’t sure if anyone could hear me. I wasn’t even sure what kind of help I needed. I just knew I was sinking fast into detachment. I squinted my eyes, imagining a ship appearing out in the distance and making its way towards the shore, carrying with it the drive and enthusiasm I once felt for life. I knew what was happening to me. My spirit was growing dim, I was slipping into apathy. I needed the life-bringing rays of sunshine just as much as I needed the rains cleansing and reviving waters.
What is Spiritual Apathy?
The definition of apathy is a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. So spiritual apathy is (you guessed it), a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern about God or your spirituality. It is a dimming of the spirit, a growing coldness in the heart.
Have you ever found it difficult to find the drive to pursue a relationship with God? Have you ever found yourself caring less and less about your spiritual health and growth?
Perhaps at one time, you were burning with love and devotion to God. Perhaps there was once a time when you felt your spirit thriving and shining brightly, but now you just feel sort of indifferent. Maybe it’s not that you don’t believe in God, or desire to feel that way again, but you feel detached or distant and unsure of how to get back to the place you once were. It can feel scary to feel unconcerned about that which deep down, you know is most important. Maybe your spiritual practices just aren’t capturing your heart like they once did. Times like these can feel like an uphill battle, and it can be easy to want to give up.
So what do we do when these times come? Because they always do. No one is exempt from the dangers of spiritual apathy. It can hit for so many different reasons; whether that be grief, loss, lack of purpose or meaning, triviality, insecurity, doubt, fatigue, illness, and so many others.
We live in a world where the trivial has become most important, and the most important has turned trivial. It is no wonder the human race has become so infected with apathy. Value and focus have been placed on money, fame, and achievement, while our identity as divine creatures of God seems all too often forgotten.
If you are struggling with spiritual apathy, know that you are not alone. It is common to experience seasons of detachment and to lose interest in God and spirituality. To move past it, the first step is to recognize it is happening. The second is to release any shame you might feel about it. Find compassion for yourself and the journey you are on. Releasing judgment is the first and most important step to moving out of any emotional (or emotionless) state. As you are working on bringing compassion into the situation, here are some tips that I’ve found to be helpful when moving through apathy.
Refocus on What Matters
Pay attention to what you are focusing on. Is your mind filled with trivial things? Perhaps it’s a good time for a break from social media, watching the news, or technology in general. When the less important things replace the most important, we quickly lose sight of our true purpose here and the real meaning of life. It is incredible how refreshing it can be for the spirit to step away from the things of this world for a time and recenter on the things of God.
This is why I find the sabbath to be such a beautiful concept. It is a beautiful concept to set aside one day a week to unplug from the world, and just be with God. It’s like plugging in your spiritual battery to be recharged. When we don’t do that enough, we lose power. It only makes sense that our spirits start to feel weak when we aren’t giving ourselves the proper spiritual nourishment. This leads me to my next tip.
Nourish Your spirit
This can be tricky because when apathy starts to set in the desire to do the things that feed your spirit diminishes. This is the moment where you get to choose to “fight the good fight”. Luckily you don’t have to do it all at once, it only requires one small step. But first, you must get clear on the things that uniquely feed your spirit. That can look different for everyone. It could be waking up early to watch the sunrise, or taking a walk out in nature. Perhaps it’s meditating, journaling, creating something, or reading a spiritual text such as the Bible.
And then of course there is the most important one: prayer. Or in other words, getting alone with God and talking to him directly. This can be the hardest one. It can feel challenging, and even painful or scary to face God at times. That is often because we feel inadequate, or ashamed about who we are. Knowing that there is nothing we can hide from God, it can feel deeply vulnerable to be seen in our nakedness. And yet, when we realize how unconditionally we are loved by our creator, to be seen so entirely and loved so fully can be the most freeing experience a person can have.
Once you have decided what your small step will be, you can pray for God to enable you to take it and continue taking steps forward. Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. You are also not meant to do this alone. You get to rely on the strength of an almighty God. I find it important to remind myself that I don’t have to rely on my own strength to get myself out of seasons of apathy. Doing so takes a lot of the pressure off.
Get Out and Serve
I have found getting outside of myself and seeking opportunities to serve others to be one of the most healing balms for spiritual apathy. Sometimes, apathy comes just because I have been focusing too much on myself. It might take some forceful effort at first, but it is amazing what service can do for the soul. It increases the love you feel for others as well as yourself, and therefore opens up your heart to feel God’s love more clearly too. There’s a reason selfless service is a core principle in so many faith traditions. It does something important for our spiritual health. It brings lasting joy and restores purpose to our life.
“Consider Your Ways”
Sometimes it’s just time for a good examination of your life. Is there something that is draining your spirit that you have been ignoring? Perhaps you are giving energy to things that don’t uplift you, whether that be certain media, relationships, or activities. Perhaps there is an unresolved conflict in your life that is hurting your spirit much more than you might have realized. Apology or forgiveness is another one of those healing balms that restore life and vigor to one's spiritual life. God wants us to love and take care of each other. It’s his whole message. When we restore love in our relationships, we create more space for God to exist in and influence our lives.
Body, Mind, Spirit
The body, mind, and spirit are inseparably connected. When one is suffering, the others will also feel the impact. Understanding this can be insightful. For example, looking at your relationship with food or sleep and working at improving it can largely improve your spiritual health too. Sometimes what’s hurting our spirit is a lack of healthy, nourishing food needed to fuel our bodies. Perhaps a little too much processed food in your diet is keeping you in a state of feeling generally unwell- body, mind, AND spirit. Or maybe all you need is a little more sleep to regain the energy you once had to pursue God. All of these things play a part in our mental, physical, and spiritual health. It is hard to feel spiritual vigor when we feel run down all of the time.
You Are Loved
Know that wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are perfectly loved and embraced. God is eternally patient and compassionate towards your experience. Because of that, he would want you to be patient and compassionate towards yourself too. That being said, he does not want you to stay where you are. He knows your potential and divine destiny, and he will never give up helping you realize it. You are designed to be in an intimate relationship with your creator, to know him, and feel known by him. Pursuing this relationship will enable you to continue to thrive and discover greater spiritual heights. He yearns to be near to you and wants nothing more than to help you rise above that which burdens and weakens you. Don’t give up. Know that this too shall pass. Take it one step at a time, and trust that God can and will breathe life back into your spirit if you are diligent in your efforts.