Busting Spiritual Boredom

May 29, 2017 |Eric Demeter
bored girl lying on sofa

Bored with your faith? Here's how to get out of the rut.

Summer is around the corner, and those stuck in the monotony of a boring desk job can release their inner wild child. Let the extreme obstacle races begin. One extreme race, called Tough Mudder, draws thrill-seeking participants who launch themselves into obstacles such as a freezing ice bath (aptly named "Arctic Enema"). Another obstacle, called "Electric Eel," consists of dangling 10,000-volt charged electric wires that runners painfully pass through.

A recent paper published by the Journal of Consumer Research links people with sedentary jobs to obstacle course races. They are bored and frustrated by the lack of stimuli in their lives. According to research, these "knowledge workers" seek out such adventures because the challenges "allow individuals to free themselves from the tedium of the everyday…"Scott, Rebecca, Cayla, Julien, Cova, Bernard (2017). Selling Pain to the Saturated Self, Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 44 (Issue 1), p. 3.

Boredom is part of life and, let's face it, eating hot chili peppers then jumping into a red-colored bath (another obstacle in Tough Mudder) is bound to "spice things up." But what happens when we're bored with our faith — or, dare we say, bored with God? Is there a Tough Mudder for our spiritual lives?

When Boredom Is Something Else

Boredom isn't the same thing as having nothing to do. If it were, it would be tantamount to relaxing. And nobody I know feels relaxed when they're bored. Instead, boredom is often a feeling of frustration. Think about it. When we're bored, we're not enjoying our current state. We'd rather be doing something else — sometimes, anything else! We're irked. Likewise, when we claim to be "bored with God," it often means we're frustrated with Him and dissatisfied in our relationship with Him.

Boredom can also mean we're spiritually stuck. We grow weary of trudging through the mud of the mundane. At other times, we may believe that God's holding out on us. We know exactly what we want, but the Lord isn't delivering.

Frustration, and the accompanying sense that our faith is boring or missing something, can arise from a myriad of sources. Maybe it's caused by prolonged singleness. If this is true, you might relate to the angst in the main character, Jane, in the movie "27 Dresses." She endured an endless string of weddings, but never as the bride.

Maybe you're bored with your faith because you've sat in the church pews since you were a child and now find yourself listening to what seem like recycled sermons after you shuffle into Sunday morning services like a zombie.

In any case, when boredom begins to harden our hearts like cement, it's tempting to find its antidote outside the boundaries of our faith.

The Enticing Alternative

The world and its glitz can be tempting, and much more so when our faith feels drab. Like Las Vegas — called "sin city" — the world seeks to thrill us with the enticement of nonstop excitement. (In the Bible, the term "world" has several meanings. For the purposes of this article, it means the "world order as alienated from God, in rebellion against him, and condemned for its godlessness.")Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, IL, Tyndale House Publishers.

The Apostle John explains it this way: "For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world." (1 John 2:16)

This is the way things work outside of God's ways. It's sin. Some Christians dabble in the world's shallow end while others dive into its deepest parts. It doesn't matter whether you're a new believer or accepted Christ as a toddler, young or old, the world and its ways are alluring.

A few years ago, I was frustrated with the Lord and fell into the world's trap. My faith was stale, like plain, dry toast. Life was bland. Singleness, a boring job and a general angst plagued me. Not realizing how much I had to be thankful for, I went outside of God's will and made some bad choices.

Sadly, history is filled with stories of other Christians, in similarly frustrated states, who went further and made life-altering decisions. One woman I know desired a husband and children so much she married a guy at lightning speed, had a baby, and quickly separated from him. Another believer I'm acquainted with fantasizes about sexual escapades. He's focused on finding fulfillment in selfishness and is ultimately rebelling against God.

Older people can become complacent, too. Recently in the news a 79-year-old great-grandmother from the U.K. felt her life was blasé. She was apprehended for shoplifting after a 39-offense crime spree! When questioned by police officers about why she did it, she simply said, "I was bored, I suppose."Bell, Jess. (2017, January 9) Retrieved from http://www.dailystar.co.uk.

Boredom's Deeper Issue

The roots of why we're bored with God stem from many places. Metaphorically, it could simply be a dry season. Just as changing seasons are out of our control, sometimes there is simply nothing we can do about our current circumstances. At these times we may find ourselves in a "spiritual desert." Such a season could include a nagging health problem, the loss of a relationship, or the monotony of a routine life.

Boredom can also be an issue of faith. We must ask, "Do we really trust God for eternal life, but not with what's next for our life on earth?" Philosopher Dallas Willard once said, "How can we trust God for our eternal salvation but not for the next sandwich?"

Do you see the irony here? If God gave His Son over to an excruciating death to be in relationship with us, how much more can He provide our next meal? (Or any need, for that matter.)

Finally, boredom with your faith could simply be God urging you to turn. Have you ever thought about changing a career, moving to a new location, or joining a new ministry? Frustration with the mundane can drive our discovery of new creative outlets. Did you know the creator of the original solitaire game for Windows was a bored intern at Microsoft? He put his boredom to good use (although he never made any money from it).Farokhmanesh, Megan. (2017, April 13). A Bored Intern Created the Original Windows Solitaire. Retrieved from http://www.theverge.com.

Adventure With God

Christians can certainly enjoy the best gifts God's world offers according to how Scripture outlines our faith. But, much like the young Jedi Luke Skywalker avoided the Dark Side in "Star Wars," we must avoid the world's empty promises. Proverbs 14:12 warns: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." The world is dark, and the way it attempts to "spice up" life is predictable, dull, temporal and destructive. Trust me — my Christian journey didn't begin until my early twenties, so I know. The world's way is a dead end.

The antidote to complacent Christianity is to stay on mission with Christ. William Barclay says, "Jesus promised his disciples three things — that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble."Barclay, William. (1957). The Gospel of LukeIn addition, prophetic minister Graham Cooke points out that Christians should be the most vibrant and colorful people on the planet, and I agree.

A decade ago, my professional life could have been colored with blacks and greys. Although proficient, programming computers using the PHP and SQL languages was never my forte. My office was located in a temperature-controlled arid basement without windows. It was a blessing to have a steady income for five years, but I felt stuck — my heart longed to be in full time ministry.

Around that time, one of my best friends joined a mission organization and began sending me postcards from places like New Zealand, Cambodia and Thailand. They were even delivered to my office — that jerk! His adventures, coupled with my discontentment, inspired me to take the drastic steps of resigning my position, raising support, and moving overseas (after much prayer and godly counsel). I've never regretted it.

A mission abroad could be exactly what the doctor has ordered for you. Or, maybe the prescription for your boredom is closer to home. Your passion is for orphans but you've never acted on it. Or you love teaching the Bible, writing or music ministry but feel unqualified. Find an outlet that stokes your affection for Christ and His purposes in the world and in your life.

Whatever rekindles you, one thing is for certain: A red-hot passion for Jesus while shunning the world's ways will bring untold adventure for the Christian. Go find yours.

Of course, if you like swimming in ice baths, you can always register for an extreme obstacle race, too.

Copyright 2017 Eric Demeter. All rights reserved. 

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