Apathy can feel like an empty void, and it can come in many shapes and sizes. Disinterest in social interactions. Sleeping in until 11am. A disheveled appearance. Lack of motivation or drive to pursue excellence. Half-hearted efforts or attempts at tasks. A nonchalant attitude towards life and people.
Apathy is an easy pit to fall into and it can feel near impossible to climb out. It can enslave you, as it kills all motivation to climb out of the void. Even though apathy is a non-emotion, it is powerful and can bind you. It’s scary to feel as if you may never care again. Apathetic people suffer greatly because their philosophy circles around the idea that they will never have the ability to strive for, or attempt to, find a way out. It is a dangerous state, as any motivation to get out is absent. With a numb heart, it is nearly impossible to desire change. Apathy can also root itself in self-worth. If you don’t believe what you have to say is worth hearing, or what you do will be successful by society’s standards, it can paralyze you.
Fortunately for us, God cares even when we don’t.
If you struggle with apathy, you may be thinking, “OK, well how am I supposed to bring myself out of this rut when my problem is feeling disconnected and detached.” And I agree. As someone who struggles with apathetic and self-destructive thoughts, I am constantly being told that I need to pull myself out of my hesitant state with its perceived obstacles…but with no real idea of how to do it. Apathy can have such a strong hold of us because it disconnects us from the engine that fuels change. As difficult as it is, it is so important to realize that as believers, we are not stuck in this space and mindset. We have a God who cares! We have a God who is anything but apathetic toward us and our circumstances. God says in Isaiah 41:10, “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” This does not sound like a God who will turn His back on us.
Burnout could be the cause of apathy. Sometimes, we just need to take a break. Thoughts like, “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t care” could be occurring because you’ve reached your limits. Enter the Sabbath. Thankfully, God loves rest and He loves it when we rest in Him.
While “escape behaviours” may foster short-lived rest, healthy activities can combat burnout through exploring nature, engaging in enjoyable recreation or simply practicing gratitude. As David repents in Psalms 51:10, he says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Perhaps a simple prayer to God asking for Him to renew your strength and grant you a heart willing to persevere will press the refresh button.
Apathy can come from a place of wanting to feel secure and safe within a comfort zone. This creates an illusion that we can avoid standing for anything, that making assertions that “go against the grain” are unacceptable. “I don’t care” and “Nothing matters” are increasingly popular sayings, as the apathetic sneer in the face of the passionate. But it is OK to care and it is OK to step outside the box and speak up, even if everyone scoffs at you.
Relying on Community.
Sometimes, it’s alright to rely on your community. God has created us as relational beings who have community around to help us when we can’t seem to do things ourselves. In his article, “How God Cares for Those Who Don’t,” Paul Maxwell says, “Sometimes we need other people to believe for us. And sometimes the apathetic need other people to care on their behalf for a little while.” There is no shame in turning to a loved one and asking for help because often, accountability is what we need for a little motivation.
It is Only a Season.
Your apathy does not scare God. Everything that your apathy may embody, God embodies the opposite. He is purposeful, lasting, diligent, and ambitious. He never gives up the pursuit of your heart, even if you are stuck in a dry season. Maxwell says, “We have a guarantee: Apathy is a season. God will not let us not care forever.”
A simple verse to memorize and repeat to yourself when you feel apathy’s paralyzing effects creep in, comes from Psalms 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”