Fighting the Boredom Bear
If you were to ask marriage counselors what is one of the top reasons that marriages fail they would tell you that boredom leads or is near the top of the list. Oh yes, marriages fail because one partner cheats, one partner falls out of love, one partner leaves - but many times the reason for these actions is boredom.
- A husband gets bored with his life, his wife, his job and he becomes restless and does something reckless and selfish and destroys everything.
- A wife gets bored with the routine, bored with the man she's been married to for 20 years and finds something or someone more interesting.
Of course a wise counselor will not only deal with the cheating or the reckless behavior in trying to save the marriage, the counselor will also try to deal with the boredom that may have led to the actions that hurt the relationship. During the counseling the couple will often be asked to do things and think in ways that will try to put the excitement back into the marriage relationship and beat the boredom bear that threatens to rip them apart.
Well this scenario is often played out in our church life as well. Christians who have been faithful to Christ for 5, 10, 20 years or more begin feeling restless for one reason or another. Maybe they start thinking they're missing something. They've been doing this for so long that the motions are there but the excitement is long gone from those first few years when their faith was on fire.
Many Christians get bored with their Christian lives and quit (cause they're not getting out of it what they first did) or they just get in a rut and go through the motions. Like being married to a person you don't love anymore - been there too long to change or leave so you just stay and make the best of it. Well I don't believe marriages should be like that because God created them to last a lifetime and His intent was not for us to be miserable for the last half of that lifetime.
And I don't believe that Christianity should be boring either, no matter how long you've been a Christian. I know this because in the Bible I see that the men and women who depended on the Lord grew sweeter and more joyful as they grew older - not bored and restless. David said of growing older in the Lord:
12 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green,
15 To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
- Psalm 92:12-15
Christianity is not boring, not when one begins and not when one has been a Christian for 10-50 years. We are eternal, we are being prepared and fitted for life with God and Christ forever in heaven. How can this be boring?
No, what gets boring is sin, illness, ignorance, material things - these become boring with repetition. Ask any sinner if his/her sin does not become boring with repetition and the only way to recreate the excitement is to find new ways and greater ways to sin - until they're exhausted and depressed. Ask any person who suffers from illness, injustice, or limited opportunity because of prejudice, education or skill - their life is repetitious, dull, the boredom is crushing. Speak to any person who truly has material wealth and they will tell you that after awhile things, no matter how beautiful, and fun, - get boring.
The rich are the most easily bored.
But let's face it, because we are human, because we are weak - even though we are Christians we sometimes get bored too (even with the notion that we are God's children being prepared for a heavenly dwelling). For the moment we are on earth and because of this it is not uncommon for the best of us, the most dedicated Christian, to be attacked by the boredom bear.For those who are feeling the bear-hug of boredom, here are a few things to help break free and find that excitement again.
1. Begin with serious prayer and Bible reading
Nothing sparks spiritual life more than fervent prayer. Nothing revives a tired faith like a return to an active prayer life. When couples come for counseling they review their lifestyle and the reasons why their relationship isn't working anymore, one of the primary reasons they find is a lack of meaningful communication.
This is usually the basic reason why our relationship with God also goes flat. We don't communicate in a meaningful way with Him and we don't allow Him to communicate in a meaningful way with us. Hearing someone else lead a prayer at worship service doesn't substitute for a personal prayer life. Saying thank you before meals doesn't do much for total communication between yourself and God.
Just as any serious and satisfying communication between two people requires the sharing of dreams and fears, words of love and passion, acknowledgement of weakness and pain - the talk between ourselves and God must go beyond Simple thank you for favors. Constant asking for help or healing.
We have to begin revealing our true selves, our deepest desires, fears, questions and dreams to the one who truly understands. The psalms are wonderful models for prayer because in them the authors poured their hearts out before God - their anger, hurt, desires, victories, joys and sorrows. They spoke to God about every area of their lives, about every thought that crossed their minds (good and bad) even about things they didn't understand or agree with God about.
We're bored because we don't explore our hearts and minds before God in prayer and we don't explore His heart and mind through Bible study and reading. It's amazing how prayer and Bible reading and study work together to form a spiritual dialogue between ourselves and God. We talk to Him in prayer, He answers through His word as we read and study it.
For years I prayed for God to help me in my ministry and give me confidence and joy in my work. However, it was only when I became a daily bible reader that God answered that prayer. In regular Bible reading I discovered all the ideas and outlines for sermons that I used to worry over in the beginning of my ministry when I was not a regular Bible reader. God's answer was there waiting for me, I just didn't communicate properly by allowing Him to speak to me in this way.
It's the same with us, we don't talk to God, we don't allow Him to talk to us and we feel spiritually dry and bored - no wonder! So the first way to refresh our spirit is allow our spirit to speak to the Lord and drink in His Spirit by reading His word. Great opportunity coming up in the "Prayer & Fasting" weekend where we fast and pray for 24hrs - good place to start!
2. Go beyond the minimum
So many relationships go flat because the partners are just "going through the motions."
- No more little love notes.
- All they talk about is money or the kids.
- She doesn't fix herself up like she use to and he doesn't tell her all the sweet things he liked about her when they were first married.
- Everybody's just "phoning it in" and that gets dull.
Our spiritual life gets that way at times, all we do is the minimum.
- Minimum church attendance.
- Minimum, moral behavior
- I drink but don't get drunk.
- I swear but I don't use the Lord's name.
- I'm sexually active but I don't go all the way.
- I'm a Christian but not so much that anyone would notice and complain.
- Minimum service to the Lord.
- I'll do stuff for the church so long as it doesn't seriously interfere with my earning power or my hobbies.
It's the old story: you get out of something what you put into something. If minimum is what you put in, then minimum is what you get out.
Christianity is not like gambling where you put a little in with the chance of hitting the jackpot.
With Christianity the spiritual life you experience is in direct proportion to the degree of effort you invest. If you're bored with God and Christianity, chances are God is bored with you and your minimum effort. If you want some spiritual excitement try doing something exciting for a change!
- Go beyond your usual giving and give sacrificially for a change.
- Go beyond your usual attendance and actually be here all the time and bring someone for a change.
- Go beyond your usual minimum and go overboard for Christ in the way you act, think, serve, pray, forgive, study, etc.
If you want excitement go out on a limb for the Lord - let Him lead you for a change - try walking by faith. These are the types of things that people like Noah and David and Mary and Paul did and their lives were never dull.
Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Phil. 4:13. We are a people who have been called to do all things, not just the minimum. If our spiritual lives are dull, it's not because God is dull or His Kingdom is dull - it's usually because we've allowed ourselves to become dull by lowering the spiritual bar to the absolute minimum in our lives.
3. Focus on lost souls, not just your soul
When couples are close to divorce and come to me for help, and I begin to question them about what they are doing and thinking - much of the time I find that their attention has been focused exclusively on themselves.
- It's a trap. Things don't go well in a relationship so we blame ourselves or withdraw into ourselves. OR..
- We get used to each other and neglect one another in favor of doing and thinking more about ourselves and our needs.
Our spiritual lives suffer in the same way when we pay more attention to our feelings, our spiritual needs, our soul's comfort instead of the needs of others who have not yet found salvation for their souls.
It's no coincidence that new Christian's are not only the most interested in sharing their faith with others, they are also the most enthusiastic spiritually.
- They are not simply excited about Christ because they are new converts, they are feeding that excitement by sharing the gospel with other people.
- Soulwinning is exciting; no matter how you go about it.
- Ask someone who recently baptized another person after studying with them for several months.
- Ask those who visit the sick, teach a Bible class, or have succeeded in bringing a person to Christ.
- Go ahead - ask them how they feel when they participate in the saving of someone else's soul.
- They feel great!
- They feel excited.
- They feel joyful, thankful, humbled, in awe of God's word and its power.
Many times we want to feel that way simply by sitting in the pew and having the word spoken to us week after week. But the word tells us, and everybody's experience from Pentecost until this day, has been that excitement comes from preaching the word, sharing the gospel, leading others to Christ - not just passive listening to lessons about these things.
Christianity is not like sports where you can get excited by watching; in Christianity you only get excited by playing the game.
So if your spiritual life is dull, if your Christianity is being eaten up by the boredom bear, remember the way to change it around:
- Make serious prayer and Bible reading a priority over T.V. and busy work. Didn't say you can't watch T.V and take care of business. I said make prayer and Bible study a priority, something you'll do first before T.V. or if you only have time for one thing, make it the thing you do instead of the other.
- Start pushing yourself spiritually. Begin making steps to reach higher goals morally and spiritually. Let Jesus Christ become the Lord of your work, your sports, your marriage and watch what happens.
- Try to win a soul for Christ. Use whatever method you can, but make a conscious effort to bring someone to the point where they will become a Christian. You'll find out that whatever they choose to do - you will feel more alive spiritually than you ever have before.
Speaking of excitement, nothing is more exciting than the anticipation that the "invitation" brings. It's the moment when people make decisions about change, new directions, and the rest of us witness either the power of God's word at work or the power of sin resisting the pull of the Holy Spirit. Please remember to pray to God during this moment that souls will be saved (and not just look for car keys and the time left).
The angels will rejoice and the church will be excited and our spirits will be lifted if one sinner comes to Christ today; if one prodigal comes home - if the Lord is calling you now please don't hesitate to come as we stand and sing.