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God's Not Mad at You
Blindness and Boredom

Blindness and Boredom

JULY 8, 2020

/ Articles / Blindness and Boredom

Do you ever get tired of religion? What about bored with Jesus?

If you’ve hung out with Jesus for very long, you know exactly why I’m asking that question. Believe it or not, Christians have asked that question for hundreds of years. It refers to a reality, and its formal name is “acedia.” 

Acedia is one of the seven deadly sins (in case you want to repent, the others are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, and wrath). Sometimes acedia is falsely labeled as sloth. The word “acedia” is from a Latin word sometimes translated as “grief.” Acedia is a loss of spiritual passion and not even caring about that loss. It’s when we run out of spiritual gasoline. The flame that once burned brightly is now just a flicker. The gold that once shined brightly is now dim.

John 9 is about a man who was literally blind and Jesus healed him. But, as with much of Scripture, it is also a metaphor for acedia, the listlessness that is often a part of the normal experience of every Christian (except those who lie about it).

Jesus and his disciples were going about their business when they saw a man begging. He was blind and had been that way from birth. The disciples said to Jesus, “Man, he must have screwed up bad or maybe it was his parents.” Jesus replied that that was nonsense. The man was blind so that the works of God would be displayed in the blind man.

Then Jesus called the blind man over, spit on the ground and made mud, put it on the man’s eyes, and told him to go and wash it off in the pool called Siloam. When the man came back, he could see. People were blown away. His neighbors asked, “What happened to you?” He replied that he wasn’t exactly sure, but a man named Jesus anointed his eyes with mud and told him to wash it off…and now he could see.

You would think that everybody would rejoice, dance, and speak in tongues. You won’t believe what happened next. The religious leaders got involved and they felt that the miracle was…well…unseemly, and not done decently and in order. They pointed out that Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath and godly people simply didn’t do things like that on the Sabbath. So they called the man in and asked him what happened. He told them. When they asked who he thought Jesus was, he replied, “he’s probably a prophet.” The leaders said, “no way,” and then they kicked him out and asked to see his parents…which scared the spit out of them because they knew they could be kicked out of the church for disagreeing with the church leadership. The parents said, “We don’t know anything. Yeah, he’s our son. He was born blind and now he can see. Why don’t you ask him about it? He’s an adult.”

So, can you believe this? The religious leaders brought the formerly blind man back in and asked him to describe what had happened. Lawyers shouldn’t ask questions unless they already know the answers. They made a big mistake. This healed blind man didn’t give a rip if they cast him out of the church (he had absolutely no respect for the clergy). He said, “I already told you…mud, washing in the pool, and now I can see.” They told him, “If you can really see, don’t give the credit to this charlatan. Give the credit to God.”

“Okay,” he said, “but I know one thing. I was blind and now I can see, so there!” And they kicked him out of the church.

But Jesus found him. (Jesus often looks for and comes to people who have been kicked out of the church or from any other place, for that matter. Jesus is attracted to marginalized people.) Jesus loved him and the man worshiped Jesus.

The religious leaders had followed the man and overheard what happened. They said to Jesus, “Do you think we’re blind?” Jesus said, “Duh.”

That’s the story with some minor editorial additions. Now let’s take that story and see what it says about our boredom, our blindness, and our acedia. 

If you’re blind and can’t see or if you’re spiritually bored and can’t get “un-bored,” what should you do?

If you’re blind and can’t see or if you’re spiritually bored and can’t get “un-bored,” what should you do?

The answer is simple: Absolutely nothing. And above all, for God’s sake, don’t do anything religious…because that sometimes makes it worse.

Trying to fix acedia is like saying to a blind man, “If you would just see, you wouldn’t be blind.” Or to a drowning man, “If you would just swim, you wouldn’t drown.” Or to a bored person, “Just don’t be bored.” It just doesn’t work that way. Boredom is hard to fix. Blindness is hard to fix. So give it up.

There are, though, some things that will help.

This whole story is an actual incident, but it is also a metaphor for how Jesus deals with the dark in a lot of ways.

Kiss the “demon” of acedia on the lips. 

The blind man said, “I was as blind as a bat.” Now that doesn’t sound like much, but he had accepted it and was begging in the streets.

Acedia may not be fixable, but it still should be named.

I have a rock musician friend who at a concert after a worship song as everyone swayed and lifted their hands in response, asked, “How many of you raised your hands, but didn’t feel a thing, and were faking it?” Two thirds of the young people admitted that they had done that.

There are two basic touchstones of the Christian faith. The first touchstone is joy¾as Christians, we can hear the music and dance, but those without faith can’t even hear the music. The second touchstone is lament.

The Bible is full of lament. Lamentations is a book of lament¾real lament over real pain, real rejection, and real sorrow, and a complaint against a God who won’t show.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25-26).

So wait and be still. And for God’s sake, don’t deny that it hurts.

Ask Jesus to deal with the “demon” of acedia.

The blind man was in the right place. He was with Jesus. He did all that Jesus told him to do, even if he didn’t understand.

We recently got a new German shepherd, Annie. The trainers spent three days training us (I just wanted them to leave). All I want from my shepherds is to come when I tell them to come, to fetch when I tell them to fetch, to sit when I tell them to sit, and to kill when I tell them to kill. Other than the kill command, Annie is perfect. (I’m just waiting for a thief to break in to check on that kill command.)

Annie is big dog. Initially we had a way-too-small water bowl. In fact, she would finish drinking the water in that bowl in two gulps. Do you know what Annie does when she doesn’t have water? She just stands by the water bowl and waits. Annie doesn’t yelp, whine, or bark. She just stands there by the water bowl until I notice.

That’s what we’re called to do, to stand by the water bowl.

Don’t whine, just stand by the water bowl.

Just as I’m aware of Annie and her thirst, Jesus is aware of you and every event in your life. The absence is from his hand.

Thomas à Kempis prayed, “Sometimes thou dost withdraw thyself from us…that we might know the sweetness of thy presence.”

When Jesus deals with the “demon” of acedia, tell everybody you know.

I love the way the blind man told everybody that he was blind and now he could see. He didn’t know it, but he was accomplishing what believers are supposed to accomplish.

Don’t waste your sin. Don’t waste your resources. Don’t waste your acedia.

A while back a staff person passed along an email to me from a woman in California I had never met. Without going into details, her situation was very dark and sad, and she wrote that she had no hope. I wrote her back, and started praying for her and did so for weeks. When I asked the staff person if we had ever heard back from her, she said, “Didn’t I tell you? She wrote back, thanked us for our prayers, and said that the light had come and she was going to make it.”

Do you know what I felt? I was so pleased that I almost danced.

We owe our brothers and sisters in Christ not only honesty about our pain, but we also owe them honesty when that pain stops. That’s how we encourage one another.

We also owe the world that honesty.

Nobody forgives like he forgives, nobody loves like he loves, and nobody restores like he restores. The world needs to know that.

When the “demon” of acedia comes back (and it will because it’s a normal part of the Christian life), be still and remember that Jesus will find you.

Jesus found the blind man.

I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve slipped into the dark more times than I can remember. Let me tell you what I’ve discovered. Not once has the light failed to shine.

Remember this about both of us. When we’re down, we think we’ll always be down. And when we’re up, we think we’ll never be down again. That is simply not true. That is why we should “never doubt in the dark what God has taught us in the light.”

I once saw a cartoon that showed the prodigal son kneeling before his father with the caption, “Okay, but we have already cooked four fatted calves.”

I love the story Jesus told about the prodigal son, but let me tell you something I know from experience. The prodigal son went back to the pig farm. We always do. But maybe he didn’t stay as long as before…because he never forgot the taste of the wine and the laughter of the party.

Read more from Steve here

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

Steve is the Founder of Key Life Network, Inc. and Bible teacher on the national radio program Key Life.

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