Apathy- The Final Death Blow
Nineteen years old should have been the high point of my young adult life. I had chosen my career and was in college for my nursing license, attaining decent grades there. I was in reasonably good physical health, owned my own car, and enjoyed an independence that many of my peers did not know. However, it was not a time of satisfaction for me, but instead a time of bitter survival. In fact, it was one of the worst times of my life.
You see, by that age I had already almost died due to both the cruel acts of some and the apathy of others. It was not the criminal acts of violence that nearly did me in, it was the careless words of condemnation I received afterwards, by those who should have cared. This put me into a shock so deep that it took me months to begin to recover from, only to receive more blows before I could get my bearings. By that time, I could trust no one and I felt utterly alone. I felt so alone because these acts came from people I would have never expected them to come from: the people closest to me and a group of people from whom ordinarily I should have rightfully expected a decent standard of caring and conduct: Christians. Church-going, seemingly Spirit-filled, Christians!
The people who failed me the most did not include my immediate family, thank God. In fact, without the remembrance of my earthly father's love for me I would have certainly committed suicide. They did not include ALL of my acquaintances, thank God, because one of those acquaintances intervened and stayed up with me all night, night after night, for a week's time, until I was no longer suicidal. These people did not even include God Himself, though He is not a person here on earth and though I was certain that He too, had abandoned me. For according to the Christian acquaintance who had intervened, it was God Himself who supernaturally notified him of the urgency of my troubles. But even though I had this last minute evidence of God's care, and even though I was observed to be a very strong, Biblically knowledgeable and faith-filled Christian prior to all of this, I still almost died. When it came down to it, it was that one person on earth who accepted God's call and who heeded it, that one person who cared, that one person to whom I owe my life to.
A God in the sky without any evidence of His love and care through others here on earth is not always enough. It is simply not enough. If a Christian church and a Christian fellowship has by and large lost its salt, it is useless and the people therein can be more of a curse than a blessing. And that is how the actions of the many can kill, whereas the care of one can save, even in the most unlikely of settings.
In my case, if one were to think all was well after my almost suicide was prevented, it was not. But that would take more specifics, and it would include the very real effect all of it had on my friends and family, in spite of my efforts to prevent such effect. Nevertheless from that time on, I had a deeply personal and lasting impression of the kind of damage the combination of cruelty and apathy brings. It was something I could never forget no matter how many times I forgave. It was something that taught me that the illusion of wholeness and health without the kindness of others is just an illusion. It was something that taught me that it is religious nonsense to expect superhuman strength and faith in all of our darkest hours. Why, even John the Baptist questioned Jesus, and even Jesus sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. If they had a moment like that, then who are we to say we are better?
After twenty years, I am sad to say that negligence and non-compassion still vexes the Body of Christ. Our unhealthy fellowships cause deaths and woundings, and in denial of that fact, refuses support to those who have been crippled (Prov. 11:9; 15:4; 18:14; 29:18). Why, not too long ago my husband and I had to go to some lengths to prevent the deaths of other young Christians who were also harmed by the ignorance and negligence of their religious charges -- a too common occurrence for the sleeping Church of America today.
We could all say that we can never eradicate sin and foolishness and that is true, but that can also be a cop-out to keep us from rebuking the hypocritical, in-name-only, 'Christian' walking in our midst. If only enough people cared, or in some cases, if only ONE person cared ENOUGH.
Negligence is a product of apathy, since those who neglect function by a priority that ignores those whom they care little for, or those whom they care less for. Ignorance can also be a product of apathy too, as people who should know better and who are expected to know better, don't bother to know more. Yet everyone can love and care, unless they have excused ourselves from the task altogether, or told themselves they can't be as good at the task as others would be.
Have we passed the buck too often to those we expect to "pastor" us while we remain in our oblivion of non-relational, entertainment-only, superficial fellowship? Is it because all of "us" (the laity) enjoy a certain amount of laziness while all of "them" (the clergy), enjoy being depended upon? Or is that indictment as true as we think it is? Could it be that many in those two groups do not want those particular expectations, yet we afford them few other options? For if these active, paid clergy are too burned out or too incompetent to do their job, is there any allowance for an admission of that and is anyone else welcome to step into that sacred circle, regardless of their spiritual maturity or success? And if any of these active, paid, clergy dare throw off that heavy yoke they were never meant to have, then what becomes of them? Or perhaps they might falter and fall under such a yoke, and are tossed out for that. There seems to be a whole lot of unwelcomeing going on, when it comes to strict role-playing and titles.
So it is for all of us who are constrained by a System that would coax or convince our dynamic lives in Christ into a prison of false expectations and ideologies that are perpetuated by the corruption of money. So it is when we suffer under the weight of the eventual disillusionment that comes when we expect one man or one woman to BE the Body of Christ or the Life of Christ to us all, even if that one person is ourselves. If we wish to save ourselves spiritually, we must flee the seduction of the messianic complex as well as the ease of the messianic replacement. Yet at the same time, we must find Christ in all and through all.
And if we fail in this task, we are in peril indeed. For regardless of the comfortable cocoon that apathy would spin for us, it is but a trick. It is really a deadly spider's web, and not a promising cocoon. No one emerges as the butterfly at the end of the season. No one transforms and no one is born. We stand by, complacent and secure, and everyone and everything truly worthwhile fades away or dies. Even our own nation and freedoms are swept away. In the after-life we are rebuked and not blessed, and in the present we are caught the fool:
Before it's too late.
DISCOURAGEMENT AND APATHY
The downcast and broken-hearted often suffer so greatly as to be made at least temporarily immobile by mental and emotional shock. If they are apathetic it is only because they are depressed, and they may indeed experience such pain as to consider a drastic measure such as suicide, in order to escape the unbearable (Prov. 15:13; 18:14). Expressing their bitterness (anger), brokenness, and grief to both God and man is the Biblical example. It is up to us as the Body of Christ to give them a safe outlet for their grief, and to grieve with them (Romans 12:15). Often, there seems no adequate comfort we can give for their trauma. This does not excuse us however from being there for them or with them, just as Scripture says to. Our prayers for them or with them will assist them in a recovery we can not make for them, no matter how much we wish we could. We should pray the Holy Spirit comfort them wherever we can not.
It has been observed that some will not accept comfort, encouragement, or hope, even though it is right in front of them. They refuse to be motivated into anything other than spinning their wheels in self-destructive behavior or talk. They refuse to consider viable alternatives to their situation, and persist on being passive about the things they might better act on, in spite of a ready support system they could call upon. In these cases, discouragement is not really the reason for their perpetual inaction. In reality, they have chosen foolishness over wisdom, fear over faith, or death over life.
Perhaps the suffering they choose now is something they think they can control and accept, and so they would choose THAT, rather than another alternative. Even complaining over their circumstances might be a better fate to them than the pain of risk, even if the risk they take might lead to an open door to freedom. So, it is not always that they cannot rise up and open the door, but rather that they won't. Staying in the burning house is the more acceptable risk. Perhaps they imagine they can put the fire out all by themselves. Or, perhaps they will even go so far as to inwardly believe that they are more deserving of the burning house than they are of Life outside. Until they come to some better decisions and rely on God for strength in their weakness, there is little anyone can do.
Sometimes, it is observed that people have wrongly chosen in the first place rather than after the fact, and now they are in a bind. They might want out, but are wondering how much they should "pay" for their mistakes before their release. As they languish in their prison, they are trying to count out how much debt they must pay before the guard will release them. It is not just that they are reaping what they have sown, which is unavoidable (Galatians 6:8-9), but that they keep on sowing a self-condemnation that has its own results. The 'guard' is often themselves or an evil spirit, or more often, a combination of the two, which paralyzes them into a state of apathy.
Some might at least partially agree with them. They might say that if they deserve the situation that is the source of their discouragement, it is only inasmuch as they have chosen it and walked into it. Perhaps they have walked into it in some way. So what if they have? They are human like the rest of us, and we should not condemn them for making different kinds of mistakes than we would. Or do we speak the words an evil spirit might say, and so curse and wound our weaker brothers?
We are all imperfect and we must all learn on the road of life. But if anyone says that a mistake or a sin or a condition of the soul should perpetually vex just because it once began, and the sufferer should always pay every last dime for their mistakes, then this is pure folly in the face of the sacrifice of the Lamb. It is heretical, and it is a sin to take the side of the devil as we project his cruelty upon God's intent.
The sufferer who is in a perpetual or repeating state of discouragement must take stock of their pain and the true sources of it. While outward sources can always be found, it is wise to wonder if inward sources might be present, too. The sufferer needs to pray that the truth be revealed to them by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and even wise counsel. If they discover that they are indeed choosing or agreeing with the sources of their discouragement, then they have discovered that they have turned away from Him as Life and as Source and instead entertained or embraced something else. At this point they can become empowered and not just a victim. Asking God for the strength and wisdom to make better choices, and connecting up with those who would be supportive of these wise choices, is a great start toward recovery. Turning away from religious condemnation is not a bad idea, because it will impede recovery.
These sufferers must be on guard against any idea that they above all others deserve spiritual death and torture, and not forgiveness and recovery. As for what they have taken on themselves, they must drop their spiritual mask enough to confess what they really, in their heart of hearts, BELIEVE, no matter how crazy it sounds. Expressing it makes them hear their own beliefs honestly, and gives them an opportunity to evaluate them. They would do well to then renounce their misguided beliefs, and accept their humanity as Christ accepts them. They must refuse the lies others gave them before, the lies they are given now, and the lies they give themselves. They must repent of, reject, renounce, and undo each evil choice or vow they made that would separate them from His love and from the healthy love and support of their fellow man. By this time, they are already rising up and opening that Door (Luke 11:5-13; John 10:9; Rev. 3:20)
This is the process of renewal and reactivation for those whose self-pity and self-condemnation leads to self-paralysis. As you can see, it begins with total dependence upon God to show the truth about the reality of one's choices or condition. Job himself, who was a righteous man, needed both the knowledge and confrontation of God. God soundly rebuked most of his friends.
Generally speaking, our true condition is neither as bad nor as good as we would like it to be. By this, I mean that we are not Evil Incarnate simply because we were born human, had bad things happen to us, or made some bad choices; nor are we Perfection Incarnate because we made good choices, or because we wish or try to be Perfect. Yes, we can become as Evil as humanly possible (and that is very evil), or we can try to become as Good as humanly possible, but we usually fail in our own strength anyhow. Like it or not, there will be no personal or ultimate Good or Perfection on this side of heaven even though we do good all day long. In the end, sin or error or human weakness (i.e. the flesh) still remains with us this side of heaven. We must accept this truth as well as accept the grace we need to overcome the deceitfulness of our flesh.
So, for those who seem to purposely choose discouragement, we can only
gently tell them the truth as best we can and then encourage them toward
healthy discovery, with the help of God. It is promised that those who
seek shall find, and we must trust that fact as much as they must trust
it. But for the sake of the downcast and brokenhearted, we dare not quickly
assume the worst. Our assumptions are often just an excuse to hold back
simple compassion. This is our spiritual laziness or apathy, and not theirs.
If we were in their shoes, I guarantee that we would not want to be the
recipient of the immature, judgmental, and condemning behavior we may be
tempted to give them!
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