The Disease of Boredom
March 15, 2015
Everyone gets bored. There isn’t a parent nor a teacher alive who has not been plagued by a bored child. Not a boring child, but a bored one. “I’m so bored!” comes the moaning cry from one who has iPods, TVs, video games, friends, and more. And it doesn’t really get much better as we get older. Surrounded by stuff to do and things to see and engage in, still we’re plagued with boredom. So people try to fill boredom up with all manner of things. From toy trains to playing sports to getting drunk to getting high to going to the gym to being a couch potato. The laundry list of stuff to do is limited only by our imagination. Funny how boredom isn’t so easily overcome just by stuff to do. In fact, stuff to do never gets rid of boredom. It merely postpones it.
But boredom can’t really be defined simply by having nothing to do. That’s surface boredom. Everyone can find something to do. And we have all experienced boredom even while doing stuff. We can be bored at and even by our work. We can be bored with sports. We can be bored with our families or our home life. We can be bored at church. No, boredom goes deeper than having nothing to do.
At the heart of boredom is rebellion. Consider the people of God during the Exodus. God had rescued them out of Egypt. He had led them through the desert. He had provided for them water from a rock that Moses stuck, quail and manna from heaven to fill their bellies. Maybe upwards of 2 million people were there. That’s a lot of people to talk to, to play with, to get to know. And what do they do? They whine, speaking against God and against Moses, because they are bored with their lives, bored with the gifts of food and sustenance that God had provided kept them alive for years.
What we have here is a classical case of acedia, one of the seven deadly sins, usually translated as sloth. But this is more than just laziness. This is a prevailing boredom with the holy things of God. One theologian has described this sin like a type of spiritual morphine: we know the pain is there, yet we simply can’t rouse ourselves to care. We become numb toward God and toward His gifts. The manna, the quail, the pillar of fire by night and cloud by the day had lost their luster. How the Israelites could have complained against God and Moses over these things is almost beyond our comprehension.
Before we judge the Israelites too harshly, we must take a good, hard look at ourselves. We are surrounded by electronics, by a constant demands for our attention. Over and over again I hear the same thing-our lives are so busy and hectic. Attention Deficit Disorder seems to be becoming the norm. You would think with all the stimulation that we wouldn’t get bored. Yet, the busyness of our lives is a dead giveaway that the solid and lasting things of the kingdom of God have lost their luster among us. Our busyness with work, with sports, with ourselves is just another attempt to stave off our spiritual boredom and fill it with earthly and fleeting things.
The third commandment, remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, teaches us that it is our duty to keep God’s sacred things holy among us. These holy things most clearly and directly delivered to us here, when the Holy Spirit gathers us together to hear His Word and receive His Sacraments.
And yet, every one of us here has had a Sunday when we became bored through part of the Service. “I’ve done all this before. I’ve heard all this before. I get it all ready.” And we simply go through the motions, checking out our watch until it’s over and we can go to something more exciting. The liturgy is more than form and ritual, but enacted reality, holy ground where we actually come into the presence of God to receive His gifts, then to praise Him in word and song, with our body and soul. When spending time with God gets boring, where does the problem lie? With God, or with you?
Or consider this. Historically in the Lutheranism Communion was offered each week for all those who wish to receive it. One of the biggest complaints about offering weekly Communion is that it will lose its meaning if it’s done too often. In other words, it’ll get boring. It’s the same old manna from heaven, I’m tired of being fed by God. Good Lord, what sinful thoughts and words! What apathy toward the gifts of God. What sloth! Repent.
Our sin stings us like the bite of a snake, though all too often we are so sick that we don’t even feel it. We need a doctor to diagnose our bite, but even more importantly, to prescribe the right treatment-repent and believe in Him who was lifted up for all to see. This sounds too easy, too convenient, yet there He is, lifted up on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. This cross isn’t the most exciting, and our wandering eyes don’t like to linger there. We are reminded of the great sacrifice our Lord made for us men and for our salvation. When faith looks up to Christ crucified, God saves from eternal death all victim of the fatal venom of sin.
Thus, this treatment isn’t something new or different than it has ever been. The solution to our spiritual boredom and apathy isn’t less Jesus, it is more Jesus. More time spent with Him and His Word. More receiving His Sacramental gifts. To receive that objective and solid truth that our sins are forgiven regardless of the whims of our feeling or our boredom with Christ. We are part of God’s ongoing story of salvation. We have been made into the living children of the living God, made to be and to do what God has created us in Christ Jesus, the good works He has prepared beforehand for us to walk in. We look beyond this fleeting sinful world, the tiring old complaints of sin, the uncertainty and confusion of this life. For we have the promise of eternal life, the promise of our living Lord to sustain us throughout this life and into the next. And there is nothing boring about that.