So, I don't know if I've ever told you about this, but when I was coaching high school football back in Michigan, I had this one kid this one year on the team who is this outspoken Christian. No, I don't even know this story.
You don't even know what I'm going to tell you. Actually, I'm pretty sure his dad was a pastor, but here's what happened. At the same time, he was the laziest, most apathetic, and I remember I confronted him one day. About that, because I'm like, dude, you show up late, you don't care, you don't work. I said to him, I literally said these words, I said, don't tell anybody you're a Christian. What? That's what I said.
Now, I didn't mean it exactly as it came out, but what I meant is if you're going to call yourself a Christian and you're going to be a lazy, I don't care, you are not representing the heart of God. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.
And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today.
Apathy, a mindset about I don't really care about my life and my actions and even how I play or how I work, is not the heart of God. And so we're going to talk about that today. We've got Uche Anasar in the studio with us. First time ever on Family Life Today. Welcome to Family Life Today.
Thanks for having me on. This is great. And you're sitting over there smiling because you've written a book called Overcoming Apathy. I don't know if I've ever read a book about apathy, especially, I mean, your subtitle is perfect. It's Gospel Hope for Those Who Struggle to Care. I'm thinking of the parents that are listening. They're thinking, Dave just described my child, you know, I don't care.
And it's not an easy thing to deal with, but also even to live with. So you're a professor of theology out at Biola, PhD from Wheaton. You are a schooled, intelligent man. Schooled. Yeah, schooled, okay.
And a husband and a dad, three kids. Of all the things to write about, you know, you're thinking a professor of theology at a seminary level is going to write about theology. You write about apathy.
Who cares? Why would you write about that? Even though I'm a professor, I'm a human. Imagine that, you know, and I'm a Christian as well. And I have a desire to actually live a Christian life that's honoring to the Lord. And I questioned, you know, really early in my Christian life why I didn't feel as passionate about things that I knew I should have been passionate about. So as a brand new Christian, I got involved with Campus Crusade for Christ. My first day on campus, you know, my university campus, I saw the Crusade booth and I got plugged in and I grew a ton.
But really early on, I started to notice that, like, there were several people around me that seemed to be more fully committed to the things that, you know, Crusade was all about. You know, evangelism, discipleship, reaching the world. Wind, build, send. Wind, build, send. Wind, build, train, send. All those things, right?
Exactly. And I knew they were all good things. And I was committed to them intellectually and even committed to them in terms of my will.
My will was committed to it, but my passions weren't as strong. So you're kind of comparing yourself to other people around you, wondering, hmm. What's the deal with me in particular? So you remember this from, how long ago was that? This was, I was probably 19, 20 years old. Yeah, so you felt that early in your Christian walk. And you know, I had some of the, you know, typical brand new Christian zeal for God stuff. You know, I was always into scripture.
I went out and shared my faith regularly, but a lot of this was just me knowing what was good and what was right and me wanting to honor the Lord and pursue what was good and right. And so it wasn't that I was not doing anything. It was just more of an issue of why does my heart sort of like lag behind my actions, so to speak. Is it personality though, Uche? Or is it, you're saying it's more than that? Yeah, I knew it was more than that because I was a Buffalo Bills fan and I could get excited about the Bills.
When the Bills lost four Super Bowls in a row, I was very emotional and very passionate about it. So it wasn't personality. It was something a little bit more. So as you dove into that, what did you find out? At the time, I had no answers. And so I either just classified myself as I guess I'm just an apathetic Christian or maybe I'm a depressed Christian or something, but I don't know what the deal is.
And so I just kind of put a little like a bookmark in my mind and said, okay, I'm going to come back to this question sometime later in my life. I want to answer the question of how can I be a Christian but also be apathetic? Later in my life, as I became a theology professor, I started to interact with tons of college students mentoring several college students. And while they had sort of some common issues, you know, young men struggling with a variety of the typical issues and whatnot. Temptations.
Temptations, you know. The one thing that stood out to me that was common to all of them, well not all of them, most of them was they just had a hard time caring about the things of the Spirit. A hard time caring about the things of God.
And that just struck me. Here I am at a Christian university with kids who are getting excellent Christian education. They're taking 10 Bible classes. They got chapels and opportunity after opportunity.
And yet still they're kind of like, yeah, you know, I'm struggling to like spend time on the Word or pray or do all these other sort of baseline Christian things. And so it just struck me. I need to think about this some more.
I want to write something about this. So you were watching young men and women experience the same thing you experienced. Precisely, yeah. And so it's 20 some years later and nothing's changed.
Yeah, that's right. So where did you go to dig this answer out? I just said, okay, I'm going to write a book on this and I don't know where the book's going to go.
I don't know what the answers are. I'm not an expert on apathy. I'm a theologian by training. I'm not an expert on psychology or all these other kinds of things. But I just said, okay, I want to try my best to try to get my mind around myself. And so most of my thinking on it is just me thinking about what are the various sort of causes, what are the things that are sort of pulling me toward or have pulled me toward apathy. And so in the course of studying it, I came to a number of different conclusions. A lot of our listeners, me included, would be like, okay, I'm relating to a lot of what Uche is saying in terms of like the zealous fire that maybe was there early, doesn't seem to be as hot, maybe even warm to cold.
Or Dave, you could even ask this question like, I'm so much more excited to watch that new Netflix show than I am to open the Bible. That's right. I think a lot of people could relate to that. And the same thing happens in our marriages. That's right.
You know, we have an infatuation and newlyweds season that's just hot and heavy. That's right. And here we are a year, two, five, 40 years later, and we're just apathetic.
That's right. So define it for us. Do you have a, I mean, how do I know if I'm the guy you're talking about? I think every person, every Christian can identify seasons in their life, whether it was a really short-lived season, like a day or two or whatever, where they felt like, yeah, I don't love God the way that I should love God. I don't really care to be in this church service.
I don't really want to read my Bible. Like those kinds of things are just common to being a human, common to being a Christian. So when I talk about apathy, I'm not just talking about those sort of momentary lapses, so to speak, I'm talking about more of like a pervasive sense of just not being motivated to do the things that we know we're called to do. And so it's more of a pervasive, prolonged bout with that, something that feels like this characterizes my orientation towards all things spiritual.
That's sort of more of what I'm getting at. Yeah, so if I'm, again, listening and going, okay, I'm there, it's been three months, it's been three years, I would hear you and go, okay, I think I'm sort of, I'd be the classic definition of apathetic. Obviously, the next question is, okay, how do I dig out of this?
Or even what's the problem? Why am I feeling that? Because I would think you had to face that when you were in that situation in college. Yeah, so there are going to be a number of things that sort of bring apathy about in our lives, and I don't claim to know all the causes, and I think the causes are going to be complicated and mingled together and all that kind of stuff. However, we do have a responsibility to try to figure out, okay, so me as a unique person, what are the things that are at war in me, causing me to sort of slide into this sort of blah, this meh sort of state of being, you know? When I think about my Christian life, one of the things that stands out to me is I've struggled with doubt at various points in my Christian life. And during those bouts with doubt, and sometimes they're long bouts, and they're not necessarily intellectual doubts, there are a variety of kinds of doubts, but when I'm battling with doubt, my motivation for the things of God are obviously going to wane, right? Because I'm questioning the very thing I'm supposed to be most passionate about. I'm questioning, is he out there? Is he the exact God that I believed in?
What about Jesus and the resurrection? You know, these kinds of questions, you know? And every now and again, they'll rise up in my mind, create these doubts, and they'll have a real effect. And so I've had to reckon with my own doubts and try to identify, like, where's my doubt coming from? Are these intellectual?
Are they otherwise? And then deal with them as best as I can. I relate to that one.
I'm looking at Ann thinking she doesn't probably relate as much to the doubt one. I've struggled. Same way you said, Uche, every once in a while, something will pop up.
It's like, I'm doing great, and then all of a sudden, for whatever reason, even recently in my life, in the last couple of years, I think a lot of people maybe resonate with this. Some of my doubts weren't theological. They were behaviors like, how can people call themselves followers of Christ and treat me or treat others like this? So it was, I think there's a generation walking away from the church, not always because of doctrine or theology, but because if that's how Christians behave, I'm out.
And it might have been a person who had zealous fire, and it goes away. So for me, with my doubts, which often are theological, I have to go back to fundamental biblical theological truths and remind myself, and I find myself digging back out. That's right. Are you the same way? Yeah, so I always go back to one thing and one thing alone, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I go back there all the time, and I'm like, okay, Uche, did Jesus rise from the dead?
I believe so. All right, so then I can work my way up from the resurrection, you know, but it takes a while sometimes. I'm not alone, honey. You like that, don't you? Oh, I mean, I do the exact same thing, and you have to dig back out. It's amazing to sit here with a doctor in theology who teaches at a seminary level theology saying that sometimes you still doubt. That's actually encouraging. I can tell you're encouraged by that. Yeah, but also you're saying, which I don't always connect the dots, what you just did, that affects your apathy, that affects your fire, and you've got to go back to the source and say, okay, I got to deal with this so that the fire comes back. But that's not the only one.
What are others? Yeah, I think about things like being inundated by trivial things all the time, right? So everyone bemoans social media and our phones and things like that, and I think a lot of that is warranted, right? I grew up in an age where I watched way too much TV, right? So I grew up in a non-Christian home. I watched a lot of TV. There isn't a TV show that I didn't watch.
There wasn't a movie that I didn't watch, you know? Nowadays, it's at every moment of every day, someone's trying to tell me that something trivial is meaningful. And I can imagine that being inundated with meaningless things that people are telling me are so meaningful. You know, like, what's the celebrity doing? What's that celebrity?
What did LeBron James say? Like, all these things are kind of like, yeah, they matter, but not really. And so when someone's telling me that these things are meaningful, you should really care. What ends up happening is that over the course of time, we don't just not care about meaningful things. We kind of treat everything the same, right?
So if everything's important, nothing's important, right? So we get numb to it after a while? We get numb to it. I think we get numb by triviality. Yeah. Yeah, and for some reason, we put a higher value on things that really, like you said, aren't that significant.
I mean, I've seen, and I'd love to say I never did this, but I did it too. I've seen people get more passionate about fantasy football. Oh, yeah. Or whatever.
Than they ever do about Christ. That's right. And you can find yourself just immersed in that. And so you're saying when that happens, the things that really matter often get pushed aside.
Yeah. And the things that don't become the thing we're zealous about. Or at some point, we just kind of give up on all of it and say, yeah, nothing really, really matters. And we become numb to everything. Can that slip into depression? Like, how would you know when that apathy has gone into depression?
That was one of the things I try to tackle because they overlap significantly. And apathy can be a symptom of depression, but depression doesn't necessarily, or not necessarily the same thing as apathy, right? So someone who's depressive is going to have a more pervasive sense of like meaninglessness in their lives.
There's suicidal ideation. There's a sense of, I'm not motivated to do anything. Apathy tends to be, again, I'm not a psychologist, I'm not an expert, but apathy tends to be more selective. And so with Christians, the things that we're apathetic about are the things that are closest to the core of our being, the things that define us. The depressed person tends to be, oftentimes, just like I can't get motivated about the things that matter or the things that don't matter, everything in between, I just cannot get motivated. Apathy just tends to be, in my understanding, at least as I speak about spiritual apathy, it tends to be selective. It just kind of latches onto the things that we value most. We've talked about doubt can cause to be apathetic, distractions and getting involved in things that aren't as important.
I want to ask you about this. What about sin? Because I know that in my own life, I'd love to say, hey, I have a friend who, you know, but this isn't a friend, this is me. When I'm struggling with a sin, let's say pornography or some kind of thing that's like a secret, hidden, I can walk in a church service where people's arms are raised in worship of God. And I'm not saying that's the only indicator of a zealous, passionate walk with God. But you can feel something's happening.
There really are a scribing worth. They're fully in. And I'm standing there like I can't feel what they're feeling. And I think a lot of us, because I've got a secret going on that nobody here knows about. Did you feel like that, Dave, when you had struggled with that in the past?
Yeah, that's why I'm bringing it up. It's like, if somebody looked at me, they wouldn't know. That's right. I can go through the motions. I could probably even get up on stage and give a testimony and fake everybody out, even though I have this private little thing going on. But in terms of fervor in my heart for Jesus, it's not there.
That's right. It may look like I have it just because I want them to think I have it, but it's dead inside. And in some ways, it's because I'm not willing to repent of this sin.
Is that pretty real? Yeah, that seems intuitively correct, right? So we're responsible to have our minds set on the things of the Spirit. We're responsible to sort of feed the spiritual. And so if we're not engaging with the spiritual, and that could be either sort of actively engaging in spiritual disciplines, things of those sorts, or if we're not actively dealing with God, you know, rightly. I remember in my early crusade days, they would talk about keeping short accounts of sin with God.
That's real stuff. Spiritual breathing. It's Christianity 101, right? So if I want to maintain a zeal for God, the zeal comes in relationship with the person, in real engagement with the person. And so if my engagement with the person is being stunted by sin and really dark sin that I'm not dealing with, then I shouldn't be surprised that my heart is becoming colder and colder and colder to the things of God and to God himself. Do you feel the same thing is true in a marriage?
Absolutely, yeah. So in a marriage, if you're going through the motions and you're not trying to, for lack of a better term, be intimate with one another, you're not willing to own sin and confess sin to one another seems like a law of the universe that the marriage is going to grow cold. You might look good to outsiders. You might be a wonderful professional married couple, you know what I mean? But in terms of like the fire and the zeal for one another, that's going to fade as well. I mean, as I'm listening to you, I'm thinking all the things you said about how our fire goes away with our walk with God are also true in a marriage.
Because it's relational. If I'm doubting her love for me, if I'm doubting she's committed, if I'm getting distracted by all the other things and I'm not putting attention to my marriage, if there's sin, I mean, there's going to be no fire. You're going to be that married couple that sits there and may look good in church, but you know, deep down inside, we've lost our love.
That's exactly right. So talk to the married couple, talk to the Christian, okay, I'm there, I got to get out, where do I start? We start with the recognition that our struggle with apathy is just one struggle among many other kinds of things that Christians have to struggle with. And so what do Christians do with their struggles? They recognize that they have a God who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. That's who God actually is. We don't want to treat apathy as if apathy is something wholly unique and wholly other.
It's a sinful orientation toward God, but it's not more sinful than other sorts of things. And so what we need to do is recognize that God is for us and that God is going to be the answer to our apathy. And that God is engaged with us, even as we're kind of like, I don't give a rip about God. He's engaged with us. His Spirit is engaged with us.
And He's going to use a variety of ways to try to pull us out of that apathy, maybe even an interview like this. So the first thing we recognize is that God is for us and that we're not pulling from our own resources. We're not trying to sort of get to God.
God is already with us. But then we have to recognize that God's grace is not ever in vain, that God gives us grace and that grace empowers us to actually engage in a battle. And so apathy and dealing with apathy, it's going to be a battle that's not going to be won with one knockout blow. Is that how you saw it and dealt with it back in college? And even when you went on staff with crew, you said you even noticed that like, these guys are these zealous, passionate. So as you take yourself back to that time, walk through your whole process of what happened. Well, during that time, if I'm being honest, I didn't deal with it, right? I just struggled through it and just felt a lot of, I don't know if shame is the right word, but just felt really inadequate as a staff member.
Like my time with crew was almost entirely positive. But there's that one element of just me feeling like, man, I just stink, you know, I'm just not where these people are at. And so to be honest, I didn't really deal with it back then. I think the process of dealing with it just kind of came over time. And I wasn't in particular battling apathy like as a thing. I was just trying to sort of grow in my Christian life.
Yeah. So now if you have a college student that you're mentoring, you can see it. He's just not passionate about his walk with God. He wants to. But he's like, it's just not going on. How do you coach him and mentor him? That's Dave and Ann Wilson with Uche and Azor on Family Life Today.
We'll hear Uche's response in just a minute. I don't know if you have kids like I do, but don't miss this tip as your kids are getting older. Keep them talking. You want to be the go to person for the hard stuff with your kids.
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It's now 25 percent off with the code PASSPORT for a limited time at familylifetoday.com. All right, now back to Dave and Ann's conversation with Uche and Azor and how to mentor a young person who can't get motivated about the things of God. I have to diagnose the issue and typically what I'll do is I'll ask questions and the questions are really basic questions. How are you spending your time? So how much time are you devoting to, I don't know, playing video games?
Yeah. How much time are you devoting to other loves, other things that you really love? And then how much time are you devoting to the things of the Spirit? And they're going to say, well, you know, I'm not motivated to do the things of the Spirit and so that's why I'm not devoting any time to it.
But I'm going to say, well, the math is pretty simple. If you don't do the basic things that keep you connected to God, then you're not going to be connected to God and then you're not going to feel your connection to God and then you're going to grow cold in your feelings towards God. That's apathy.
And so we have to diagnose it first, but typically the diagnosis is pretty straightforward. It's people are not engaging with God and as you don't engage with God, you grow cold to God. Yeah, just like in a marriage, if you're not engaging with your spouse, you can say whatever you want. I still love her.
I still love him. And you do. But if there's not that daily connection, it's going to grow, your heart's going to grow cold. That's natural. It's unnatural. I mean, a couple, we say it at the weekend, remember, marriage getaway with family life, you always drift toward isolation. That's right.
You have to work to stay one. It's no different with our walk with God. I think that's right. Well, it's interesting. I used to do a talk where I took a sponge that was an old, crusty, dry sponge and I cut it out in the shape of a heart and I said, this is our heart. And if we don't saturate that sponge with God, with his word, with community, with church, where we're pouring into it, our heart. And I could take a fingernail and just crust it over. You can hear it scrape.
Yes. And it gets to the point where you can't even bend the sponge anymore. And I said, and sometimes I used to think, even when I felt like I was apathetic, I'm just going to spend some time in the word today. And so that was great, but it still wasn't enough. And it's that consistent pouring into, because whatever we pour into that heart is going to come out of the heart. That's right. And so I would take water and just drench it of saying, what would it look like to drench our hearts?
And that sponge became so saturated that it just starts dripping out water. And I was saying, that's what I long for. But it also takes that discipline of, and even the analyzing, where am I right now? What have I been pouring into my heart?
And the discipline of, and I'm going to spend time with God. I feel like this happens at the beginning when your heart's hard. You do it and it's like, okay, I did it. But the more we do it, the more we want to do it. But it takes a little bit. In some ways, it's like, at least is what I'm thinking right now.
It's like, put yourself under the fountain. You know, I don't know who said it. We've all used this quote, you know, if you're far from God, guess who moved? You know, one of those kinds of things.
God didn't move. And I think there's somewhat truth to that. It's like, I've been under the spigot. I've been under the source of living water.
And I'm just not going back there enough. And when I do, and again, it's not like a legalistic, I got to do my daily devo with God. But when you do meet with him and talk with him and listen through his word and listen to his spirit, it may start really small, but he starts to warm your heart up. And the more we plug in, the warmer it gets. It's not that it's ever going to get cold again.
It will. But it's like, is today the day you need to say, okay, God, I'm coming back. That's right.
I'm going to start right here. Yeah. And I think maybe a danger a younger generation might have over an older generation. It's not that one generation does apathy and the other generation doesn't have apathy.
That's just clearly not the case. However, one of the differences might be that a younger generation won't just gut it out. And if they're not feeling it, they may not be as willing to just do what they know they need to do to get out of apathy because they're not feeling it. And part of the aim of all of life for a certain generation is to live authentically. And so if I'm not being real or if my passion for God isn't real and I'm just kind of engaging in my quiet time because I should, then maybe I shouldn't because it's not real.
But I think that's a huge mistake. I think if a younger generation can just latch onto this reality that a lot of times you're not going to feel stuff and that life is not driven by feelings. Feelings really do matter and your emotions toward God really do matter. But life is not driven by these emotions. Oftentimes we have to make consistent choices and the consistent choices will build the kind of feelings that we want. But oftentimes in a sort of instant generation, we want the feelings immediately.
So if I ask a young Christian, so how was your quiet time today? And they'll say, I didn't get anything out of it. So I didn't get anything out of it typically means I expected an event to happen or an experience to happen because I opened up the Bible. I'm like, that's just likely not going to be the case. What's going to happen is you're just kind of like laying some groundwork. Foundations.
Foundations. You're building an actual relationship and relationships aren't all about these sort of highs. You have the highs, but it's not all highs.
It's about building a lasting, deep, meaningful relationship that sometimes it doesn't have. It's spectacular. If I only went to the gym when I felt like it, I rarely would go.
That's exactly right. But when I go because I know I should and I want the results, I usually get in my car on the way home and go, that was a good choice. And I'm actually feeling- And you may not see the difference yet. And I look amazing too.
You do look amazing, Dave Wilson. You've been listening to Dave and Anne's conversation with Uche Anizore on family life today. His book is called Overcoming Apathy, Gospel Hope for Those Who Struggle to Care. You can get a copy at familylifetoday.com or by calling 800-358-6329.
That's 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. If you know anyone who needs to hear today's conversation, be sure to share it from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, a simple way you can help more people discover God's plan for families is by leaving a rating and review for Family Life Today. Now tomorrow, Dave and Anne Wilson will continue their conversation with Uche Anizore about overcoming doubt and taking actions to rediscover yourself. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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