“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” -Matthew 13:22
“The Church names the sixth Deadly Sin Acedia or Sloth... It is the sin which believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.” -Dorothy Sayers
For Americans being in a state of existential crisis and general listlessness seems to be one of the great themes of our times. According to Pew Research, 26% of 18-29 year olds and 34% of 30-49 year olds have answered “seldom/never” when asked how frequently they experience feelings of spiritual peace and wellbeing. For my own age group, the millennials, we tend to make an art form out of our own worries about life, death, and the spiritual.
We revel in our plight, or at least we pretend we do. In fact, millennials make jokes and memes about it like these:
During last Sunday’s sermon on Matthew 13, I was reminded of both my own struggles and those of other young Christians with feelings of apathy, boredom, and the pointless pursuit of new stimuli. In the ho-hum, dull, humdrum of daily life it is easy to lose focus and to even drift in our faith that Christ has firmly in his loving arms. We get busy, we feel tired, we don’t have the energy, we scroll endlessly on Facebook and compare our lives to others. But worst than this we not only forget about God’s Word but we instead try to fill the yawning void with anything else. We chase entertainment, immediate pleasures, we obsess over the latest shows, books, or fashions, we become workaholics to the detriment of our sleep and loved ones. Only this, of course, doesn’t work.
Christ warned in his parable about the seeds that the condition of the soil (our hearts) predicts how well we will receive God’s Word and if we’ll move towards a closer relationship with God or if we will drift away. Without carefully tending the garden of our hearts, we let thorns and rocks slip in that choke the Word. Those thorns and rocks can be bad things like vices, but they can also be good things that we turn into God things. For instance, we all know that going to the gym or studying hard is good, but doing these things obsessively at the expense of our devotional time or of going to church is not. Hard hearts makes it very hard for us to accept God, his mercy, or for us to be able to worship- we begin to not care, we become afraid of judgement from God and our fellow Christians, we feign apathy, or even begin to hate God and fear of having the raging emptiness we feel revealed. These roots and thorns, the onset of acedia in our hearts, are the spiritual wedges between ourselves and the Holy Spirit dwelling in our souls.
But it is good the things we use in place of God becomes less and less effective and bearable, because this reminds us that something is wrong. Jeff said, “Healthy things grow by choice.” And he is right. We are called to fight apathy, to let go of our frustration with our lives and our frustration with our lack of spiritual growth. We are called to remove the the rocks and thorns in our soil that result from a failure to trust in God or to embrace him instead of the pain, confusion, or things that we have foolishly sought in place of Christ.
To ask about our heart condition, and to remind us that we are ultimately responsible for that condition, is to hit the nail on the head. The condition of our hearts is the result of our individual decisions and attitude and we must decide what those are. We need to remember who we are in Christ and who God is. Have faith! Bring your heart out into the light and water it. Pray and seek prayer from others for it is written in Ephesians 5:13-14, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
John Dale Grover is a native of San Antonio, Texas and attended Bowdoin College in Maine. Currently he is a graduate student in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. He loves board games and owns way too many books. John is also an advocate for self-care and mental health.