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Thursday, June 13, 2024

God’s Goal in Our Boredom


Audio Transcript

We’ve talked quite a bit on the podcast about escaping a lifetime of triviality, escaping this need to be entertained to demise. Twenty-five or so episodes in archive now show that this can be a main theme on the podcast, Pastor John. I summarized these episodes within the APJ guide on pages 291–307. However right here’s a novel query on the subject with slightly twist, and it involves us from an nameless younger man. “Whats up, Pastor John!” he writes. “Together with your emphasis on Christian Hedonism, my query is about the way you consider boredom. I typically discover myself questioning what it’s precisely, and why God created the world with boredom as a primary characteristic of day by day life — a minimum of on this age, post-fall. I’m not speaking about melancholy, however the normal ennui on this life, frequent to all of us.

“We keep busy with work and household and hobbies to not really feel it. But it surely’s all the time there. A second of downtime and it finds us once more. Such boredom on this world appears to result in all kinds of behaviors that Christians deem sinful: drug use, overindulging in smartphones and social media and leisure and gaming, illicit relationships and affairs, gossiping and idle dialog. It has all the time puzzled me that God, a minimum of when it comes to his sovereignty over fallen man’s day by day expertise, has us expertise a seemingly fixed need to be entertained or to in any other case ‘escape’ from actuality by going to live shows, motion pictures, taking part in board video games, and so forth. At root, what’s boredom? What causes it? What does it signify? And do you suppose God has a goal in it for his kids?”

I actually loved excited about this query, partly as a result of I’ve by no means thought of it earlier than. I’ve by no means thought-about how the phrase (or the expertise of) boredom is dealt with within the Bible. Isn’t that tremendous? I don’t suppose I’ve ever requested myself that query till preparing for this APJ. So I had by no means accomplished a phrase search on boredom within the Bible, so this was not boring to me, which tells us one thing straight away in regards to the which means of boredom — specifically, it has to do with monotony. It has to do with uninteresting repetitions that haven’t any curiosity for us. So the explanation excited about boredom was not boring for me is as a result of it was not monotonous or uninteresting or repetitious. I’ve by no means accomplished it earlier than, and I wished — and that’s a key phrase for non-boredom — to know what the Bible has to say.

And I’ll wager our listeners have already guessed what I discovered — specifically, that phrase’s not within the Bible. Boredom is just not. Boring and bored aren’t — besides if you happen to’re going to bore a gap by way of any person’s ear. You will discover the phrase boring, but it surely doesn’t have the which means of this. So it’s attention-grabbing to me that the Bible doesn’t have the phrase boring, and it doesn’t have the phrase attention-grabbing anyplace in it. It doesn’t have the phrase thrilling. It doesn’t have the phrase fascinating anyplace in it. (I’m basing that, by the best way, on the ESV. There could also be another English translations I’m not conscious of that may have a few of these phrases, however not the ESV.)

E book of Boredom

Though the phrase boredom is just not discovered within the Bible, there’s within the Bible a complete guide dedicated to boredom. It’s known as Ecclesiastes. Hearken to this:

Self-importance of vanities! All is self-importance. . . . A era goes, and a era comes. . . . The solar rises, and the solar goes down. . . . The wind blows to the south and goes round to the north; round and round goes the wind. . . . All streams run to the ocean, however the sea is just not full; . . . there they circulation once more. All issues are stuffed with weariness. (Ecclesiastes 1:2–8)

Now, that’s most likely the closest factor you get to the phrase boredom: “All issues are weariness.” “The attention is just not happy” — there’s one other good definition, I believe, of boredom — “with seeing, nor the ear full of listening to. What has been is what shall be . . . and there’s nothing new beneath the solar. . . . I’ve seen every part that’s accomplished beneath the solar, and behold, all is self-importance and striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:8–9, 14). That’s a really highly effective description of a life that has sought non-boredom and didn’t discover it beneath the solar — that’s, with out God.

Ecclesiastes is a guide of what life is like if God is just not the intense solar in our sky and his phrase is just not the constitution of our lives. And I believe it’s within the Bible as a result of the person who despatched us this query is true. The expertise of boredom is common — not that everyone experiences it on a regular basis, however all people has tasted it. And he’s proper additionally that, by its very nature, no person likes it. Boredom by its very nature is unsatisfying. If you happen to’re happy, you’re not bored.

And he’s additionally proper that since no person likes being bored, all of us take steps — based on our personalities and our circumstances and beliefs — to eliminate it. If we’re tremendous energetic, we would work ourselves out of boredom or play ourselves like loopy out of boredom to eliminate boredom. And if we’re extra torpid, then we may sit on the sofa, turn out to be a sofa potato, flip the TV on and attempt to eliminate our boredom with film after film, streaming after streaming.

Why Are We Bored?

So he asks, “At root, what’s boredom? What does it signify? Does God have a goal in it for his kids” — and I’d add, for the world?

And my reply is that, at root, boredom is the relentless expertise of not discovering satisfaction on this world. One thing begins out being thrilling, satisfying, however quickly we weary of it and we want one thing else. We take a trip to the Alps, stand in awe for perhaps two or three days, and earlier than per week is over, the curtains are pulled and we’re sitting in entrance of the TV, making an attempt to get the stimulus we’re not getting from the Alps anymore. Even nice issues can turn out to be boring for the fallen human coronary heart.

What does it signify? What’s the which means? What did God bear in mind when he ordained the common expertise of boredom in a world of sin and rebel in opposition to God? What’s his goal for it? I’m going to provide three solutions: one from the Bible, one from C.S. Lewis, and one from the seventeenth-century poet George Herbert (my favourite, I believe). And so they’re all the identical reply in several kinds.

1. Eternity in Our Coronary heart

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has made every part stunning in its time. Additionally, he has put eternity into man’s coronary heart, but in order that he can not discover out what God has accomplished from the start to the top.” Now, I don’t know all that that verse means, however the least that it means, it appears to me, is that God plans for human beings to be annoyed with their expertise on this world till they notice that they had been made for God.

2. Made for One other World

Right here’s the best way C.S. Lewis says it: “If we discover ourselves with a need that nothing on this world can fulfill, essentially the most possible clarification is that we had been made for an additional world” (Mere Christianity, 136–37). Or to say it one other method (paraphrasing Lewis), if we discover that nothing on this world is a long-term resolution to the issue of boredom, we had been most likely made for an additional world. Boredom factors to God. That’s God’s goal for boredom on this fallen world: to level us to a different world — specifically, to God and his infinitely attention-grabbing and infinitely satisfying particular person and work.

3. The Present of Restlessness

Right here’s the best way one of many biggest English poets put it in a poem known as “The Pulley.” And the explanation it’s known as “The Pulley” is as a result of it makes an attempt to explain in poetic type the best way God pulls individuals to himself. And naturally, the reply is that he pulls them by way of boredom. However he doesn’t use the phrase boredom; he makes use of the phrase restlessness. And he clearly thinks that God has made us stressed or bored for a motive. So right here’s the poem, and I’ll shut with this:

     When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Allow us to,” stated he, “pour on him all we are able to.
Let the world’s riches, which disperséd lie,
     Contract right into a span.”

     So power first made away;
Then magnificence flowed, then knowledge, honor, pleasure.
When nearly all was out, God made a keep,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
     Relaxation within the backside lay.

     “For if I ought to,” stated he,
“Bestow this jewel additionally on my creature,
He would adore my presents as a substitute of me;
And relaxation in Nature, not the God of Nature:
     So each ought to losers be.

     “But let him maintain the remainder,
However maintain them with repining restlessness;
Let him be wealthy and weary, that a minimum of,
If goodness lead him not, but weariness
     Could toss him to my breast.”

Or we would say, “If goodness lead us not, but boredom could toss us to God’s breast.”

I believe that’s God’s design on this common expertise of boredom: to level us to the origin of every part attention-grabbing, to the world the place nobody will ever be bored once more — God’s presence by way of Jesus Christ.

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