A few weeks ago was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Our church watched a brief video about Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, and author of God’s Smuggler.
For Americans, this is usually a day when we think about things happening somewhere else. While persecution is more and more a part of the American landscape, it is not a daily reality as it is in many parts of the world.
In America, Christians are threatened more with boredom than they are with bombs.
God, The Entertainer
The American church is bored. God is no longer great to us. He is not the majestic, awesome God of Scripture. To many in the American church, God has become our entertainer and church is the place he puts on his show.
Greg Dickensen in his book Suburban Dreams, argues that churches today look more like theaters than places of worship (see page 137). In many traditions, church has become more about entertainment than worship. He argues that Sunday mornings in many churches today feels more like going to the mall than it does like encountering the Holy One of Israel.
I think I would have to agree.
Boredom Is Bad, or So We Think
Every so often I have the privilege of going to Mid Vermont Christian School to speak to the junior and senior high students. Recently, I was there during their spiritual emphasis week and they were focusing on loving God with all of our hearts. I was asked to speak on that topic.
What I chose to do was to talk to them about common misconceptions or myths about loving God with our hearts.
One of the misconceptions I mentioned was the idea that boredom was bad. I asked them, is boredom really bad, as in something evil that we should avoid? I argued that boredom is not bad. In fact, I said, boredom is a gift because it reveals to us something: it reveals that our hearts are small.
Our God is an awesome, transcendent, amazingly beautiful, wondrous being and he’s made an infinitely complex and beautiful world. And yet, somehow, we’re bored?!?
If we are bored it’s because our hearts are small and have become shriveled up. The problem is not our boredom, it’s our hearts. They need more exercise.
I told the students that the next time you are tempted to say you are bored, pause, and think about that for a moment. Sit in the silence, listen to the silence, sit in your boredom and let it draw your attention away from your games and your play and the other things that distract us and let it put our attention on the deeper things of life.
Boredom can be a gift that exposes the condition of our hearts.
Boredom: The Groan of a Starving Heart
I think of boredom as the heart’s equivalent of the growling of a hungry stomach.
Boredom is a sign that our hearts are starving—not for food—but for God’s glory. Like a flower that withers without sun, our hearts will wither when they are not basking in the glory of God.
Sadly, many of us simply run to a quick fix when we are bored. We pull out our phone and check Facebook or Instagram. We quickly check our messages or we pull up ESPN.com and check the scores. This is the equivalent of snacking on M&M’s every time we get hungry—it satisfies for just a moment. While these things are not evil in themselves, they do little to satisfy the groanings of our hearts.
What our bored hearts need is glory.
Sadly, even the Church today in many places has resorted to giving out M&M’s instead of pointing to the One who alone can satisfy.
We fill up our worship services with noise, with constant movement and activity, we offer brief prayers and avoid silence. Pastors are constantly berated to avoid lofty speech, to “be relevant,” and to keep the service moving along. God forbid anyone be bored even for 30 seconds.
This kind of thinking if foreign to the Bible.
When we come to the Scriptures we see a God often calling his people to wait (i.e., to risk boredom!). Take Psalm 37:7 and 9 as just one example:
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…-Psalm 37:7a, 9b
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
God’s plan is unfolding but there is no sense of hurry. The long awaited, promised Messiah did not come a moment too soon nor a moment too late (Gal. 4:4). God’s plan is unfolding according to his perfect purpose.
It is a glorious plan that is proceeding at God’s appointed pace. If we are bored it is because our hearts are tuned to the world’s clock and expectations and not to the glorious pace of our Heavenly Father.
Advent is a time when we remember these great truths. When we pause to remember the blessedness of waiting; to remember that boredom can have a holy purpose in our Christian walk.
This Advent, when you are bored and feel tempted to look to quick fixes to titillate your groaning heart, pause. Welcome those feelings and embrace them as friends. Confess to God that you are bored and not satisfied with him. Invite him once again to show you his goodness and glory at the foot of the cross. God offers us his grace whenever we have need (Heb. 4:6), he invites us to come to the well of the waters of life when we are thirsty (John 4:13-14), he declares that at his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).