Wise spiritual mentors over the centuries have pointed out that a common struggle in the middle places of their lives is acedia. It’s a word derived from the Greek A (for “not”) and keedos (meaning “to care”). Acedia is ultimately a failure of love.
It’s that place of life apathy or spiritual boredom—an umpteenth lap somewhere between the enthusiasm of a starting line and the celebration of a finish line. Whether midday, mid-life, half-time, or halfway through a big project, we’re tempted to give in or give up. And in my work of mentoring Christian leaders, it’s a common struggle when you’ve been in ministry a while.
Recently, when I was halfway through a writing project, I had a few thoughts. One way to address my temptation to acedia may be to reflect and journal, or interact and discuss with another some very, very basic questions. As you’ll see, they grow out of some very important biblical words:
- Love – “What do I really care about? Who really matters to me?”
- Faith – “What do I believe with deep conviction?”
- Joy – “What energizes me and gives me holy pleasure?”
- Peace – “Where and when do I feel a deep sense of well-being and rest?”
- Hope – “To what do I most look forward?”
- Wisdom – “What unique insights has God given me? What writings have been stimulating and encouraging?”
If this struggle with acedia sounds familiar to you, you might appreciate the book Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris. At the start of the book, she identifies the contemporary feel of this ancient struggle:
“I think it likely that much of the restless boredom, frantic escapism, commitment phobia, and enervating despair that plagues us today is the ancient demon of acedia in modern dress. The boundaries between depression and acedia are notoriously fluid; at the risk of oversimplifying, I would suggest that while depression is an illness treatable by counseling and medication, acedia is a vice that is best countered by spiritual practice and the discipline of prayer.” (Norris, Kathleen. Acedia & Me. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008, p. 3.)
If you are struggling with this “noonday demon,” I encourage you to find someone whose life with God you trust and talk with them a bit. It won’t be easy, but it will probably help. Find someone who has made their own journey through a season of acedia.