Spiritual Apathy: How the Devil Robs Us of Joy

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is spiritual apathy? What does it come from, and where can it lead?

Joyce Meyer believes that one of the more subtle ways that the devil can attack our minds and rob us of a positive life is by suppressing our motivation. If we don’t feel like we are achieving our true potential, it may be because the devil has caused our minds to become passive. This spiritual apathy can lead us to neglect our relationship with God, allow the devil greater influence, and even become guilty of sins of omission.

Read more to learn about the dangers of spiritual apathy.

Spiritual Apathy

Meyer describes a passive mind as one that is “lazy” and “apathetic” about its relationship with God, taking that relationship for granted and paying it little attention. She contrasts this with an active mind, which purposefully and effortfully works to cultivate a positive spiritual life.

When our minds are passive rather than active in our approach to our relationship with God, this spiritual apathy might cause us to make negative choices simply by not choosing to do anything at all. (Meyer calls these “sins of omission.”) For example, imagine a friend who is having a difficult time in her life. If we have a passive mind, we might not give her situation enough thought to check in, call, or perform an act of kindness for her. While we don’t have selfish intentions in this scenario, we’ve failed to be a good (positive) friend by failing to act. 

Spiritual apathy is dangerous also because it leaves empty space in our mind for the devil to move in. Meyer cautions that, by not actively thinking of God, we allow the devil to fill the empty space in our minds with fantasies and daydreams. He can use these fantasies to make us less engaged and less satisfied with reality. Meyer notes that we often experiment with “sinful” thoughts which precede sinful actions through fantasy.

The Benefits of a “Passive Mind”

Some experts argue that an “idle” mind (what Meyer might term “lazy” or “passive” because it’s not actively involved in conscious, purposeful thought) is not necessarily a negative thing, so long as it doesn’t become a permanent condition. In fact, research suggests that having an “idle” mind in moderation can actually improve our productivity and memory, increase feelings of happiness, strengthen our immune system, and improve our physical health. Additionally, “idle” moments that allow our minds to be still serve as a way to pump the brakes of our lives, helping us to recharge physically and mentally so that we don’t “burn out” and can lead happier lives.

Additionally, allowing our minds to practice “free association and mind wandering” can help us be more creative and innovative. Our minds can become stuck in unproductive thought patterns when we focus too hard on something. People often find that their best ideas come to them when their minds are freer to wander—in the shower, for example. 

Thus, if taken too far, Meyer’s caution against allowing our minds to be “passive” may be detrimental to our spirituality, if it doesn’t allow us to process that spirituality on an unconscious level. The important thing is that a person is generally, overall active in their relationship with God—in this situation, occasionally allowing that relationship to take a back seat might allow them to more spontaneously come up with new and unique ways to be attentive to Jesus (such as coming up with a truly original way to help that friend in need). 

Competence Can Lead to Spiritual Apathy

Meyer cautions that sometimes, our talents and capabilities can make us complacent—when we feel as though we’ve mastered something, be it something ‘worldly’ like a sport or spiritual like prayer, we may feel like we have no work left to do, and, as such, we stop working. However, when we stop working on a skill, she explains that that skill will atrophy. Over time, we can end up in a situation where we think that we’re competent in an area when we’re simply passive and lazy. 

Meyer uses fitness as an example of complacency. We may think that we’re in great shape and become complacent about our exercise routine. Over time, our muscles will atrophy, and should we decide to go for a run, we may be in for a rude awakening.

Likewise, if we have a complacent attitude about our relationship with God, Meyer warns that it too will atrophy. Meyer reminds us that a positive spiritual life takes work. By keeping our minds active and engaged with God and His teachings daily, we can ensure that we’re actively cultivating a positive, God-centered mind. 

Engagement to Combat Atrophy

Meyer uses a physical analogy to illustrate how complacency can cause something (be it our spirituality or our bodies) to atrophy, but we can also look to neurology for another analogy, for just as our relationship with God and our physical fitness will atrophy if not actively cultivated, so will our mental sharpness if we don’t actively engage it.

While a decline in certain aspects of cognitive function is normal as we age, research has shown that some atrophy is avoidable, as adults can continue to build new neurons well into their later years. However, sticking with the activities that we’re already good at is not the best way to keep our brains sharp. Research shows that participating in novel, mentally-challenging skills is the best way to improve cognitive function as we age. 
Spiritual Apathy: How the Devil Robs Us of Joy

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  • How the Devil makes it his mission to corrupt our minds with negative thoughts
  • How to recognize the signs that Satan is attacking your mind
  • How to thwart Satan’s attacks and find happiness and fulfillment

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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