Bored in the Battle

Think back to when you were a kid. Some of us may have to think farther back than others, but regardless of how long ago we were kids, each of our childhoods probably shared the same drive to flee boredom. That’s what kids do: play, fight, get into trouble, work tirelessly the job of avoiding boredom. 

So when did a child’s job become our society’s obsession? 

We’ve reached a unique point in history in which the principal thing to be avoided is boredom. Here’s the dictionary definition of boredom, so you and I are on the same page before we move on. 

It’s worth taking note of two things in that definition: 

  1. Boredom is a state that’s achieved through lack of interest. That’s probably the most obvious definition, one with which we can all agree. “I’m bored” rarely comes out of the mouth of a kid at the top of a water slide or an adult hurtling to the ground in a skydiving suit. 
  1. What surprised me the most when I read this definition was the first half: boredom is a state of being weary and restless. It’s no wonder we want to avoid boredom. Weariness and restlessness, though they seem to be opposites, both stem from the same source. And I’m about to argue that source goes deeper than lack of interest. 

The quest for happiness 

We humans want to be happy. God created us for it. 

I know some Christians will take that sentence and run in the direction I used to — “God doesn’t want us to be happy, He wants us to love and glorify Him!”

Others will run in the opposite direction — “Yes! Happiness is what life is all about, so a good God would never let us be unhappy.”

Hold on, you two extremes, you. I might write a special blog someday just to show how the two of you can get along — granted you lay aside some of your extrabiblical preconceptions. 

For now let’s sum it up by saying God does want us to be happy, but true and lasting happiness is found in Him alone. 

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word אֶשֶׁר (pronounced “eh-sher”) is translated into English interchangeably as “happy” and “blessed”. And do you know what? Rarely in the Old Testament (or in the Greek of the New Testament), is the word for “happy” or “blessed” ever used in regards to wealth, possessions or occupation. The vast majority of the time, happiness is described as a result of knowing God and being known by Him. More on that in a future post (hopefully). 

Boredom buster

But what does all this happiness talk have to do with boredom? My friends at Merriam-Webster confidently assert that boredom is “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest”. 

I contest that boredom is the state of being weary and restless through misplaced interest. Augustine of Hippo (a bishop in North Africa in the 4th century) is often quoted for telling God “our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.”

This is true for every human across the board. I don’t care what you do or don’t believe — if you’re searching for happiness, meaning or purpose in anything less than God Himself, you’re aiming too low. 

Until you find Him, you’ll be weary and restless through misplaced interest (Lane’s/Augustine’s definition of boredom). There’s no shortage of things that can interest you for a while, but eventually you’ll find yourself weary and restless through lack of interest (Merriam-Webster’s definition of boredom) in your pursuits.

Just ask King Solomon. When Solomon asked God for wisdom, God gave it to him along with riches, honor and fame. But after chasing every avenue of pleasure and enjoyment that such a life could offer, he penned the brooding book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is filled with Solomon’s musings on the futility of a life lived without God at the forefront. In the second chapter he describes how everything — and he tried everything there was to try — is futility without God.

Wannabe kings 

I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark here and guess that most of our readers aren’t wealthy royalty able to test every form of pleasure. Consider yourself fortunate. Solomon would

But as I said, we live in a day and age in which boredom (at least the Merriam-Webster version)  is considered intolerable. I won’t even get into the existential “be true to yourself” worldviews — at least not in this post, maybe that would be better for that happiness post I need to write… 

Philosophies and subliminal Disney worldview messaging aside, the biggest boredom “solution” our culture provides is entertainment. I actually agree wholeheartedly with Merriam-Webster on this definition… 

Take particular note of the words “diversion” and “diverting”. You know another way to say diversion?

 Distraction. And here’s where it all comes together — entertainment, futile pleasures, weary restlessness, the whole lot. Anything less than God (aka everything), when elevated above Him, can only serve to distract us from what we’re missing out on. 

I know all about distracting myself from ultimate reality. I gave into it hard several years ago. And the pull towards mindless distraction still feels irresistible at times. Because it’s easy. Because it’s tangible. 

But distraction only works for so long before reality smacks you in the face

A word to Christians 

God has you and me in this world, wherever we happen to be on it, for a purpose. You don’t have to wonder what that purpose is — He hasn’t exactly kept it a secret. Your purpose and mine is to love God (the more you dive into the ocean of who He is, the more preposterous the idea becomes of Him being boring), and reflect His goodness to the world around us

That’s why I countered boredom with happiness at the beginning of this post. If you don’t fully understand and embrace your purpose in this world, happiness is impossible and you’re left with two-bit distractions. 

Netflix, social media, sports, video games and entertainment in general — while not objectively wrong — make a sorry substitute for the King of the universe. 

Brother, sister, you and I are in the middle of a raging battle we can’t see. Don’t assume your boredom is innocuous. 

A word to those without Christ 

Your life is not meaningless. Nor is it without purpose. But, just like Christians, you do not determine either one. 

Truth is not dependent on experience. Nevertheless, take it from a man who’s suffered nearly ten years of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual turmoil: the “meaning” and “purpose” touted by our society is like a 2-D picture of a Taco Bell sauce packet compared to the shining royal feast of Jesus Christ. 

I wanted to test a hypothesis I had just now, so I Googled “what is the purpose of life”. I wasn’t surprised to discover the entire first page was full of articles with the depressing news that we each have to decide our own purpose in life.

 It’s not that independence and autonomy are inherently depressing, but if I’m the one who determines my own meaning and purpose, that implies I determine my own worth as well. 

Here’s what I mean. I had a good friend who decided that his purpose in life was to make other people happy. A noble purpose, it would seem to all. After all, he was generous, kind and friendly to nearly everyone who knew him. But whenever he failed in his self-made purpose and let someone down (or was let down by someone), he was shaken to the core. He told me this himself.

Meaning, purpose and worth are all inextricably linked. My friend tied them all up in the happiness and approval of others. There’s no shortage of things you can find to “be your purpose in life”, no shortage of ways you can “find meaning”. 

But if you are the sole determiner of your meaning, purpose and worth, just a light breeze is enough to topple you to the ground. We humans are awfully fickle. 

For you to truly matter, your worth must lie outside yourself. For your worth to withstand changing opinions and changing times, your worth must lie outside your fellow fickle humans. There must be an objective standard of worth beyond human capacity. 

There is. He’s the One who made you in His image, put a conscience in your heart, a law in His Word. And He’s the One who took the punishment you earned for breaking that law (as we all have). 

You don’t have to stay weary and restless through misplaced interest. Jesus will give you rest. Come to Him.