Are You Bored?

Nothing to do?
Nothing to do?
Put some mustard in your shoe
Fill your pockets full of soot,
Drive a nail into your foot…

Nothing to Do, by Shel Silverstein

“I’m bored!” To anyone with small kids, it’s a common complaint, heard most often during school vacations. Of course, what it really means is, “Entertain me!” Yeah, right. My parents always suggested that I find some way to amuse myself, or else they’d assign some chores that would keep me occupied. “Or else” meant business. It was amazing how many pressing chores of my own I could suddenly think of!

Lately, I’ve heard “I’m bored!” from two less likely sources.

The first was my dad. At 87 years of age, he can no longer participate in many of the activities that used to keep him busy. He used to make furniture and other woodworking projects, but his failing memory and diminished strength have taken their toll. It’s not safe for him to use most of the tools he’d need to construct even a bird house.

He used to be a very talented photographer. Now it’s been years since he took a picture. We even tried taking him out and suggesting likely shots. He wouldn’t even try.

Now, most of his days are spent sitting in his favorite recliner, watching TV, reading a novel, or napping. Anything else seems to be too much effort. It makes me sad that he’s given up on life, especially since he’s still physically capable of making a meaningful contribution, but it’s his choice. I can only nag so much.

The other person complaining of boredom has no such constraints. He’s young, healthy, exceptionally intelligent, and quite able to do almost anything. What in the world is he doing, being bored?

As I rushed around the next day, dusting and vacuuming, making salads for the Fourth of July BBQ we were hosting, and checking things off my too-long to-do list, the concept of boredom kept rattling around in my head.

I’m seldom bored—my problem is more likely to be found in my overstuffed schedule. Neither are my friends ever bored. At least, they never let on if they are. So, why are some people never bored, while others complain about it frequently?

After some musing, it seems to me that boredom comes mainly from being focused on ourselves. We want stimulation. We want something to do, and it needs to be fun… exciting is even better. The poem Boredom, by Eleanor Farjeon, contains this verse that says it so well:

Oh, dear! what shall I do?
I don’t want to go in the garden with you,
I don’t want to sit down and play a nice game,
I want to do something that isn’t the same.

It’s all about “What shall I do?” “I don’t want…,” “I don’t want…, “I want…”

On the other hand, the people I know who spend their lives serving others never complain about being bored. There’s always one more person to love, one more hug to give, one more way to help.

Numerous passages[1] in the Bible point out that we were created to do “good works.” Even before the fall, Adam and Eve were commissioned to be gardeners. They had a job. Work in itself is not bad, no matter how much we love to gripe and grumble about it at times.

Then, as believers, God expects good deeds from us. We don’t do these works in order to earn our salvation, or even to earn God’s favor, but rather, in response to His work in us. If you don’t know what He might want you to be involved in, ask. Make yourself available.

Good deeds cause others to praise God. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus exhorts us to “… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Good deeds are one piece of evidence we have that we are truly saved. Check out Hebrews 6:10-12.

We will be called to account for how we use our time and ability, according to God’s will for our lives. Consider the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.

Correspondingly, the book of Proverbs is full of warnings to those who are lazy. And Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 3:9-11, states that “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

I’m sure you can find many more passages that apply, if you take the time to look (and you won’t be bored while you do).

Even in inherently boring situations, such as sitting in a waiting room, listening to a poor speaker drone on about something you have no interest in, or taking a long road trip (my husband and I just got home from a two-week trip that covered 4,000 miles of interstate highway), we can always find something useful to do. When there’s nothing else possible (and why wait until this point?), we can always pray. God literally died in order to spend time with us.

Yes, sometimes some of us are called to suffer boredom for the sake of the kingdom. There are extenuating circumstances, such as being in prison for one’s faith, that I’m sure are plenty boring… in between times that are even more unpleasant. But for most of us, that isn’t the issue.

Next time you’re tempted to complain that you’re bored, spend some time asking God what He would have you do. He may want you to call someone who needs a friend. He may ask you to help with the chores. You may even be called to join or start an international ministry! And He might ask you to spend some time hanging out with Him.

[1] Gen. 1:28, Gen. 2:5, Titus 2:14, Heb. 10:24, 1 Tim. 5:10, 1 Tim. 6:18, and many more.

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