Why Do I Feel So Blah?

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Feeling Blah

It was between the second and third trip to the buffet that I broached the subject.

“So, what would you say if I said that I don’t have any passion?”

My friend, a professional counselor and consultant, looked up from his plate.

“You’ve been doing the same thing for too long.”

Wow,” I thought. “That was quick. What does this mean?” I wondered. “Should I quit my job?” I started the mental juggle of applying his words. But he wasn’t done with me. Over the next hour we talked through the sources of my passionless state. At the end, I had a better picture of how I got into this state and what I needed to do to restore my passion.

Passion = R + C + N

What in the world is passion, and how do we get it back? Youth leaders are always talking about having passion for Jesus.

“Get passionate! Be Passionate!”

It’s a bit of a buzz word. A way of saying, “Love Jesus with some emotion, some excitement, some pizzazz.” But passion can be defined as:

“a strong affection or enthusiasm for a place, an object, or a person”
“an intense desire or eagerness for a person, place or thing.”

It is most often associated with strong emotions or feelings described by words like: love, desire, zeal, or fire.

Strangely enough, the bible doesn’t really talk about passion. At least, not the way we do. “Passion” in the scriptures usually refers to drives and activities that are out of control and out of bounds. Things like acts of lust. (And that is not what we mean by getting passionate for Jesus.) The closest biblical words to our “passion” are things like “zeal” and “desire”. And even here, we often have to infer from other phrases that it’s talking about passion. Passion lies underneath some other biblical ideas like: satisfaction, joy and fulfillment. It is a more specific, intense subset of “love”. We see it in the phrase to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, …soul and …strength” (Deut 6:5)

Having passion for God is all very well and good, but what happens when you have no passion for anything? How does this happen to us and how do we get out of this state? While there are lots of reasons for this, our level of passion directly equates to our willingness to risk (R), engage challenges (C) and seek newness (N). This equation, P = R + C + N, doesn’t sound very spiritual. But, in practical terms, it is a vital part of the tone and texture of our lives.

Hydrate or Die

Camelbak, the portable liquids company, had a great phrase on their billboards: “Hydrate or Die!” Pretty serious stuff. But the same is true when it comes to passion and the things that feed passion. Either we find and feed passion or it dies. The truth is that if we are not growing, we are dying. We are built to advance, grow, expand our capabilities. Otherwise we are retreating and diminishing. Being static for too long leaves us stale and withered. Our lives must have injections of newness and challenge to remain fresh.

The Study

A number of years ago, researchers conducted a study in which they assessed the satisfaction and enjoyment of people in their jobs. The researchers sorted people into three categories:

  1. Those who were doing jobs in which they were rarely challenged

  2. Those who were doing jobs in which they were comfortably challenged

  3. Those who were doing jobs in which they were overly/uncomfortably challenged

What the researchers found was that those who had the highest level of joy, satisfaction and passion were those who were just inside the “uncomfortably challenged” group. These were the ones who were just above the level of their comfort zone when it came to their jobs. In other words, we need to be regularly pushed a little bit beyond what’s comfortable in order to derive the highest satisfaction from life. To put it another way, we are most passionate, most fully alive, when we are operating just beyond our normal range of operating abilities. This means that we need some risk, some challenge and some areas of newness in our lives. Maybe not every day, but in an ongoing fashion.

Get Stressed and Have a Nap.

I was shocked when my physiology professor said these words:

“The body needs stress to thrive.”

Was he crazy? Isn’t that why people have heart attacks and ulcers? Isn’t that caused by stress? Of course, he knew what he was talking about. We need something to push us and challenge us in order to live fully. This is how we are designed. We need challenge, weight, exercise and resistance in order to build our bodies. Either we grow or we retreat. So the hospital patient and the astronaut have the same problem. Without gravity and movement, their muscles and bones waste away. The same is true in other areas. We need new games, challenges and experiences to stretch our mental and emotional framework, to allow us to remain supple and fully alive.

While there are lots of obstacles to being passionate, two items especially work against our need to risk, explore and grow. The first obstacle is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of pain. Fear of the unknown. Fear in all its forms keeps us from launching out into uncharted territory to find and feed our passion. The second obstacle is our God-given need for comfort. We also desire the experience of satisfaction. Eat good food. Sleep late. Laze around. Chat with friends and drink coffee in the local café. Watch a funny movie. Etc… This is also a legitimate need. But these two needs must balance themselves out. To have passion in life, we often need to work against this other need for comfort. We have to sweat, go through some mental gymnastics, experience and navigate new situations. We’ve got to risk, engage, explore. We’ve got to get stressed and have a nap.

Practical Items

There is, of course, much more to passion than just P = R + C + N. Passion also has to do with the ability of our heart to receive and the input of passion-builders in our lives. Biblically, passion can be directly influenced by the Lord who is the proper object of our passion. But God also intends that in living life we find our passions in the adventure we live with him. In practical terms, restoring passion can work out in multiple ways. Changing jobs or positions. Changing countries, cities or neighborhoods. Changing bible versions. Picking up baseball. Taking the train instead of a car. Plotting a different route to Grandma’s house. Feeding the homeless in an uncomfortable neighborhood. Reading a book by someone you disagree with. Learning how to sew. Taking a vacation. The variations are endless. And only you know what will be new and challenging. Only you know what will bring some charge to your life.

The surprising thing is that investment in something challenging or new will bring passion and colour back into all other areas of your life. Despite the biblical label of “body, soul, and spirit,” humans are whole beings. All of us is important. And engaging challenge to one aspect of ourselves, affects all of us. We instinctively know that what affects part of us affects all of us. Try praying when you have a raging cold. Its difficult. And it's tough to feel spiritual with puffy eyes and snot running from your nose. What affects one part of you affects all of you. This means that where our hearts are hard or passionless, this casts a numbing shadow over other parts of our lives. But the opposite is also true: Where we are engaging risk, challenges and new things our hearts are coming alive. And the effects of awakening passion spill over into all other areas. If we have a spectacular experience, it leaks through warms up the other parts of our life. Feeding passion awakens life and passion in other areas of our day-to-day existence.

God, Life and a Biblical Basis

Is this thinking Biblical? Or is it merely good thinking? I believe it’s great theology.

In the beginning, God created a whole world for human beings. He pronounced it not just “good,” but “very good.” It is beautiful, incredibly functional and bears the approval of the artist. But it also reflects the artist in his goodness, creativity and life-giving nature. It is the place in which we live and interact. It is in this place that God intends to interact with us. To communicate his goodness. It is a mistake to think that God’s only interaction with us occurs at church, via prophetic words and the manifest touch of the Holy Spirit. (Though, let’s face it, those things are pretty fantastic.) Instead, God interacts with us through this life as a whole. It’s in the risk, challenge and newness of life that we find and feed our passion. God is in this life with us and wants to feed us the foods that fuel our body, soul and spirit.

So make some moves to risk, engage challenges and seek newness. P = R + C + N