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Accidie: A Spiritual Disease

Have you ever heard of the spiritual disease which people in medieval times called accidie" It is something that threatens all Christian workers after the first flush of enthusiasm has worn off. It’s a form of sloth but not at the physical level. It is apathy of the soul. It shows in a certain toughness of mind and wariness of spirit which often results from hurt and disillusionment.

People with accidie in this sense have grown cynical about ideals, enthusiasms, and strong hopes. They look pityingly at young people and say, “They’ll learn,” taking it for granted that when they’ve learned, they’ll become tough inside too. Once upon a time these leather-souled people were keen, hopeful, and expectant. But nothing happened, or they got hurt, and now they protect themselves against pain by adopting cynical, world-weary attitudes.

If these people are ministers of churches, they work mechanically, merely going through the motions because their light has really gone out and they’re no longer expecting anything exciting to happen. They feel that they know from experience that exciting things don’t happen, and that’s an end of it. So they merely plod on, expecting nothing and receiving nothing.

But the Lord does not send us out on his work in order that nothing may happen. His word is intended to have impact; it’s sent out to accomplish something. We ought never to settle for a non-expectant, defeated attitude. Rather we should be asking and expecting great things from God.

Your Father Loves You by James Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, page for October 10