So you did not know that you suffer at times from hebetude. We all do! This is a word that I had to look up when reading recently in the Sabbath Exercises readings of Thomas Chalmers (1780-1947) the Scottish minister and divine who was the subject of my Masters’ thesis when I studied in Edinburgh, Scotland many years ago. And if you are an avid reader of the author Joseph Conrad you may have come across the word, as it was a favorite of his. Hebetude means dullness or lethargy, or obtuseness or sluggishness of mind. Chalmers used it to describe his mental and spiritual dullness even when sometimes partaking of the Lord’s Supper or seeking spiritual refreshment from the Lord. Jesus said to Peter and his disciples when Peter asked him the meaning when he spoke in parables, “Are you still so dull? (Matthew 15:16).
Well, yes, we are at times “so dull, in a state of hebetude. It is a state of mind that is not unfamiliar to us in this pilgrimage of the Christian life. Chalmers wrote, “Rouse me from nature’s apathy and nature’s lethargic indifference to the things of faith. Bring the high interests of the unseen and eternal world to bear upon me; and with a realizing sense of these may I go forth on the work of diligent preparation for the life that is to come. Thou knowest my infirmities. Thou knowest the carnality, and the constant, the cleaving ungodliness of my heart. Turn this ungodliness away from it. Give me access to the fountain of life; and usher me into a mental panorama of brighter and clearer manifestation than I have yet enjoyed.
Is this not a prayer concerning something very near to your own experience? The writer of Hebrews wrote these words to Christians who were involved in the work of serving the saints and of following the Lord as his disciple, and he knew that sluggishness and apathy of mind in spiritual matters would dot their road. So he encouraged them to the same faith and patience that characterized the saints who have gone before us on a similar road, yet have now inherited the promises for which we still look.
You may at times wonder if hebetude, spiritual lethargy in your mind, is unique to you. It is not! But it is a state of mind with which we should never be content and from which we constantly seek a way through. Chalmers said that in such a state he endeavored to keep his mind fixed on an objective; and the very best objective in the realm of Christian faith, he wrote, is the righteousness of Christ, which is the only plea and warrant for your acceptance with God; not your righteousness, you must remember, Christ’s!
Today, you need to be reminded that this struggle with hebetude in your life and mind is not only your disease, it infects us all. Fellow believers can be a help when their counsel and encouragement, especially when drenched with self-experience, is truly biblical; yet the most rewarding path through this malaise is the truth of going to the source of your salvation, your own Lord Jesus Christ, with perseverance, to get the comfort and sharpness of spiritual mind you must have, or you will never be satisfied. “I must have it; I will never be put off! Chalmers prayed, “Raise me above the degrading anxieties of the present evil world, and give me the confident gait, the elevated tone and purposes of an immortal creature. So may it be with you.
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