I AM BORED: WHAT SHALL I DO?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-1-82 7:30 p.m.
And we welcome and pray a blessing for you who are sharing this hour with us on radio. This is the First Baptist Church of Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled I Am Bored: What Shall I Do? This is the last address, the last sermon, in that series on "What Shall I Do?" And there is no one of us but that sometime has faced this problem of the sameness and the monotony and sort of a hopelessness of life. "I am bored: what shall I do?" And God certainly has an answer. And Satan has an answer. We shall look at both of them tonight.
First of all, let us turn to Psalms, the Book of Psalms. Let us turn to Psalm 102, and we shall read out loud together the first seven verses. Psalm number 102. Psalm 102, the first seven verses. And if you are listening on radio, we invite you to turn in your Bible to this psalm, the one hundred second Psalm. Now let us read out loud the first seven verses:
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto Thee. Hide not Thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline Thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin. I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.
Aren’t those unusually impressive figures of speech? "I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl in the desert. I am like a sparrow alone upon the housetop" [Psalm 102:6-7]. And my text is in Job 10:1. Job 10, verse 1. "My soul is weary of my life; I will repeat my complaint. My soul is weary of my life; I speak in the bitterness of my soul." I am bored. What shall I do?
I am weary of my life [Job 10:1]. It has lost its meaning and its purpose. The monotonous repetition of every working hour tires me. I take it to bed, tired. And there is no rest from it. When you are alone and there’s nobody around, what are you like? How are you? Are you radiant or run down? Are you excited or exasperated? Are you upbeat or downbeat? Are you vital or fretful? Are you turned on or turned out? Are you planning victories, or are you pessimistic over past defeats?
A psychiatrist said, "Most of my patients come to me because they are bored." And a psychologist said, "Too many people seem to be burned out." Why are we bored? Why are we weary of our lives? Because we have lost meaning in it; we are fed up. We see ourselves as victims and manipulated and shoved around. Our inner anger incubates; it seethes, it settles in our hearts as a festering sore. We are sick and tired of it all; it’s the same old monotonous routine. Our interstate highways are monotonous. Our assembly lines are monotonous. Our way of life is monotonous. Our parties are monotonous. Our speeches are monotonous; the smaller the calibre of the mind, the greater the bore of the open mouth.
There are few wild beasts more to be dreaded than a communicative man having nothing to communicate. A pretty girl at a party was cornered by a bore, and exasperated, she rose to leave, and he said, "Who is driving you home?" And she snapped, "You are." A gentleman at a meeting was describing in great detail his trip to the Alps; then he said, "And there I stood with the abyss yawning before me." And somebody perked up and said, "Was the abyss yawning before you got there?"
A long winded tiresome talker finally turned to rural life. And he said, "I knew a fellow who was hooked by a cow. Terrible, isn’t it, to be gored to death by a cow?" And the fellow replied to him, "Not nearly as bad as to be bored to death by a donkey." Our speeches are wearisome. We are sick with a disease of sameness. We read of actors who leave TV series and who leave Broadway plays, and when you ask them why, because the monotonous sameness of it all has brought to them a lack of interest in the show. And there’s hardly an exception to that.
This last week our Career class, our Career Sunday school class, had a dinner meeting at the Belo Mansion, where the lawyers gather, and Mary Crowley was their main speaker. And she said, beautifully and effectively, "All of us seek three things. We seek first identification, to be somebody, not a cipher. Second," she said, "we seek stimulation to escape boredom. And third," she said, "we seek security."
Let us look at that second one: stimulation. A psychiatrist said, "Emptiness of life can become boredom. Then it becomes futility, and finally despair." An individual cannot live in a condition of emptiness for long. That’s why the psalmist cried, saying, "I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I am like a sparrow alone upon the housetop" [Psalm 102:6-7] And Job cried, "I am weary of my life; I will repeat my complaint; I am weary of my life" [Job 10:1]. This is boredom, weariness; tired of the sameness and the monotony of every day’s existence.
Now, don’t ever think otherwise but that Satan comes with a counterfeit storehouse of how to relive the monotonous boredom of our days. Only thing about them, they are false and tragic cures. And I name some of them. And these are common among us all, and we see them every day of our living.
Satan comes in our boredom; says to us, "I have thrills to suggest." So he begins. The first one is in drugs. "Bored? Why not lose all of my worries? Happiness is but a pill away." So by the thousands and now by the millions, our people seek a way out of the monotony and the emptiness of life by drugs. What happens? I read this in a newspaper; the headline caught my eye, "His Last Long Trip." It was dated from Tacoma, Washington and was sent out on the wireless by the UPI. It spoke about a railway employee who had found a well-dressed young man in an empty boxcar. He had committed suicide. His name was Richard Schrader. And by his side was a suicide note. And it read, "Dear Dad, dope ruined my life and took away my happiness. I thought I was experiencing life; I found out it was death. I hope to God people taking dope find what I found in it sooner than I did. Goodbye, Dad. Your son. Love, Ricky." There is no ultimate surcease from the emptiness of life in drugs.
A second counterfeit that Satan brings to people to win them away from the monotonous, meaningless of their days: it is alcohol. Alcohol is an addictive drug, and it worsens as drinking continues. Boredom leads to it. I read of a fellow, a workman in Birmingham, England who was drinking, and drinking, and drinking. And somebody asked him, "Why do you drink so much?" And he replied, "It is the shortest way out of Birmingham." We spend over ten billion dollars a year in alcoholic drinks. And there are more than forty thousand of our people who are killed every year on the highway because of alcohol. And the cost to society is astronomical in crime, in broken homes, in lost jobs, in health. I read last week where alcohol shortens a man’s life from ten to twelve years.
A third false counterfeit for boredom that Satan brings to us is, to my amazement, crime – a part of boredom. When I read Augustine’s Confessions, I read in there when he was a youth he stole; didn’t need what he stole, didn’t use what he stole. He did it for just a kick in it, the interest in it. And when I was a youth, I suppose one of the most famous trials ever in the judicial history of America occurred in Chicago. There were two rich boys. One was named Loeb and the other was named Leopold. And as a thrill, they murdered a little boy named Bobby Franks. The prosecuting attorney sought to send those two young men to the electric chair. Their defence lawyer was the most famous America has ever known. His name was Clarence Darrow. And for days and days that trial made the headlines of every newspaper in America. And Clarence Darrow won his case. He saved those two rich boys from the electric chair. And the basis of his argument was this: that, being pampered rich kids, they were bored to death. And as a kick and as a thrill, they murdered that little boy Bobby Franks. And it was not their fault; it was the fault of the rich social society, bored to death, in which they moved. That’s a matter of judicial history: crime.
Pornography: bored to death, life is dull, and empty, and meaningless, and Satan suggests a thrill in pornography. This last week I read a report of a conference on the part of psychiatrists, and psychologists, and legal professors who were concerned about the floodtide of pornographic literature and films and TV series. And the Lord only knows what it will be when cable television comes. These are the reports: it said ignorance of how vicious pornography has become is characteristic of modern America. Modern pornography bears little relation to the naughty magazines of the last generation with their skimpily clad or bare-breasted models. Today, pornography is thousands of magazines, quickie films, videotapes with close-ups of nothing but promiscuity; group-sex, bestiality, masturbation, rape, sadomasochism, gang sexual assaults, and fetishes. Even sex murders actually have been committed on film. This isn’t I, this is a report from the conference I read in one of our great national magazines.
Victor Cline, a Salt Lake psychologist and expert in this field, told the conference that pornography has an addicting effect. That it requires escalation over a period of time to get a kick out of it; it must be more and more and more. That it desensitizes, making one immune to that which originally shocked one. And that there is a strong tendency for its users to act out what they have seen. Then it continued, "77% of child molesters of boys and 87% of child molesters of girls admit, that sexual behaviour they had seen in pornography, they were imitating."
There are between 260 and 280 monthly magazines catering to pedophiles, people who get their sexual excitement out of looking at little boys and girls in compromising positions. And to my amazement, the article said that there are clubs – there are clubs in America – nationals that trade in children. One of the counterfeits of Satan to relieve boredom, the meaninglessness of life: pornography.
Another is sex. There is in the Bible, in 2 Samuel 3:2, and 2 Samuel 13:1-39, one of the most sordid stories that you’ll read in human literature. The eldest son of David was named Amnon. And one of his sons, younger, by another wife, was named Absalom [2 Samuel 3:21-3]. And as beautiful and as handsome as he was, he had a sister named Tamar who was even more beautiful, more attractive. And Amnon took a notion that he wanted to violate Tamar. And so he – under the direction of a subtle man, the Bible calls him – arranged for a meeting whereby Tamar came to his room, ostensibly because he was ill and to bring him food. And while she was there, he barred the door, and he raped her; he violated her. And when Absalom heard of it, Absalom slew Amnon [2 Samuel 13:1-33].
And then the rest of the story is so well known to us; the rebellion of Absalom [2 Samuel 15:1-18:8] and his own final murder by Joab [2 Samuel 18:9-33]. Can you imagine anything as vile and as violent as that sordid story of Amnon and beautiful Tamar? All of it arises out of the boredom and the emptiness of life of a king’s son, who instead of assuming responsibility and marching as a soldier for God and for his father the king, lies in a room bored to death and violates his own sister; Satan’s shelf of counterfeits for the relief of the emptiness of our life.
Suicide: George Sanders, suave screen actor and man of the world, just before swallowing five containers of barbiturates in a Spanish hotel room, wrote, "I commit suicide because I am bored and because I have already lived long enough." He took his life when he was sixty-five, to me, in the very heyday of manhood. Sixty-five? Man, I can’t even remember when I was sixty-five!
But enough. What does God say to boredom, to the emptiness of life, to the futility, and the monotonous, and the sameness of our days? What does God say? I have, in reading God’s Word; I have found seven keys to coming alive. Number one: what did God do with Job when Job said, "I am weary of my life [Job 10:1]. I repeat my complaint. I am weary of my life" [Job 16:7]. What did God do with him? In chapters 38, and 39, and 40, and 41 – that long, long, section in the Book of Job – God took Job and revealed to him the world of wonder all around him [Job 38-41].
Thomas Dryer said, "A greater poverty than that caused by lack of money is the poverty of unawareness. Men and women go about the world unaware about the beauty, the goodness, the glories in it; their souls are poor. It is better to have a poor pocketbook than to suffer from a poor soul." "Man," God says, "Look! Look around you!"
I heard of a fellow that died at twenty-seven. He wasn’t buried until he was seventy-two. Now, I’m going to pick out just some of the things that God said to Job who cried, "I am weary of my life!" [Job 10:1]. I’m going to pick out just some of the things that God said to him in chapter 38; Job chapter 38, verse 16. God says to him:
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? Or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? Declare if you have. Where is the way where light comes from and dwells? And as for darkness, what is it. . .Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow! Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?. . . By what way is the light diffused, and how does the east wind scatter itself over the earth?. . . Canst thou bind the cluster of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?. . . Canst thou send out lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here I am? Who hath put wisdom in the mind? Or who hath given understanding to the heart?
For those chapters God says to Job, "Look at the wonders above you and around you and in you. How could a man be bored when the whole wonder of God’s world is to be seen?" Look. Examine. Search. Enthusiasm soars with interest. There is absolutely no end to the infinitude of God’s creative world. And it’s ours to look at, to wonder at, to search for. That’s one thing God did.
Number two: the answer to boredom: in Job 42, verses 5 and 6, in humility and in repentance, we are to look to God, to look heavenward. Job cried in those verses, 42:5-6, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eyes seeth Thee: Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." When a man looks at himself, no wonder he gets discouraged and bored to death. Man, look at God! Turn your eyes upon the Lord, and there is life abounding in Him [John 10:10].
Number three: God said to Job to pray for his friends [Job 42:8]. Now, you look at Job 42:10, "And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends." What a wonderful word that is. God turned the captivity of Job[Job 42:10]. He just cried, "I am weary of my life" [Job 10:1] When he ministered to others, God turned the captivity, the hurt, and the sterility, and the bareness, and the sameness of his life when he ministered to his friends.
I one time heard of a man who came to the pastor and said to him, "Pastor, I want you to take my name off of the church roll. Take it off of the church book. I’m tired of it all." And the pastor said, "All right. If that’s the way that you feel in your heart, we’ll take your name off of the church roll. But I have just one request. Dear old Mrs. Brown is dying. Would you take this Bible and go down there to her home and read to that old soul who’s dying, out of God’s Book, and kneel down by her side and pray? Then you come back, and I’ll take your name off of the church roll."
Well, you couldn’t say "No" to a humble request like that. So he took the pastor’s Bible in his hand and went down to old Mrs. Brown’s house, and read to her out of God’ Book, and kneeled down by her side in prayer. Turned around and came back to the pastor’s study and said, "Pastor, I’ve changed my mind, I’ve changed my mind. Keep my name on the church roll." The emptiness of our lives is largely because we live them in ourselves, and there are ten thousand times ten thousand people around us who would be encouraged if we just speak to them, just call their name, much less knock at the door.
Paul wrote, in Romans 15:1, "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." If you want to live life in the fullest, ask God to make you a blessing to somebody else, and every day will be filled with excitement and glory.
Number four: how do you escape boredom, the monotonous sameness of life; in rejoicing and thanksgiving in the Lord. Philippians 4:11 says, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." Can you believe that? Inside a dungeon, feet in the stocks, praising God [Acts 16:23-25]; can you think of that? The Philippian letter was written out of prison, and more than forty times in that letter there is either "rejoice" or a cognate term.
In Corinthians, the second one – chapter 11, verse 23 to chapter 12, verse 10 – that long passage in there, Paul is describing all of the perils of his life: by robbers, by sea, by highwaymen, by his own brethren [2 Corinthians 11:23-33]. Then finally he speaks of the thorn in the flesh, the long recounting of the troubles and sorrows of his life. Then when he says, "I pled God to deliver me from it, God said, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ Therefore," says the apostle, "I glory, I rejoice, in my infirmities, and my problems, and my troubles, and my distresses, for when I am weak, then am I strong" [2 Corinthians 12:7-10]. Good Lord, what a reply for the problems and the sorrows and the monotony that we face in our life! In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything give thanks." In everything give thanks, "Lord, You mean it for some good thing for me, and I thank Thee for it."
Number five: how do you escape boredom and the same monotony of life? You do it by serving the Lord. Matthew 4:10, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." Not only others, but God. Now I want to show you what I mean by that.
Serving God, just the Lord; there was a preacher’s wife who was to sing in the church service. And before her time came to sing, she was obviously nervous. And she wrapped and unwrapped, and folded and unfolded her sheet music out of which she was to sing. And a deaf person in the congregation – a woman who was deaf and couldn’t hear – noticed her anxious expression. Being deaf, did not realize the progression of the service, so she wrote the preacher’s wife a note who was to sing and asked, "What is the matter?" And the wife wrote back to the woman who was deaf, "I am going to sing, and I’m afraid." And the deaf woman then wrote and sent this little word to her, "Just sing to God." Just sing to God.
Now I want to show you why that is so meaningful to me, "Just sing to God." So many of the things we do, we do for people to commend us or for people to see us. A man who gave something to the church; somehow, it was unacknowledged and unheralded. And a fellow finding it out said to him, "Doesn’t that make you angry and disgusted?" And the man who gave the gift replied, "Not at all. I was not giving it for them, I was giving it to God."
Man, what ten thousand, thousand times ten thousand problems we’d solve in the church if we weren’t looking for commendation, but what we did, we did for the love of God. Visiting, serving, praying, teaching, singing, working, just for the love of God; whether anybody knows it or not, He knows it. Whether anybody commends us or not, He will commend us. He has got a book up there in heaven, and He writes down every gracious thing we ever say, every gesture we ever make, everything we ever do for Jesus; it’s in His book [2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 6:10]. And that’s our reward in glory [John 12:26]. Talk about being bored, dear God, if I can just serve Thee, life is filled.
Number six, number six: how to keep from being bored: seek excellence. What you do, do the best that you can. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, the apostle writes, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." In Ecclesiastes 9:10, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might."
We got a sweet wonderful girl down here who is a professional cellist. I never heard of this man Pablo Casals, did you ever hear of him? Pablo Casals. Shows you how stupid I am, and dumb I am; Pablo Casals. He was a famous cellist. Well, I’m going to quote from him. "When I finish my performance and I have done my best, I have an intangible feeling of a lump of gold in my heart." Isn’t that wonderful? When I’ve done my best, in my heart I have an intangible feeling of gold, a lump of it, in my soul. Ah, that makes life interesting! There is so much to do, so much to do. And when we try to do it well, when we strive for excellence, life becomes intensely interesting.
If I’m going to teach a Sunday school class, Lord help me. I’m going to teach it the best I possibly can. If I’m going to preach a sermon, Lord, help me to preach it the best I possibly can. Whatever I do, I’m going to do it the best that I can. It makes life interesting and exciting.
And last, how to escape boredom: give your life, and your days, and your hopes, and your visions, and your dreams, give them to the Lord Jesus. Give it all to Him. It’s marvellous what He can take: a small gift and multiply it. Give everything to the Lord Jesus, even the boredom, and the sameness, and the monotony, and the frustrations, and the disappointments; give it all to the Lord Jesus.
Did you ever hear of a more beautiful invitation than that of our dear Lord in Matthew 11:28-30? "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." Lord, Lord, what a precious invitation!
I one time heard of a little girl who was invalid. Others were out playing, and she lying on a bed, invalid. And there was a group singing under her window. And they sang:
I heard the voice of Jesus saying ‘Come unto Me and rest.
Lay down thou weary one, lay down thy head upon My breast.’
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad.
And I have found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.
["I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say"; Horatius Bonar, 1846]
And the poor girl turned to her nurse and said, "Have you found that resting place in Jesus?" And the nurse, being a devout Christian replied, "My child, I have."
A resting place in Jesus. As our Lord said in John 10:10, "I am come that they might have life, life, and that they might have it more abundantly." No, we’ll never find it empty or meaningless in Christ. Here and there, it overflows in His grace and mercy and in His precious presence.
Now may we stand together?
Our Lord in heaven, when we leave Thee out of our lives, something has to take its place. No man can live in a vacuum. The emptiness of life brings us finally to despair, to hurt, to frustration, to unhappiness, to sorrow, sometimes to extensive evil and violence and crime. Ah, Lord! How meaningless and purposeless life can be. But, our Lord, how full and how rich the humblest life can be in Thee, in Jesus. Thou hast come to bring us life, abounding life, abundant life [John 10:10]. And every day is a victorious day when it is lived for Thee.
To walk with the Lord, to talk with the Lord, to pilgrimage by His side, humbly, in the best way we know how, to do God’s bidding, to serve our living Savior; O God, that we might find an overflowing life in Thee! And that is our appeal tonight.
As our people stand silently, quietly, prayerfully, remembering you, how our people pray for you; a one somebody you, tonight, "I’m opening my heart God-ward and heavenward. Lord, come in and make my life full and meaningful. Forgive me my sins. Write my name in Thy book and save me to Thyself in heaven" [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. Do it. Do it.
A family you, coming into the fellowship of this dear church, a couple you, to whom God has spoken, make the decision now in your heart. And in this moment when we sing, if you’re in the balcony, down one of those stairways, and there’s time and to spare, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, I’m answering with my life." Abounding life God has promised us who reach our hands toward Him, who lift our hearts toward Him, do it, do it, it’s the full, rich, and wonderful way. Do it.
And our Lord, we bless Thy name for what You have done for us, for the meaning and purpose You have poured into life for us. And our Lord, answer prayer now. And we thank Thee for these who will come, in Thy saving, keeping, wonderful name, amen. While we sing, and welcome, and welcome.
I AM BORED. WHAT SHALL I DO?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. I am weary of my life
1. Lost meaning, purpose
2. Monotonous repetition
3. Tired feeling
II. How are you when alone?
III. Why are we bored?
1. Life lost its meaning
2. Fed up
3. Monotonous routine
IV. False, Satanic cures for boredom
V. God’s answer to dispel boredom
1. God reveals the world of wonder He created
2. Eyes on God, not self
3. Ministering to others
5. Serving God
6. Seeking excellence
VI. Give your life, days, hopes, vision, dreams to Christ