Christian Withdrawl Syndrome. What is it?
It’s a phrase I use to describe the tendency for Christians to withdraw from the areas they are most needed- in effect, to “retreat” when they should advance in areas such as the media and entertainment industries, and many other aspects of our society. I discussed this to some level in my article Oppositional Offensive, where for the most part I talked about the need for engagement versus disengagement with the world- “in the world not of it” with an emphasis on the fact that Christians still need to actively participate in what is going on around them, but in a holy way. We are not called to be sequestered souls (within reason – I’m not saying that we should just throw ourselves into bad company and every breeding ground of evil with no foresight), but to reach out to others through how we live and work, as much as it does not conflict with whatever is good and honorable. I discussed that this may mean covering more dangerous territory for you spiritually, but it can be well worth the rewards.
I also talked about not just sitting in the sidelines, but acting on inspiration in my article Imperative Inspiration. In the article I looked at the tendency for people to sit back when they should be standing up for something and making a difference. Now I want to try tying these two concepts together.
If Christians should live engaged versus disengaged in the world, and should stand up and act to glorify for God instead of living passively, then how should they do so? One way is rather than retreating from areas where their influence is most needed in the world, they should advance. As I mentioned previously, Christians are notorious for withdrawing or abstaining from being in involved in Hollywood and other areas of spiritual desperation, and developing an “oh-well” attitude toward these industries and real spiritual battlegrounds. What many do not realize is that in doing so, they are effectively retreating from a battleground, and letting it be overrun by evil. Many people I have heard use the excuse that for all we know, the world may be on it’s way to ending anyway with the rate of how evil things are getting, so we should just let it go- there’s not much we can do to stop it. Is this a valid excuse?
No- this is an atrocity! We do not know when Christ is coming, and if He is coming soon, we certainly should not be giving in to the world’s pressures, but trying to resist them all the more, so that more people have the opportunity to learn about God’s character and to grow in His love. The only way to do this is to be involved in other people’s lives, in industries, corporations, charities, government- every edifice of life on this planet should be affected with God’s love in at least some small way, and each of us individually is a conduit of that love. We have no right to back down from glorifying God in every possible manner, not only for our own sakes, but because what right does anyone have to refuse to be used by God because they think that they’ve got His plans figured out, and think they have the wisdom to decide when to live evangelistically and when not? We may do so, but at what a loss to ourselves, and to others! How self-serving, and how short-sighted!
Readers, time is too precious and God is too good: go and do something- act on the inspiration that God brings your way.
Do not abstain, press on.
Perhaps you are interested in pursuing glorifying God through one of the areas where Christians tend to withdraw. It could be anything, whether unusual or common-place. You are going to need some serious words of encouragement, such as: “never, never give up.” (Winston Churchill). The sad thing is that for many ambitious young people who want to become involved in the areas where God’s grace is most needed, they are not going to get much encouragement from the very places that they need it most (such as the Church). Because these are areas where Christians withdraw, there are some biases even within God-loving communities about such paths being viable. We are steered toward being more practical (often more “safe”), instead of steered toward following God’s direction. God’s direction is not always practical, but it is always trustworthy.
How will you know God’s direction? People will tell you to “follow your heart”, and the Bible says that the heart is deceitful. There are those Christians who will say that therefore, you should not follow your heart. However, I would dig a little deeper here- if your heart follows after what is true (Christ) and desires Him above all things, then not only shall all that you truly need be “added unto you” by seeking Him first, but when you place Christ first, the desires of His heart shall become moreso the desires of your heart. Let Him be at the forefront of your heart and soul, let Him captivate you with His lovingkindness, and His truth, not your flesh’s deceitfulness, shall fill it. Then, and only then, will His direction become clear. And it won’t always be. But by trusting Him, you will save yourself a lot of difficulty on that end.
So let’s say God would have you impact the media and entertainment industries. I use this as an example so frequently because it’s something I’m passionate about, and also because it’s such a clear example of an area where Christians are just starting to realize the need for less withdrawing and more advancing: glorifying God through the medium of media, which has so frequently been ignored or under- or poorly-used. You have a direction, though you might not always know the means of making a difference at first. You have the inspiration: the passion to alter something that is spiritually ill. Now what?
I know from personal experience that it can be difficult to explain to people the often vague-sounding dreams I have of glorifying God through media. Heavy biases exist against being both a Christian and being involved in these areas. To use a different example, the same is true of some of the ministries that help young women recover from industries such as pro*titution in other countries. People say it’s dangerous to be involved in that kind of work. Not to mention, it sounds strange to say that you’re interested in helping people get out of s*x industries. (Note: The astericks are added so that this post does not get tagged incorrectly with search engines) These are things we’re not supposed to talk about, and be “out of sight, out of mind” about.
On top of this culture of shame against young people making a difference in these spiritual battlegrounds rather than withdrawing, there is the issue of well-meaning, realistic commentators. Sometimes in your walk with God, you may find other people giving you advice about where to go in life and how- all practical, good-sounding stuff, but in conflict with the direction you sense that God is taking you. It can be hard to keep up a smile under this. One help can be to find like-minded people who are going similar places in life by God’s guidance. Another thing that you can do to help grapple with this is to keep in mind that when you take a problem head-on, you step onto a hotbed. I would speculate that Satan isn’t too keen on giving up what he considers his territory. Where Satan has a stronghold, you’re going to have some difficulties. However, to give up would be tragic!
Don’t give up.
This is a real-life spiritual battleground. You are needed. God wants to use your life and your livelihood to alter the very future.
Don’t withdraw: keep advancing, and God’s armor will be used in the functions it was designed for. God will protect you, aid you, and provide for you in the capacity that you need when you follow where He tells you where to go. Keep moving.