Fighting Procrastination

Anne C. Miles > Thoughts and prayers > Fighting Procrastination

I’m battling procrastination. They used to call it acedia. (You can go look it up if you need to, I’ll wait) Some describe it as sloth. Some describe it as apathy. They talk about it making you want to sleep in the middle of the day. It does do that. It also makes you want to go live on social media. Or play video games. Or binge watch Netflix. It’s the urge to avoid, escape, procrastinate. Give up by putting things off.

“without care, the neglect to take care of something that one should do”

This used to be recognized as a deadly sin. Heads up. Pay attention.

I do not admit that I’m not going to do something. I lie to myself and say I will do it tomorrow until it is too late. That’s the sin. 

If you think the sin just applies to monks in deserts or that it is just about apathy toward spiritual things? I’ll argue you’re wrong.

Though that creeps in too.

I am not Catholic. But maybe in 2000 years, other followers of Christ might have learned something. I see evangelicals and Protestants rejecting Catholic ideas, ideas they need to think about. They need to remember, for most of our church history, there was no Protestant. We need to preserve all the wisdom we have. Conversely I know lovely Orthodox, Anglican and Catholic believers who have actually said to me “Oh that’s Evangelical rubbish.” when I bring up some of these ideas.

Y’all need to be wary of anything that keeps you from hearing and healing. Yes, examine all teaching for truth. But listen first. Reflect.

Ok. Now back to acedia.

“Resolve to spend time in prayer, at least a half an hour every day. If you find it distasteful, know that this is the deadly vice of sloth. Pray anyway. St. Jerome said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of God. Set aside time for prayerful study of Scripture. If you find this too burdensome, know that this is the deadly vice of sloth. Study anyway. The Cardinal virtue of Fortitude, “the virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good” (Catechism #1808) is absolutely essential to your spiritual survival, especially when in the deadly grip of sloth.”

– from Catholic Online

Fill in the blank. It isn’t just prayer and study,

You know where this is kicking my butt?

Exercise. The day job. Housework. (Organization) Basically I’ve come to understand, though. It’s not just me. I’m not just an idiot. Woot!!!!  There’s deeper stuff going on. Even if my issues are psychological, my Savior still has to tackle them. Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted and set the captives free. It’s a progressive thing. It’s a salvation not just from hell and damnation but from the world, the flesh and the devil on a daily basis.

It’s salvation from procrastination. From sloth. From acedia.

You can’t heal the spirit and soul with psychology alone. It doesn’t work. That’s God’s job. I think of psychology a little bit like I think of first aid. It’s like disinfectant and may even be like medicine. You can find some relief with it. It helps. You can even heal with it over time. But the metaphorical fracture you have might set wrong over time, too. In contrast, real healing leaves you utterly restored and whole. Yes, that’s what Jesus wants for you. The truth will set you free. The Truth is a person. He will talk to you through the Holy Spirit.

I’ve read a lot about procrastination and about what Steven Pressfield calls Resistance and about psychological issues that affect us to keep us from finishing our work.  Those things are important to understand.

One theory is that we have inside our heads a procrastination monkey and a panic monster. You can read about that here. Or watch this. It’s worth the time.

I think he’s right. But that’s not all. My Panic Monster resigned.  It’s a problem.

Steven Pressfield discusses it at length in The War of Art. I recommend the book. Basically any regimen that will make your world better or make you better from a diet to a spiritual practice to a new business to a work of art will make you run smack into this force he calls Resistance. You can google it. Lots to learn. It’s helpful. He has videos discussing the forces arrayed against you so you can spot them. Very accurate.

But I’m going to name what he calls Resistance what it is. Acedia. The idea goes a bit further than procrastination. I believe there’s a better way to overcome it than with willpower alone. We walk with a saving God. I’m studying it because I must. Procrastination beats me up when I try to do anything these days.

I know from long experience that wherever I’m dealing with a besetting sin, I also have spiritual warfare set against me. The moment I get real about overcoming it, it attacks me in many forms.

You don’t have to believe me. I thought it was all hokum myself. I thought that kind of thinking was for holy rollers. Wackos. Ridiculous. But Then I asked God. The next day, someone gave me a suit of armor. He now sits in my living room. I call him Mo.

mo
Mo at Halloween

So I took that as a “yes.”

I got over myself and began to explore it.

Read Ephesians 6.

The first part talks about daily life and your work.  Yes. Relationships. But work is in there.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord [as His representatives], for this is just and right.

Honor (esteem and value as precious) your father and your mother—this is the first commandment with a promise—

That all may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.

Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.

Servants (slaves), be obedient to those who are your physical masters, having respect for them and eager concern to please them, in singleness of motive and with all your heart, as [service] to Christ [Himself]—

Not in the way of eye-service [as if they were watching you] and only to please men, but as servants (slaves) of Christ, doing the will of God heartily and with your whole soul;

Rendering service readily with goodwill, as to the Lord and not to men,

Knowing that for whatever good anyone does, he will receive his reward from the Lord, whether he is slave or free.

You masters, act on the same [principle] toward them and give up threatening and using violent and abusive words, knowing that He Who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no respect of persons (no partiality) with Him.

10 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides].

So then this is how. You cannot separate the two pieces of the chapter. They go together.

11 Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.

12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.

13 Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist andstand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].

14 Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude andright standing with God,

15 And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the [a]firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness [b]produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace.

16 Lift up over all the [covering] shield of [c]saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one].

17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword that the Spirit [d]wields, which is the Word of God.

18 Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty. To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding in behalf of all the saints (God’s consecrated people).

19 And [pray] also for me, that [freedom of] utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth to proclaim boldly the mystery of the good news (the Gospel),

etc

After I got my answer, I studied warfare. If you want to study warfare, get the big book by Dr Ed Murphy, (my copy is falling apart) or The Bondage Breaker by Neil T Anderson. Also read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti and The Screwtape Letters.  I think John MacArthur is wrong on this, he has a book too. I’m not going to discuss all of those books here. But I will tell you the best way to deal with any struggle against sin, any attempt to overcome the flesh the world or the devil is to realize:

1. You’re dealing with all three of the big bads. 

You’re fighting the world, the flesh and the devil. All of them. Jesus will save but you have to fight. Resist. It takes work. You have wrong teaching, wrong habits and irrational thoughts and misconceptions that are keeping you stuck. Root those out. Pray for help. This is why we study. Not short little devotionals. Not tiny little snippets of Scripture. No. Get the concordance out, use online tools. Search for the topic, make notes and study. But you must pray for strength to study.This aversion, this avoidance you feel about facing your crapola is rooted in hopelessness and acedia. It isn’t just you.

2. You’re going to need to pray out loud.

That word up there for the sword of the spirit is rhema in Greek and literally means an utterance.  Out loud. The Scripture teaches that Jesus prayed with shouting sometimes. If He had to? Your wimpy little “Please help me,” might need to become a roar. Please help me is good. It’s where we all start. But you will grow in prayer. Study prayer. Moving Mountains by John Eldredge is the best book I know of about this.

3. You’re going to need to study. See above. But ask what to study.

I’ve had books nearly fall off shelves at me in Goodwill or a bookstore. I ask what passages to study. You will be led. The truth sets you free. He gives us ideas that uncover lies we believe, in the Word but also through other people. Ask and it shall be given to you. If any man lacks wisdom ask of God an it shall be given to you bountifully and without reproach. James 1:5.

4. Some form of confession and repentance is in order.

I’ve found that confession can be with a friend or with my priest (this is new to me, I’m a relatively new Anglican) or with just another Christian. Writing can be a confession, if others read it.  But confess. Then ask those who hear you to pray for you. Confess to one another that you might be healed. You’re going to fail. Fail harder. Confess and keep going.

5. It’s daily

Get the idea out of your mind that you can overcome something in one go. You might. I know people who have been delivered immediately. But when you ask Jesus for an oak tree he will sometimes give you an acorn. He likes process. Chances are you’re going to have to walk in prayer on a minute by minute and second by second basis at first. Every day. Resolve to do what it takes for as long as it takes and resolve to allow yourself to be uncomfortable. Uncomfortable and unable are not the same thing.

You have not yet struggled and fought agonizingly against sin, nor have you yet resisted and withstood to the point of pouring out your [own] blood. –Hebrews 12:4

Remember, sin brings death. This stuff will kill you. You’re in a duel to the death and must approach it that way.

If I don’t lose weight, it’s going to kill me.

If I don’t overcome this ennui, this acedia, this procrastination, it’s going to rob me of my future.

Death isn’t just losing your literal life, it’s losing the life God has for you.

So now I come to my besetting sins. Procrastination (acedia) and gluttony.

I’m going to be praying this verse

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12)

I’ve also been instructed to pray for Fellowship. Go figure. No idea why, but that’s what I’m hearing. I’ve found several passages about being stirred up in the spirit. I’m praying those. I’m praying against despair, procrastination, hopelessness, hatred, unbelief, confusion and disorder. I’m praying against them with the Daily Prayer, extended version, found here.

I’ve come to understand too that when I am fighting like this, and trying to put off the old man, there’s going to be grief. It can derail me.  I experience:

Denial – I don’t really need to change. He understands. (He does but make no provision for the flesh)

Bargaining – If I do this instead then maybe I won’t have to change (for eating and diet its been hilarious. Latest fad rather than exercise, etc)
Depression – I can’t ever change. It’s hopeless. Self-loathing and shame can strike me here too.

Anger– Why me? This is where I can blameshift or get upset with God

Acceptance – This is where I’m actively working with Jesus.

But I’ll go through these stages, sometimes all of them in an hour. Sometimes in minutes.

Hand to hand combat with procrastination can exhaust you. Pray a lot. Walking with God too is about letting Him lead you on what’s most important right now.

It comes in waves. The urge to sin will hit you in waves, there is respite. The periods of respite get longer. Knowing that helps.

I’m promptly confessing my fears (a lot of anxiety under there) and seeking joy and giving thanks. I will not lie to myself if I’m aware of my own excuses. Excuses are lies, most of  the time.

Anyhow. That’s where I’m at.

I am, quite honestly, one of the worst of all sinners. I mean that and know many who would agree and elaborate. At length. But I do not have to stay that way. Praise God. Pray for me. If you’re dealing with this, let me know in the comments and I’ll pray for you, too.

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