Jump directly to the Content

The Noonday Demon in Our Distracted Age

What to do when a Netflix binge brings you more joy than God’s calling.
The Noonday Demon in Our Distracted Age
Image: Portrait by Joel Kimmell

The spirit of acedia drives the monk out of his cell, but the monk who possesses perseverance will ever cultivate stillness. A person afflicted with acedia proposes visiting the sick, but is fulfilling his own purpose. A monk given to acedia is quick to undertake a service, but considers his own satisfaction to be a precept.
— Evagrius Ponticus, from On the Eight Thoughts

In the first year of my PhD program, I was 21, lonely, disoriented, utterly out of my depth, and unwilling to admit it. Instead of running to my professors for help or diving in at the library, I found myself avoiding homework altogether. I told myself I wasn’t working because I didn’t care about my classes, but the truth was, the fear of failure was too much to bear. I knew God had called me to this task, but as the difficulty of the work set in, my call became a source of sadness instead of joy.

I first heard the term acedia—what Thomas Aquinas defines as “sadness at an interior or spiritual ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe to Christianity Today magazine. Subscribers have full digital access to CT Pastors articles.

Homepage Subscription Panel

Read These Next

From the Magazine
The Cohabitation Dilemma Comes for America’s Pastors
The Cohabitation Dilemma Comes for America’s Pastors
More evangelicals are living together before marriage. Church leaders struggle to respond.
Editor's Pick
Pastoral Care Doesn’t Require Capes
Pastoral Care Doesn’t Require Capes
Four practitioners discuss how to minister well without resorting to heroics.