3 Key Differences Between an Apathetic and a Contented Grandparent

written by Bev Phillips
3 · 21 · 22

As a Christian parent for 45 years and a grandparent for more than two decades, I know the all-too-common hurts, anxieties, and disappointments that these roles can bring. Will the prodigal return? Will the damaged relationships be repaired? Will they join me in heaven someday? Does my life have a positive impact on them? What is in the future for these dear ones? These questions and fears can show up regularly throughout hard days and long nights.

I confess that there have been times when I have fallen into the pain-avoidance mode of self-protection, and that I struggle with the desire to pull back. I think about reining in my time, resources, and, in particular, heart investments to focus on what is convenient, comfortable, and easier for me. 

Apathy can creep into my life as it lessens my involvement, concern, motivation, and effort. The temptation is to stay in my own comfort zone, protecting my emotions from further hurts, maintaining predictable routines that require less intentional actions. This is especially appealing during times of stressful circumstances or crisis. Sometimes apathy is misinterpreted as contentment since it appears to provide a sense of calmness and acceptance. After all, I reason, what harm can come from “being still” which is a phrase repeated throughout the Scriptures?

Then I read about the true contentment Paul describes in Philippians 4, written when he was in a particularly stressful situation: prison. He writes that he has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11, NIV). Whatever? Well, I haven’t been in prison yet, but that seems fairly dire to me. How did Paul say he learned this ability? The answer is found in the verses that follow. Philippians 4:12 reads, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” In other words, experiencing both positive and negative experiences in his life was the classroom where he learned this contentment. Who is the Teacher in this classroom? Philippians 4:14 explains that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who gives Paul the strength to experience contentment in the midst of his challenges and trials. 

How does contentment differ from apathy or resignation? 

  1. First, the focus differs: Apathy is me-focused and contentment is Christ-focused. The central point of apathy is to avoid hurts and disappointment. It is a form of selfishness. Contentment comes from Christ alone and is not based on circumstantial blessings. Godly contentment rises above circumstances. There will still be situations that bring pain; we need not deny that, as Paul modeled for us. But Christ gives us the strength to continue on with the mission he has given us to represent him with unconditional love even during those painful times.
  2. Contentment is filled with hope; apathy is the epitome of impassive hopelessness. Romans 12:11-12 exhorts us to “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” This is not the same as giving up, which apathy implores us to do. Contentment is not the same as sitting around and doing nothing! We can still be actively pursuing the goals God has set before us, joyfully serving and praying while resting contentedly in Christ alone for the results. He is always at work whether we see it or not, so there is always hope for the future. 
  3. The results of an apathetic approach will be revealed in a lack of direction, boredom, and a colorless life. A Christian grandparent who prays Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me,” will have a life colored by purpose, meaning, and the kind of contentment that cares deeply. These grandparents are risk-takers, not risk-avoiders, when investing their lives in those around them. They trust God through difficult times, unmet desires, and heartaches, allowing His peace to guard their hearts as he fulfills his plans for the future. True contentment is not based on what we can accomplish, but on what God can do.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the many blessings You have already poured out upon our lives. We especially thank You for the salvation you offer us through your death and resurrection. Protect us from withdrawing into the selfishness of apathy. Give us willing spirits to step out in faith as we invest our lives in our children and grandchildren for your glory. In both our difficult moments as well as the good times, may we experience the contentment that comes from knowing you. Amen. 

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Bev Phillips


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1 Comment

  1. Thea Reust

    Great word! Thanks so much!


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