Cabin fever, according to Wikipedia, “… is an idiomatic term, first recorded in 1838, for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations. …When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, have distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow, dark or hail.”
Living in upstate New York, cabin fever is a phenomenon to which most can relate. There are barely more than eight hours of daylight in every twenty-four. The cold and snow keeps us indoors most of the time. Our houses are shut up tight, trying to preserve the heat and save on energy costs.
I marvel at people who thrive in Alaska and even up in the Artic Circle. They barely even see the sun for months at a time, while the temperature drops to forty and fifty degrees below zero! Yet most of these hardy people have made adjustments and actually thrive even in those frigid winter months.
So how does “Cabin Fever” relate to our daily Christian lives? Consider this scripture passage: And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:11, 12 [NKJV]
Cabin fever sounds to me like becoming “sluggish.” Strong’s defines this Greek word as “slow, sluggish, indolent, languid.” That didn’t provide much insight for me, so I went to my dictionary. “Sluggish” is defined as “indisposed to action or exertion; not functioning with full vigor; slow to act or respond.” “Indolent” means “inactive or relatively benign.” “Languid” is described as “lacking in spirit or interest; listless.”
Okay, let’s bring these defining words to our daily Christian life. The Christian walk can be vibrant and exciting. When we consider who we are in Christ now and our future with Him in heaven, hey, life is good. But because we’re a feelings oriented lot and we all have heart issues needing attention, life doesn’t always exude stimulation. Romans 12:11 reminds us to “serve the Lord enthusiastically.” [NLT] During times when life may feel dark and gloomy, our reaction can be to become sluggish.
Notice also the wording of verse 12: “do not become sluggish.” In the Greek this is the subjunctive mood, meaning it may or may not happen. No one has to become sluggish. It involves a choice. As someone has said, we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control what happens in us. The promises of the Bible do not guarantee a life without challenges. There will be temptations, persecutions and tribulation (pressure). But we must not allow those to bring us down. Jesus’ admonition is that we’ll have tribulation, but to cheer up, because He has already overcome for us. [John 16:33]
Vine’s gives more information on the Greek word, saying that “No immoral thought or blame is necessarily involved in it.” So, spiritual cabin fever (sluggishness) may not involve sin per se. But it definitely does involve low spiritual energy, inactivity, lack of interest or enthusiasm. As a leader I’ve come to realize that I can’t afford to go down this road. It’s not good for me and I can end up “ministering” that spirit into the congregation.
Wikipedia adds this thought: “One therapy for cabin fever may be as simple as getting out and interacting with nature. Research has demonstrated that even brief interactions with nature can promote improved cognitive functioning and overall well-being.”
Christian therapy for cabin fever begins similarly by getting out and interacting. For us I suppose that using nature can help, but more specifically we need to get out among our brothers and sisters in Christ and fellowship. Probably the worst thing we can do is to play the hermit and avoid people all together. People have told me over the years that they need to take a sabbatical because their life has been difficult. It may be true at times that a little rest does wonders. But I strongly suggest that they keep it short, because it can soon become easier to stay away than it was to be involved.
Let’s be honest, people can be irritating; responsibility isn’t perpetually exciting; and we’re all tired at times. But in the long run you’ll cause yourselves more pain by hiding on the bench than by getting into the game. God didn’t call us to be bench warmers. Verse 12 finishes with the admonition to be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Be inspired by those who enthusiastically serve God no matter what. Take inspiration from David in the Old Testament, who encouraged himself in the Lord. You can do it!