When I’m out hiking through the woods this time of the year, I’m not worried about encountering a snake. It’s not because I’m a courageous man when it comes to slithering serpents. I get anxious when I encounter the rubber variety. But I know that snakes aren’t going to cross my path in the cold months. They’re holed up in dens, hibernating until warm weather returns. That’s the way it is with many animals.
People, however, don’t hibernate. But blanket statements like that are now out the window since the story of Mitsutaka Uchikoshi was reported by the Associated Press on December 20. This 35-year-old citizen of Japan had been missing for over three weeks. In late October he was discovered on Rokko Mountain and was immediately transported to a hospital in nearby Kobe. Doctors determined that he had survived his ordeal because his body had gone into a hibernation-like condition, with his organs all but shut down and his body temperature at 71 degrees. The case made headlines because it’s just not the norm.
If you’re talking about spiritual vitality, however, hibernation is a more common condition. Women and men who zealously commit their lives to Christ sometimes lose that fervor along the way. Like Rip van Winkle, some wake up years later and renew their love for the Lord. Others never come out of their sleepy state.
Those who were closest to the Lord during his earthly ministry demonstrated the danger we all face. Jesus requested that they pray with him as he anxiously awaited his arrest and trial, but they didn’t try hard enough. Upon finding them asleep, Jesus admonished them: “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46, NKJV). It was advice they should have heeded.
We, too, should heed the warnings against spiritual hibernation. Paul issued one such warning in Romans 13:11,12: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” According to this image, any Christian who is preoccupied with the world and its allurements is asleep. Such a person has been lulled into a condition of low concern, believing that there are no enemies or dangers near.
Mitsutaka Uchikoshi is a lucky man. A body exposed to the elements for many days will usually not survive. It works similarly with souls. When neglected for too long, souls grow cold and lose their consciousness of the spiritual realm. Most will not awaken from such a condition until it’s too late.
Inactivity in humans is against nature.