Indifference refers to a lack of interest in something. It suggests a lack of importance of an object or thought that does not merit interest and cannot spark motivation or action. “Holy indifference” is an ancient term, used most frequently by Ignatius of Loyola and has a very different meaning.
When a person progresses with God many changes occur in the person. The spirit and character of the person changes, moral choices are perfected, the person is “zealous for good works” and self will is subjected to God’s will.
Jesus prayed at his hour of trial that “if possible, let this cup pass, but nevertheless, Your will be done”. This is a surrender of self will, but clearly it is not devoid of feeling or personal preference. Likewise, the advanced Christian learns that even if they have strong desires and hopes they would rather have God’s will done than their own will. This is holy indifference.
It is indifference to pain or pleasure. That is, the person is willing to suffer if that is God’s will. The person is more concerned with pleasing God than with anything else. It is not apathy or some trick of meditative discipline that makes the person not care. It is this: “whoever loves his life will loose it”. it is a recognition that finding God and being led by His Spirit is eternal life. Is it surrender. Even beyond surrender, it is abandonment.
Holy indifference is not easy. We may have to fall on our face and pray fervently, even having our sweat fall like drops of blood. We will have to admit our weakness and gain help from God in our time of need. We will be passionate in our desire to not have any desire. We will pour ourselves out and empty ourselves of ourselves in order to be filled with God.
Even in pursuit of ministry, holy indifference is at work. Ignatius was willing to be used of God in any way God chose. He did not want to restrict God’s choices by having self will and personal goals that insisted on their way. This is a very difficult faith journey that requires a close walk with God, an honest relationship with God and a great deal of life experiences and grace. We can’t just suddenly adopt holy indifference, but we can admit we need it, search for it, and yield to it.