"If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair." - C.S. Lewis
Comfort is a slippery thing. It's hard to grab onto. If you can get it in your grasp, it's hard to keep it there. Once you've had it and lost it, your desire to get it back can consume you. If you've got a firm grip on comfort, you are not likely to voluntarily let it go. You'd like to share it with others, but then, if you do there may not be enough of it for both parties.
There are many things in life like comfort - or maybe they are subcategories of comfort:
Comfort also has some cousins:
- Status Quo
Comfort, along with its subcategories and cousins, has become the biggest idol that stops us from becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ.
This is true for me, and I'm sure it's true for many of you.
Stop and think about your life. If someone who doesn't know anything about you took a look at the way you live, what could they assume was the most important thing in your life? Take it a step further and imagine if someone who has grown up in a third world country examined your life. What would they conclude about your priorities?
If we read about the life of Jesus, there were some clear indications of what was most important to Him. Even as a boy He chose the Temple of God over time with His own family. As an adult Jesus spent His days teaching, healing, comforting and confronting - all in an effort to show the world who God really is. He poured Himself into a group of young men so that they could do the same once He was gone.
As you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John you will not find Jesus seeking comfort. He did not put down roots in any one place, instead He said, "The Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He was homeless! As someone who was constantly on the move, we can safely assume He did not have a large wardrobe that He had to carry with Him.
Jesus was shown great hospitality and did not turn down acts of kindness, sometimes in comfortable settings. However, He did not seek comfort and was not preoccupied with His own power, wealth or safety. He surely did not seek to maintain the status quo of the day. He willingly laid down His freedom and allowed others to take or maintain control in certain situations.
I wish I could say I was more like Jesus than I am. I do so many things to preserve or achieve comfort. Comfort has become an idol in my life.
Part of my problem is I've had a firm grip on comfort for so long that I'm afraid to let it go. I don't know how to live any other way. I've seen what life looks like without comfort and it scares me.
I grew up in the United States of America - a wealthy nation.
I grew up as a white male - a very powerful set of traits.
I grew up in the country - a safe place to live.
I grew up with a good education - something that allowed me to control my future.
I grew up in a stable, loving family - the status quo was rarely threatened.
I grew up as a Christian - a state of complete freedom.
All of those things above are incredible blessings. The problem is, I've grown so accustomed to them that they've become something I find myself fighting to protect.
PowerI have learned that the most powerful group of people in this country is one that I became a part of the moment I was born. I didn't earn my way into this group. I didn't ask to be in this group. I didn't even know I was in this group at first.
Being a white male equals power in the United States. I'm not saying every white male has authority over others. I am saying that being a white male has granted me privileges that no other group in this country has.
In general, people do not make negative assumptions about me because of my race or gender. In fact, most of the time people will assume positive things about me because of my race and gender.
When I get pulled over for a traffic violation - something that has happened too many times in my life - I don't spend much time thinking about my body language or tone of voice. I feel safe, even when the officer walks up to my window with his hand on his gun.
If I'm uncomfortable in multicultural settings, especially settings in which I'm the only white guy, I can usually choose a different setting that makes me more comfortable (i.e. a room full of other white people).
This is a power that not everyone has.
WealthWe all know that the Bible says, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." Very few of us would say that we love money, and therefore, don't worry about its evils. However, if we compare our thoughts and interactions with money to those of Jesus, we are not likely to see many similarities.
When Jesus tells the rich young man to sell all he has and give to the poor, then follow Jesus, I tend to start interpreting Scripture in a way that absolves me of Jesus' words, even though I am very much like that rich young man.
When Jesus tells a large crowd, "Do not store up treasures on earth ... store up treasures in heaven," I'm quick to think logically about the need to be prepared in case of an emergency. I'm not trying to store up a treasure, just to be wise and take care of my family. That's what a good husband and father does, right? But if I've got an emergency fund stored up and disaster hits, why would I need to rely on God for help.
I don't want to take care of myself or my family, I want all of us to be in God's care. I'm so unqualified to be the provider and He's the creator of everything and gives us everything we need if we just trust Him!
SafetyEvery night I pray before going to bed and I ask God to keep my family safe. When we leave on a road trip we ask God to protect us. Any time my kids are away from home, or I'm away from them for the night, I pray for their safety.
Do you see the common thread?
In the moments when I don't feel like I'm in control - that's when I look to God for protection. Any other time I feel pretty confident that I can keep myself and my family safe.
It turns out, safety is harder to get ahold of than comfort! It's an illusion really. We've all known people who have suddenly and tragically died. Most of them probably felt quite safe moments before tragedy struck.
When we offer our lives to God as His disciples, we must also lay down our desire and need for safety. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain." He knew safety wasn't going to always be with him as he served the Lord. Paul was beaten, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked and more. He longed for death to come so he could be in heaven, and yet he served God while he was alive.
How many of us live that way? How many of us really believe there's something better awaiting us when we die?
Status Quo, Freedom, ControlThese three cousins of comfort have been on my mind a lot in the past year. The Presidential Election brought these three things to the forefront in many ways.
Status Quo is something both major parties fought for - their own versions of status quo. Although change is a buzzword during any election, the real goal is to get things back to the way they feel they should be.
Freedom is another hot topic during campaigns. We all want the freedoms that matter to us - religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to vote, freedom to choose, freedom from tyranny.
Control is the ultimate goal in an election. Whether it's control of the Oval Office or control of the Senate, everybody is fighting for control of the government in one way or another. There are even issues around the idea of control - gun control, border control, etc.
The problem with pursuing any and all of these things is that they never live up to the expectations. Status quo inevitably changes. Freedom is limited. Control is temporary.
In the end, our American Dream really amounts to nothing. We end up with piles of money, guns, houses, laws and aspirations for a better future. None of it really makes us happy or gives us fulfillment, although they may make us slightly more comfortable.
Jesus asks us to give up everything - all we have - so that nothing will distract us from following Him. When we hold on to the pursuit of comfort, in any of its forms, we cannot possibly become all that He wants us to be. That only happens when we've got nothing.