How often we crave comfort! Each of us may have a better sense of that in recent months when so much of life has changed for us but make no mistake, we desire it from the day we are born until the day we die.
Comfort means we are at ease, free from pain or constraint. It can refer to a lifestyle, a sense of well-being, and the absence of distress or grief. Considering what it means, there is little wonder that we crave it from the beginning of our life until we leave this world.
We learn at the moment we are born that comfort is something that is temporary and not always something we can attain ourselves. As a baby we must wait until someone chooses to comfort us with food, clean diapers, or closeness in the arms of our mother. Each of these things relate to physical or emotional distress for which we desire comfort.
It can be said that many times we want life to be easier, experience fewer bumps in the road, or roadblocks on the path. We want to be comfortable in any number of ways and we long for it to an extent that if what we seek cannot be attained, we look for a substitute – often in something to soothe that becomes an addiction of one kind or another.
As I read scripture, I see time and again that the Lord offers comfort in the midst of sorrow or distress, but I have not read that He wants us to be comfortable. Scripture repeatedly notes that in this life we will have trouble of many and varied kinds. That all goes back to the original Garden of Eden where what was better seemed not quite as good as it might be to Adam and Eve. But it also goes even farther back when an angel named Lucifer decided he wanted to be an equal to God and challenged Him on that point, totally forgetting his place as a created being by that same God.
Matthew Kelly suggests one reason Jesus doesn’t want us to get comfortable:
“The reason is simple, profound, and practical. He doesn’t want us to forget that we are just passing through this world. We are pilgrims. When we get comfortable we start to behave as if we are going to live on this earth forever – and we are not.”
I don’t know if that is what the Lord believes on this point, but what I do believe is that He is more concerned about the content of our character than the comfort of our day-to-day experience. Character comes through facing adversity head-on, from sacrificing what we might want or wish or at least being willing to wait.
Challenging times expose things about us we would not discover when we are at ease. Challenges reveal what we value, whom we trust, and the firmness of our foundation.
An infant faces delays in gratification at the outset. He or she must wait on someone else to respond to crying (the only source of signaling distress). That waiting begins to build trust (or not) that parents are reliable and will respond to the need or it will result in a sense of hopelessness when needs are not met or only met inconsistently.
Learning to delay gratification must be something important for us to learn because there are more than a few scriptures that laud doing so. Just a few examples would be:
- And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (ESV)
- “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33 (ESV)
- Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 (ESV)
- Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. Colossians 1:24 (ESV)
Denying ourselves also gives us an unexpected asset – it reveals our blind spots.
“The constant denial of self in small things gives us the clarity of heart, mind, and soul to see the present for what it really is and the future for what it really can be. This self-denial also allows us to see ourselves for who we really are, and to see in ourselves that best-version-of-ourselves that God created us to be. This daily denial of self allows us to see that we are sinful, but also opens us up to the grace we need in order to overcome our sinfulness.”
Matthew Kelly in Rediscover Jesus
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic if we have submitted to government leaders, we have been asked to deny ourselves many of the freedoms and things we enjoy and might take for granted. None of us knew it would last this long when it began. Few of us have not experienced more weariness, frustration, discouragement, and more as it has continued and at the point in time whether we stay in or go out much uncertainty lays ahead of us
We didn’t exactly choose to deny ourselves. We did (if we did) choose to submit to the request to do so.
What have we learned in the midst of discomfort that can be helpful when this time passes? How can it serve us for the next time comfort is taken from us?