Do you prioritize comfort in your life? If you're an American living in the 21st century, the answer is probably, "Yes!" We are told from every corner of our culture that comfort should be our goal, but how does that line up with following Christ? Dialectic School teacher and former Caldwell parent Debbie Childers considers the juxtaposition of seeking comfort while also seeking Christ in our daily lives.
Most days I hold two realities: one is Jesus and one is comfort.
I love both. I work hard to keep one in each hand. I think I can have both.
But Jesus and comfort are not allies.
My love of Jesus shows up as I read my Bible, worship Jesus in song, and talk to Him in prayer. It shows up as I serve others, confess my sins, and gather with other believers. There's no question Jesus is the Son of God and my heart is captured by His death and resurrection for me. I love Jesus because He first loved me. This I know.
But as I sit in my warm house, on a white couch, with a soft blanket on my lap and coffee on the side table, I am aware that I am afforded much comfort and ease in my life. On a regular day, I love Jesus from a place of comfort.
What happens when Jesus and comfort conflict?
Comfort lulls me with a Sirens’ Song. Under her spell, I am less willing to make sacrifices for others. I avoid pursuing people I just don’t “click” with or those who may reject me. I am more likely to binge on food or wine or Netflix. I will stay home on a Sunday morning because it's easier to watch church than to attend church and participate in person. I lash out at people who disrupt my comfort with problems I deem small or avoidable. I avoid hard conversations and content myself with fake peace.
The love of comfort pulls hard, and often comfort wins. I succumb to the temptation, the withdrawal, the indulgence. Or I nurse resentment and anger towards other people around me disrupting my comfort. I yell, push back, accuse, condemn. Sadly, I will go to great lengths to protect comfort.
I don’t think I am alone.
This is the big lie of American Christianity: We can love Jesus and nurture comfort.
We can’t. Two kingdoms collide when we try to embrace Jesus and hold our comfort. Jesus knew this when He spoke these words to His would-be followers, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). I can feel my heart protest. “But Jesus, aren’t my resources valuable to the kingdom?” Perhaps this is what the rich, young man thought when Jesus told him that to follow him, he would have to “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21).
Jesus wanted this man to relinquish comfort. He knew comfort keeps people from a full-bodied faith. We don’t hunger for Jesus on full bellies. It’s hard to rely on Jesus when our comforts prop us up. Jesus wants wholehearted allegiance from His followers.
He wanted it then. He wants it now. Jesus cautions against cultivating comfort because He knows how easily our hearts are corrupted. A life of comfort doesn’t prepare us to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world. A life of comfort rarely helps us to grow in faith or love others better. Comfort isn’t just affluence. I can prioritize relational comfort, only being with those people I naturally like. I can pursue emotional comfort by distancing myself from messy situations and people in need. I can maintain intellectual comfort by reading curated news that aligns with my convictions. I can keep economic comfort by averting my eyes from the poverty in my city. Comfort entices me in a multitude of ways.
This week, I ask God to give me eyes to see the big lie. I am asking him to help me pay attention to the tension between the love of Jesus and the love of comfort. When comfort draws my focus, I am handing that love of comfort to Jesus and following Him into discomfort. That might look like picking up my phone to call someone, playing with a child, taking out the trash, taking time for connection when I am busy, or saying “no” when “yes” would be easier.
Each of us has our own brand of comfort. Let’s practice offering our comforts to Jesus every day. Some of you already are. Suffering is in our midst. Some of you are fighting addiction, caring for sick spouses, engaging with wayward children, or walking the painful road of grief. Some of you hold broken hearts, but you're fighting to keep love and hope alive. Know that your discomfort is seen, that the battlefield you are on is holy ground. Take hope in these words from Paul who chose Jesus over his own comfort: “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again.”
(2 Corinthians 1:8-10)This article is copied with permission from Deborah Childers' blog, "Disrupted... navigating the unexpected." Deborah is a former Caldwell parent and presently teaches composition in our middle school. Read more from her blog at www.deborahchilders.org.