It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. C.S. Lewis, Problem of Pain
Yes. I would. I would rather see my sons, my husband, and my dearest friends suffer much than sit comfortable and estranged, blind to the glory of God. It’s why I limit mindless screen time and push mindful book time. It’s why I don’t just chat with my girlfriends, but sometimes I challenge them with truth. It’s why Jim and I push each other to do hard, good things and not let estranging things ride.
Because comfort- as in comfortable, as in pain-free, prosperous and at ease- is highly overrated. For some to the point of idolatry. When time and money and even health are sacrificed for Comfort, it just might be a god. When we work for comfort, for travel and beach and security and retirement we might check our ratings.
Comfort isn’t just an end-game, though. It’s oh-so-very daily. Headache? Down two Advil the second it strikes. Backache? Call the chiropractor. Grief and sorrow? There are drinks and pills for those, too. Feet up before the fireplace, cocoa and remote at arm’s reach? Now all is well.
Because the world knows pain-free and comfortable is clearly the best the way to be.
Or Is It?
No. Comfortable is not the best way to be. At least for any well-being. Any well being. Anyone who really is alive in Christ and growing. This is not to say we enjoy pain for the sake of pain. But it is to say that we embrace it for the sake of gain.
The Lord disciplines those he loves. That’s Hebrews 12. God’s not talking punishment here. Sometimes he does. But this is discipline. What we do when we have our kids practice piano and make their beds and do their homework well. What we do when we get ourselves to bed by ten and eat more veggies and listen before we speak.
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline. Truth is, if we’re not disciplined, we are illegitimate children. We’re not really God’s kids. And isn’t that a much more fearful thought than some discomfort when we face discipline and dying to self?
Hebrews 12:10-11 goes on to say that great gain outcome of the unpleasant, discomfort of discipline.
[B]ut he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
That’s the gain. Discipline lets us share his holiness. Without holiness, no one can see God.
No Comfort Zones
We were meant to delight ourselves in the Lord and everything God created is good and nothing is meant to be rejected if we accept it with thanksgiving. Amen and Hallelujah! We do exist for the praise of his glorious grace. Our goal is to make that known. To make the glory and grace of Christ known.
And sometimes his grace makes us comfortable. But not always. And sometimes God might look great when we’re in our comfort zones. But more often he looks great when these frames of ours are pressed and squeezed and we praise him still. Not when we’re Laz-E-Boy, hot cocoa comfortable.
Because comfort zones sound like grooves. And there’s a fine line between grooves and ruts. It is the case that when we are comfortable, God is not called on. We don’t pray as much when life is going swimmingly. And we tend to drift.
But God likes to be called on. Out of the comfort zone is where God’s power happens- God’s grace is strong in uncomfortable, trouble zones.
God likes that. Saviors look great. Redeemers look divine. Deliverers look glorious. When we’re comfortable we need none of the above. No Savior. No Redeemer. No Deliverer. We’re set.
Some might say I’m hard-nosed. That’s okay. Insofar as it means realistic and determined and sober-minded, I’ll take it. It’s no insult. In fact, maybe more of us ought to be hard-nosed that way. Soft-hearted, for sure, but thick-skinned and hard-nosed too.
Because the very next words in Hebrews 12 say, in effect, buck up. Get up and keep going and help others up too. Then, keep on running the race marked out for you.
Therefore lift up your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather healed (Hebrews 12:12-13).
And thank God he gives us difficult things to do. Oswald Chambers says salvation is a heroic, holy thing,
It tests us for all we are worth. Jesus is bringing many “sons” unto glory, and God will shield us from the the requirements of a son. God’s grace turns out men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, not milksops. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the life of a disciple of Jesus in actual things.
So bear up. Cope. Lift up your drooping hands. Bear the discomfort of discipline, because it’s intended for good. Because as Christians, we have a single goal.
But God wants us to call to him, to pray. He likes the glory that comes when he comes through, when we weary wait and he renews our strength. The glory that comes when, We are afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also by manifested in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
That’s the single goal. The only aim is that the Son of God be manifested, be glorified, in us.
It doesn’t matter how it hurts as long as it gives God the chance to manifest Himself in your mortal flesh, wrote Oswald Chambers. May God not find the whine in us any more, but may he find us full of spiritual pluck and athleticism, ready to face anything he brings. We have to exercise ourselves so that the Son of God may be manifested in our mortal flesh. The only aim in life is that the Son of God be manifested in our mortal flesh.
God is jealous for his own glory and when we die to self the treasure in our earthen vessels flows most powerfully through. That’s why we who live must die.
Dying Isn’t Comfortable
It’s why we must carry around in our body the death of Jesus, must deny ourselves, must put to death the deeds of the body. That the glory of Christ may be seen is why. And dying to self is never comfortable. It takes tremendous spiritual pluck, as Oswald would say. And that’s okay. Because when we are hardest pressed is when the power and glory- the sweet aroma- of Christ overflows.
I’ve heard it said that it’s the dying, not death, that hurts. That moment of transport isn’t what we dread as much as the process leading up to it. The daily dying- the holding our tongue, the giving of thanks, the forgiving a wound- that hurts us worse.
And stitches do leave scars and shipwrecks happen without lifeboats. And infertility doesn’t always end in a quiver full and pregnancy doesn’t always end in live birth. Sometimes chronic fatigue stays chronic and unemployment ends in underemployment. Prodigals don’t always come home and hard hearts we love sometimes stay hard to God.
None of those is comfortable. But they all drive us to pray, then oftentimes, to wait. Author Cynthia Ruchti says, How flat the story where every conflict is immediately met with coincidental provision. Shipwrecked. Oh, look! A boat! And we wonder why God sometimes waits. so others will keep reading your story.
Inns Not Homes
Which is not to say God does grant periods of recreation and rest. Times of comfortable-ness and relaxation are gifts, pleasant stops along the way. But not home. For the Christian servant, comfortable is not the norm. If the things of earth- the gifts- could give us the comfort we crave, we’d not seek out the Giver.
So God wisely, lovingly withholds it.
The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why.
The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain).
So it’s a good thing when our little house of cards comes tumbling down and sends us back on our way. When their teachers call and we invite and strike out it’s a good thing to fall down in the mud sometimes as we go. Not that we aim to fall and not that it falling feels good. It’s not comfortable. But falling at least means we’re standing, if not running (Ephesians 6:13, Hebrews 12:2).
There aren’t many falls from recliners.
Author Michael Hyatt reached the same conclusion. In a recent blog post, he explains “Why Discomfort Is Good For You.” Here are his top three reasons:
- Comfort is overrated. It doesn’t lead to happiness. It makes us lazy- and forgetful. It often leads to self-absorption, boredom, and discontent.
- Discomfort is a catalyst for growth. It makes us yearn for something more. It forces us to change, stretch, and adapt.
- Discomfort is a sign we’re making progress. You’ve heard the expression, “no pain, no gain.” It’s true! When you push yourself to grow, you will experience discomfort, but it will be worth it.
We make it our goal to please God. And the measure of God’s pleasure is not our ease. When we are sitting pretty, cozy and reclining don’t be deceived: That’s no proof that God is pleased. Instead, cozy comfort seems to be at least overrated and at most antithetical to the pattern for Christian ministry.
And if you are a Christian, you are a minister. If you are God’s child you are given God’s grace. You are a minister-an administer- of God’s grace (1 Peter 4:10).
Because, remember, if you are not disciplined you are not true sons. Fathers discipline children for their good. The Father disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. For the best good, that we might see God.
Hurt So Good
I exercise most days because there are some real good reasons for Christians to workout. Physical training can be transposed to weightier soul matters. I can’t prove it, but somehow gutting it out on a 5 mile run or pedaling up hill after hill seems to strengthen my soul to press on too.
You might say the workouts desensitize me to discomfort. I get used to pain. As much as I want to say there’s joy in the journey, the joy is enjoyed afterward. I don’t dread the shred. No, I savor the discomfort instead. The ache feels good. It’s when we’re squeezed and hard pressed that the sweet aroma of Christ seeps out.
- It’s when our missionary friends in South Sudan who lost their compound guard and friend on a Christmas attack. And when they were driven by bombs from South Sudan they write, We have seen the hand of God leading us on this trail of tears.
- And it’s a twenty-something friend whose cancer was her passport to sharing God’s glory. It’s what she wrote when she said she’d be gone for six months of chemo and caught a hundred co-workers off guard with, God’s still good. He is still caring for me.
- It’s a family member risking truth in love for the sake of peace between two others. His peacemaking was costly and there’s more tension now between him and those two, but he smiles and says, At least I tried. Peace is why He died.
Comfort zones become grooves become ruts. And we become happily estranged from God’s power when we’re comfortably stuck in a rut. Truly, comfort zones can be a great hindrance to manifesting the glory of Christ. Truly, comfort isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Dear God of All Comfort, Our Glorious Lord,
Thank you for caring enough to discipline us. Please remind us in those moments when we feel hard pressed and squeezed that you discipline us for our good, so we can share in your holiness and really see you. Thank you for the discipline of discomfort that brings us to the place where your power and Christ’s life shine through. Thank you for putting your treasure in our jars of clay. Amen.
Always carrying in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
2 Corinthians 4:10