My thanks to Chaplain Doug Mitchell of the Christ Hospital. His thoughts, shared with his volunteers, motivated the writing of this blog.
The Constitution of the United States of America guarantees several rights, including the pursuit of happiness. It seems an obvious observation that all are seeking happiness but few are finding it. Perhaps it is the smart ones among us who have given up the chase.
There also seems to be a common pursuit of comfort. We all want to be comfortable… we expect to be comfortable and are somewhat offended when we are not. Untold times over my years of ministry I have been approached by people announcing to me, in an accusing voice, that it is too hot or cold in the sanctuary. It would seem to be a most grievous mistake that must be immediately corrected and the culprit at fault must be punished. How dare anyone cause the offended party any discomfort? Like the pursuit of happiness, comfort has become a right.
I will admit that I am a huge fan of comfort. I like a comfortable chair; a comfortable car; a comfortable house; and, having grown up without it, I love air conditioning and forced air heat. This week I am driving a nice, new rental car while mine is in the shop and I hate it because the seat is not comfortable. I read many posts by friends on Facebook that he or she is comfy cozy on the couch watching television with a warm drink and a warm body (cat, dog, spouse or friend) under the blanket with them. Sounds good to me.
Here is my question: Is comfort what we should be pursuing? Should our personal comfort be a, if not the, central issue of our lives? Is comfort what God desires for us? I think not. If you have listened to me or read much of my writing you know it is my belief that God is not only NOT interested in your comfort, if you are comfortable you are probably outside of the will of God.
I believe Scripture is clear that God’s basic purpose for our lives is not that we be rich and comfortable, but that (My apologies to Joel Olsteen.) we are conformed to the image of Christ… for us to become more Christ-like. For that to happen we, you and me, are naturally going to experience much discomfort. The changes in our lives will be difficult, frightening, challenging and certainly uncomfortable. It is no wonder that Facebook, where we “share” our lives, is filled with hateful, selfish, meaningless garbage. It is no wonder that our politicians are only interested in getting reelected and we, the voters, are motivated in our allegiance by the motto, “What can you do for me?” Our collective lack of maturity is having devastating effects on our society. Perhaps it is time for us to move beyond comfortable to the discomfort of growth and maturity.
Comfort sounds and seems so… comfortable… so desirable. But is it? Perhaps comfort and our pursuit of it is in fact dangerous. C. S. Lewis gave this insight: “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 with and, in the end, despair.” Just as pursuing happiness rarely, if ever, leads one to happiness, pursuing comfort is counterproductive.
Pope John Paul II said this about the danger of comfort: “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” I have seen and experienced this to be true. Comfort also leads us to conclusion that we are self-sufficient and not in the need of God. While sitting in the perceived comfort and safety of our warm, dry, locked homes we come to believe we have no need of God. There is nothing like a healthy natural disaster to scour that confusion out of our minds.
The very thoughtful writer, Khalil Gibran, gives a short and pointed warning. “The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.” Again quoting, this time Chaplain Doug Mitchell, “Comfort itself is not bad, but trying to get a hold of it can lead, as has already been said, to a misleading proposition. Unfortunately, too many people believe they deserve to be comfortable (They have a right to it.) – to the degree that this entitlement drives just about every choice we make.”
Please know that I am not saying that God wants us to miserable. But if the pursuit of comfort is a major quest in our lives; something that informs and guides most of our decisions, we are about guaranteed to miss God’s will for our lives. Growing up is uncomfortable. Working to become stronger is uncomfortable. Learning how to do something new takes practice and is uncomfortable. Being honest with ourselves about ourselves is uncomfortable.
Following God and doing His will is uncomfortable. But it is so worth it. Oh, so very much worth it.
Copyright © 2017, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.