being comfortable with being uncomfortable

Word to the wise (and also to me): Don’t pray for something unless you are fully prepared for God to answer your prayer.

Now I am not insinuating that God is some holy version of Santa Claus, or that life is like something out of “Field of Dreams”. And as a child as much as I wrought my brain trying to narrow my wishes to three after watching “Aladdin”, I don’t think for a second that God is some genie waiting for me to pray so He can grant me just what I ask for with a puff of smoke and some catchy little ditty. But I am just saying, when you pray you might get what you ask for. Be prepared.

A while ago I had spent some time thinking about what my idols might be. What did I value more than God? Or better asked, what was important enough for me that I was willing to sin to get it? At first I really didn’t want to go there. I kinda, sorta didn’t want to know. Because then if I knew, I would have to face into it. And if I had to face into it, well than I kinda, sorta had to do something about it. And as I have mentioned before, I am not so great at doing.

Against my better judgment laziness, I prayed for God to reveal to me what my biggest idol was. I winced as I prayed it, kind of with one eye open, waiting for the heavens to open up and zap away everything I cared about. It was reminiscent of the prayers I used to pray telling God I submit to His will was for my life. I would cringe thinking of the horror of God to calling me to be a missionary in a remote country where there were big spiders, and  I didn’t know the language, and I didn’t have cable….or ice cream.

I don’t know if I expected an audible answer. But after the heavens didn’t open up and nothing got zapped, I went on my merry way (as “merry” as I get I guess) and kinda sorta forgot all about that prayer. And life went on.

Life.

Life hasn’t been exactly easy these past months. The hardest thing was my dad’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Something like that has a way of really shaking a person. I felt really shaken. Suddenly the things that once seemed so steadfast didn’t seem so unmovable anymore. The things that once seemed so important seemed embarrassingly trivial. I searched for comfort. But I couldn’t it in the familiar places. Nothing seemed to touch this hurt. It was too deep for these shallow things to reach. It is humbling to admit that in the wake of my dad’s diagnosis one of the things I have struggled with the most is how uncomfortable I am with all this, how uncomfortable it feels to have to carry this with me-in every conversation, in every menial task, in every period of “mental down-time”, in every plan for the future. This diagnosis is bulky and heavy and ugly and among many other awful things, it is just plan uncomfortable. There it is: my idol. Comfort.

I am not talking about material wealth or financial security, although that might be part of it. I am talking about things just feeling good. I don’t want anything too difficult please. I want everything resolved by the end of this 30 minute episode. I want the reward without the work, the growth without the pain. I will self-protect. I will do what it takes to get the comfort I feel I am entitled to. I want to be taken care of and I want to be at home here. I want a glimmering future on the horizon and a nice, fluffy pillow. In times of trouble I will run to find an escape so I can feel better. I struggle to face into things and “step out of my comfort zone”. I want to feel secure and safe and well…comfortable. And for a long time I am pretty sure my happiness was directly connected to my comfort level. That is why I used to struggle so much with worry (and still do). It was not entirely that things would not work out, or all the worse case scenarios. A lot of my worry was “what if things are hard?” What if I am uncomfortable?”

Without even realizing comfort was my idol, I would worship and pursue it. I thought it would bring me happiness, but the irony is that it actually zapped my joy. Because as I have learned over the past couple years, and certainly this past year, joy is a choice made in spite of your circumstances. It does not hinge on how comfortable you are. I have found my greatest joy amidst my greatest pain and now in some of my most uncomfortable situations.

I once heard it said “When you make a good thing, the most important thing, it becomes a bad thing”. That is what I did with comfort. Nothing wrong with liking to be comfortable, but when I made it more important than submitting to God’s will, more important than being disciplined, more important than facing into things, more important than choosing joy in any circumstance, more important than trusting on God for my strength and comfort, then it became an idol.

Something I have learned in all of this that I never really knew, like heart knew, before: God doesn’t want us to stop making idols because He is greedy for our worship (although that is part of it because He is worthy of all praise). God wants us to stop making idols and worship Him as the true God of our lives because He knows without Him life is not life at all. He knows without Him we will never be truly filled with joy, or peace ,or hope. We will never find true, fulfilling, lasting comfort and strength without God. He wants us to worship and live for Him alone because it is what is best for us.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water
I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14

I don’t know about you, but this sounds pretty good to me. Yes please, God. “Yes” for my eternal thirst and “yes” for my thirst while I am here on this earth.

It is out of His great wisdom and His great love for us that He commands that we worship Him. He knows that is what we were made for. He knows that is what is best and He promises to bring about what is best (Romans 8:28). And for those same reasons He has allowed some pretty uncomfortable stuff in my life lately. And for those same reasons He has answered my prayer to reveal my idol. Grace. He has given me, once again, what I do not deserve: His unmerited favor. All of this is grace. Because it draws me closer to Him, and that is something I most certainly do not deserve, but most definitely want. I want it even when it is uncomfortable, because I know that in Him is my greatest comfort found. And I trust Him. I am learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
 
Another way God has been working on this area of comfort is in my home. Most people know, we rent. And in the past I have been less than happy about it. I have come to the place where I am truly content with where God has us. It isn’t my favorite house, but it is a huge gift to us in many ways. One of the ways is that this house is a daily reminder that this is not my home. This is not where my soul resides. This is not where my comfort lies. God knows I could get too comfy here on earth if I had a fabulous house that we owned. So, for the most part, most days, I am joyful with our current situation, because it points me to heaven-where my true home is. But just because I can always use a kick in the pants some encouragement in this area I am going to be reading this book.
 
book
 
I hear it is excellent. Anyone else struggle in this area of making comfort an idol? Anyone else find it too easy to get nice and cozy here on earth and forget about our eternal home? Anybody else love making your home pretty and life-giving (underneath all the clutter that is)? Anyone else like a good read with lots of eye candy and soul spurring? If so, I would love a reading buddy or two! Let me know if you are in and we can read and discuss together!

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