Culture of Comfort

I hate waking up in the morning.

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There is just something about the comfort that my soft pillow provides that often overrides any other priority I have. If you are a person that hits the alarm clock once and leaps to their feet in the morning to “Carpe Diem”, we would have issues if we shared a bed. However, I actually had a pleasant rise to consciousness the other day and I may have to find a way to market this…..puppies. That’s right. I was greeted by my son’s puppy and her “kisses” as my morning wake up call.

My wife thought it would be hilarious to let puppy Franny  attack me in bed as my morning call to arms. Did you know that a dog does not care if you have morning breath? It also seems that puppies have no sense of propriety regarding licking the inside of your mouth as you awaken.

Puppy kisses Ron Swanson

Surprisingly though, no matter how comfortable I was, being woken up by a very excited puppy and the dozens of “face licks” that went with it had me up and laughing within seconds. So look out Shark Tank…Puppy Wake Up Calls…worth millions.

We live in a world and culture that loves comfort. Hey folks, I am no masochist…I love my day off on the boat with the warm sunshine in my face just as much as anyone. We are made for meaningful work and for times of rest. If it was good for the Lord, you know its good for us. The desire for comfort and ease becomes problematic when it becomes our highest priority in life. Embracing this mindset is easier done than I care to admit to myself at times. Western culture has produced a lot of good things but it has also spawned philosophies of life that look good on the outside but, taken to the extreme, become idols we worship.

American Idol

Comfort, ease, relaxation, “me time”, leisure, pleasure, fun… Nothing inherently bad about any of these things but what happens when it becomes our highest goal? What happens when it becomes societies highest aim? What happens when it affects those called to serve others?

I have found that the same God who created rest and leisure is also willing to disturb my comfort. I know…shocking.

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Well, to be honest, it has been a shocking reality for me, at times, as I journey to follow in Christ’s path. Somewhere along that road the culture of comfort has endeavored to seduce me off the narrow way. However my life’s circumstances have often drawn me into the valley rather than the mountaintop. Along the way I have discovered that the Lord is far more interested in the development of my character than He is with the ease and comfort of my journey.  That is a great line to “Amen” in a sermon but I have found it far more difficult to shout “Amen” when He actually walks me off the proverbial mountaintop of life and down into the valley of discomfort.

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The Lord is not a sadist. He is not random. Nothing in His word or character (when accurately studied…sorry armchair Bible “experts”) reveals a God who is capricious in His relationship with us. That beings said, my “logical” mind has accused the Lord of this very thing on many a journey into the valley. Fortunately I am in good company. Seems I’m more like the original disciples than I like to believe. #keepinitreal

I have discovered that sometimes the most loving thing God does, for my sake and the ones I am called to serve, is to lead me out of my comfort zone and into a troubling place. Once I have traveled its distant shores, in retrospect, I’ve  discovered that not much personal growth or fruitful living takes place on the mountaintop of comfort, but a lot takes place in the land of the struggle…I.E. The wilderness, the desert, the choose your metaphor for difficult places.  I am also learning that life isn’t to be lived with the perspective that “somewhere else” is where I would be better off. As the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

grass is always greener

 In the Bible, the book of Jonah describes a strange scene that takes place after Jonah reluctantly goes on a mission from God to the city of Nineveh. God wants Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh about impending judgement due to their horrific behavior. Though Jonah would prefer to see them destroyed (they were enemies of Jonah’s people who treated them very badly) he finally obeys God and goes. After Jonah preaches to the people of Nineveh, they repent from their wickedness and judgement is staved. Jonah goes to a place overlooking the city to see what will happen. That’s when things get a bit strange…

Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered.  When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah 4:6,7

God provided a place of comfort and God provided discomfort. Jonah was very happy about the comforting plant but was most displeased when the worm killed the plant. Jonah loved the shade but despised the scorching east wind and blazing sun. Jonah had a priority and God had a priority. Jonah’s hope was that Nineveh would be destroyed and he could kick back and enjoy God’s wrath being directed on those he hated. God rebukes Jonah for his lack of compassion. The Lord’s concern was for the people of Nineveh. I believe this is a window into the heart of God as well as a statement on His willingness to bring discomfort into our lives as a means of reorienting our perspective to eternal things.

If you are like me, whenever I face trouble I usually find myself asking God to get me out as fast as He can.

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Though not easy, instead, I am learning to ask the Lord, “What do you want to do in me or through me in this struggle”. I have discovered that often my discomfort is offering me an opportunity to gain a new perspective on what God values. But seeing the eternal in the midst of the temporal requires a new lens to look through. It requires a willingness to surrender at a deeper level of trust. It is easy to trust the guide when you can see the path. But when the path is not clear and the end is not in sight, that is where faith is truly put to the test. No matter what the trial or pain you may find yourself in today, there are two things that I encourage you to stand on, both incredible promises from the God who made you, loves you, is for you AND is much wiser about what we really need than we may think…

Be strong and courageous. Don’t fear or tremble before them, because the LORD your God will be the one who keeps on walking with you—he won’t leave you or abandon you.”

Deut.31:6 NIV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

Romans 8:28-29 NASB

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Grace and Peace.

Tom

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