Maybe it’s the stage of life I’m in, where one child’s nighttime waking is almost guaranteed (and so, therefore, is my tiredness), or maybe it’s because we sprang for the extra layer of cushioning on our mattress, but I love my bed. I could just nestle in there and stay snuggled up all day. The demands of my life don’t permit such laziness, though (more’s the pity!); in order to attend to my necessary duties, I’m forced to leave the comfort of my bed.
A couple of years ago I was compelled to write about not dwelling in comfort; I wrote the following article for our church magazine, because it was to my fellow Christians that I felt this message should be directed. Basically, I felt the need to remind us all that comfort is not a dwelling place; i.e. it is good and necessary for us to nestle into the comfort of our salvation; it is good and right that we should draw near to Jesus and find peace and joy in His presence; but we need to remember that we are called to be His hands and feet.
God calls us to take refuge in Him. He calls us to find comfort in Him, to ‘dwell’ in His perfection and light as a respite from a world in which we experience pain and struggle and darkness. Our Lord encourages us to take time to reflect and revel in being in Him. We are to embrace and celebrate the sanctuary of God’s love – but our responsibility does not end there. The purpose of this refuge is to re-charge us to go into the world and embody that love for others. Second Corinthians 1 instructs us that God comforts us in order that we may then provide the same comfort to others.
Christ himself took comfort in the Father. Jesus went up to Gethsemane to pray and to seek peace from the turmoil in his soul. But he did not stay there; from that hilltop he went out, strengthened in his resolve, to do what God was calling him to do.
God is calling us to do His work, too. Like a mother whose reluctant child is clinging too long to her skirts, He is ushering, cajoling, exhorting us to take heart and trust in his love to go with us as we leave the sanctuary of His breast. We have things to do in the world around us and we must not tarry in this place of comfort for too long, lest we deny our calling to be God’s heart out there in a hurting world.
As we approach Easter, we’re invited to look upon the Cross. Often, we’re tempted to bypass the gritty crucifixion scene and move straight to the more comforting symbol of the empty cross and the hope and peace offered there. It’s easier to skip the hard parts of Christ’s story – His suffering for our gain – and go directly to the joy of our redemption and His resurrection. But let us pause before the Cross, and Christ upon it – bound there by our sins – and consider the challenge therein.
It’s difficult to contemplate the Christ’s experience on the cross. It is not comfortable to encounter the pain or suffering of our fellow human beings; it’s not comfortable to consider how much we have and what our responsibility might be to those who have not; it’s not comfortable to think about speaking God’s truth into a world which has, historically and continuously, rejected Jesus. “I’m not called to missions,” we declare – forgetting that we are called to be God’s hands and feet in this world. “It’s a fallen world – there will always be sin and poverty and sickness. There’s nothing we can do to change that.” But do we really think we’ve got no responsibility to pass on the comfort of the Father to those who struggle beyond our natural sphere of influence and interaction?
As Christians, we’re called to be people of action. Our deeds should reflect God’s heart in the world. But too often we go to that place of refuge in our faith and we STAY there. Instead of taking sanctuary, being filled up and encouraged, and then getting back into the thick of things to do God’s work, we wrap ourselves up in the comfort of our salvation, in the comfort of our blessed lives, in the comfort of our smug completeness – and we do nothing.
Instead, let’s commit to the challenge of aligning ourselves with God’s will for our lives. This is an ongoing process; the action God expects of us depends on our particular gifts and talents as well as the stage of life we’re in – we need to remain open to God’s calling in small ways as well. But we do need to be willing to embrace discomfort in order to show God’s heart to others.
Accepting grace is simply not enough. How can we receive a transformative gift and remain unchanged by it? God is calling us to demonstrate His love in this world. He is moving in us, dwelling with us, encouraging us and renewing us; all for the purpose of equipping us to go out and be active in our faith.
This year, as we complete the Lenten season, perhaps we can challenge ourselves: if comfort is something we strive towards or even spend a lot of time thinking about, then perhaps it’s time to re-examine our priorities.
Jesus didn’t die to ensure our comfort.
Something to consider: When we encounter difficulty/challenges, do we seek a way out of those challenges or do we seek God in the midst of those challenges? Remember, God invites us to take comfort from Him; from there we are equipped to go out, strengthened by His love and His presence, and do whatever we’re called to do.
Go in peace (but do make sure you GO OUT THERE!),