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Breaking comfort addiction in the new year

Happy New Year! I hope your party last night was fun, and even offered you some solace in a world that is looking rougher all the time.   Thomas Hobbes described life as “nasty, brutish, and short.”  In 1890, the average life expectancy was 43 years old.  Man was born to a life o…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Happy New Year! I hope your party last night was fun, and even offered you some solace in a world that is looking rougher all the time.
Thomas Hobbes described life as “nasty, brutish, and short.”  In 1890, the average life expectancy was 43 years old.  Man was born to a life of painful adversity punctuated by sickness and death.  Only in the last century have economic advances made a life of comfort possible.

We crave the familiar, the soft, the pleasant.  We crave the comfortable.  We want to satisfy the senses with what has satisfied them before.  And that’s not all bad – Jesus came to give us abundant life and has good things for us to enjoy. What we need to look out for is the limits of comfort  and taking our cravings too far.

When I was a small boy transitioning from the comfort of my mother’s side to the hard knocks of childhood, I had a security blanket that gave me comfort; it was soft and familiar.  I looked like Linus.  When I began to realize that security blankets were undignified and potentially a source of ridicule, I was faced with a crisis. 

My mother helped resolve the matter by cutting the blessed blanky in half.  Later she cut it in half again.  Eventually, by the time I was four or five, she had reduced it to the size of a small handkerchief that could be folded up to a dignified square in my blazer pocket during dinner parties.  If I had a panic attack in the company of older, rougher children, there was the blessed blanky, the very touch of which brought comfort.

All of us have to move beyond the comfortable if we are ever to grow.  A little comfort may soothe our anxious souls and help us deal with life’s hard edges; but a baby bird left too long in a nest will foul it.  Like birds, we were made to fly – we can’t experience the sensation of soaring while enjoying the comforts of our nest.  We need to feel pain and expose ourselves to risk if we’re ever to experience the wind beneath our wings and begin soaring.

Have you been sitting in a comfortable place too long? You may suffer from a kind of comfort addiction.  What better time to make a change than now, as we enter a new year.  I recommend two things for those wanting to break out of their comfortably numb state and find their greatness:

1. Wean yourself.  Identify those  things that bring you comfort. Make a list that includes the things you own, the stuff you wear, the places where you hang out, the stuff you consume, the people you associate with.  Let me suggest that some of the things on the list are too prominent in your life – they have begun to define you even though the result doesn’t represent the best version of you. 
If there is stuff on your list that occupies too large a space in your life, then determine to decrease your dependence on it.  We eat too much, drink too much soda, buy too many toys, surround ourselves with too many distractions.  All this may satisfy our immediate cravings, but it robs us of the pleasure that can only be found through the discipline of self-denial.
2. Risk more.  The net result of a comfortable life is risk minimization.  We live between societally prescribed guardrails.  We need to re-energize ourselves by determining to take more risks.  Maybe physical risks are the easiest place to begin – start with sledding and move to skydiving.  And realize that hey, the economy may well force you take risks with your career anyway.
For my money, we who live in the oh-so rational/cynical western world need to move beyond physical risks to the more difficult arena of taking more spiritual risks.  Burned by church? Don’t let that keep you from praying. Legalistic Christians turn you off? Jesus was anything but a legalist – let me challenge you to take a risk and look at him and his ways again. 
Schedule a fresh reading* about the wild man from Nazareth who turned the world upside down.  Discover who he really was without all the trappings of religion.  And, even scarier, find out who he wants you to be – it probably has little to do with your comfort.
*The book of Luke is a good place to start.

Comments (11)

  • St. Mark of the Cross

    My name is St. Mark of the Cross, I have been a “comfort zone” addict for 34 years. I know that Jesus is powerful enough to break this cycle and set me free. I am willing to follow the “12” steps to see this happen. I am looking for “sponsors”/prayer partners to help me with this addiction.
    Thanks, Seth…good word

  • And a happy new year to you, Seth!

    Reading this, I tremble. I agree that as Western Christians on the whole, we are too soft, too comfort oriented, too risk averse. When people consider it a hardship to have gone to a shop to find their favourite thing is out of stock, you know the definition of hardship is being viewed from the wrong end of the telescope.

    But God is not a comfortless God. Comfort is one of His most amazing Fatherly qualities and His word is full of His desire to comfort His children. I guess the difference then becomes where you seek your comfort from, not whether you have any.

    I remember a day when circumstances were just so powerfully overwhelming, I was desperate to do the right thing and couldn’t, I ran to my room weeping, threw myself facedown on the bed and cried out to God for help. Extraordinarily, I felt a powerful sense of His arms physically around me drawing me in. He shushed me and held me close to Him and the sense of His Fatherly comfort was amazing. I have never forgotten it.

    “As an eagle stirs up its nest (ie chucks the kids out and makes them fly!), hovering over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the Lord alone led him” (Deut 32).

    If He is my comfort source, I can take risks if I know that kind of Daddy is near.

  • Recently I wrote that both Satan and God have something in common. They both want to kill us. But the motivation and methods are fundamentally different. The Evil One comes to “steal kill and destroy”. Jesus calls us to “die to ourselves”.

    The fundamental foundations for the purifying work in our lives must be the creed of every follower of Jesus.

    From where I sit @ a half century of life it includes some of the following:

    He cares about our character more than our comfort.

    We share in the glory when we are willing to partake of the suffering.

    “Authenticity”, “Obscurity”, “Community” and “Impact” are the “four horses” pulling my wagon these days.

    The “ride” is much better and more certain than the “am I known, relevant, comfortable, affluent and popular?” trek that used to influence my life.

    Thanks Seth for your insightful reminders.

    The morsels taste right.

  • I love your mom.

    When I look back over 2008, it was her prayer for my son at the Breakthru Conference that is at the top of the list of the life altering epiphanies that occurred that weekend. (The top 6 or 7 of a short list of big things in 2008 happened on or in response to that weekend.)

    Now, as I look forward over 2009, it’s the image of tearing my own blanky in half and in half that will frame 2009. I no longer want a big blanky to hide under or to retreat into. I do still need snippet in my pocket to remeind me that I am neither alone nor responsible and can move boldly even among “older rougher children”.

    Thanking God today for you and for your mom.

  • Great blog Seth! Fasting for this New Year and this is a great place to start. St. Mark at the Cross I have enjoyed and have benifited by your thoughtful replies to Seth’s blogs. I would have never guessed you to be a COMFORT ZONE addict. I will join you in prayer and fasting to break this cycle of addtition. I will warn you , its sooooo hard to go back once you find His peace out of our false sense of comfort. Happy New Year all!……….Tami <><

  • Such an encouraging blog Seth! Thanks! I am definately a comfort zone addict. Have you heard the song “Fly” by Jonathan David Helser? Shortly after reading your blog this morning, I discovered it through Amy’s blog-tribespahr.blogspot.com. I think that song may reiterate what you are communicating in some ways.

    I so desire to “step off the edge and leave it all behind” and to me the “it” is that comfort zone. I know in my mind and heart if I obey and take baby steps and begin to risk and fly that I would experience God’s healing power and presence in ways I have never experienced Him before. So for me, it comes down to obedience, but also thanks for encouraging us to make a list of the “stuff” that is taking up too much space and is giving me a false oomfort. I think that may be a step in the right direction. I am trusting that in 2009 God will show me what it means to fly.

  • Seth, so true! Great post (and I love that video). And Butch’s comment about the goals of Satan/God are so accurate. Great meat to chew on as I look at 2009 and prioritize!

  • Great word, as always, Seth!

    We made the decision recently to get rid of something in our lives that brought us great comfort, but also many distractions, as well. We’re ditching our television. The satellite bill is paid up through 1/10; on 1/11, it goes dark.

    This may not seem like a big deal, but, believe me, compared to the way I grew up, it’s really going to be a huge sacrifice. And, yet, I’m really excited, too. I can’t wait for the first Saturday when I have “nothing” to do and I reach for the remote. It’s at that point that I’ll realize there’s a book waiting to be read, a walk to be taken, a prayer to be prayed, an adventure to be had. Simply put, I’m anxious to live my life without being chained to an idiot box.

    I realize this sacrifice seems trivial, but it’s a big start for me, and I’m prayerfully hoping it will continue a fresh revival in my soul…

  • It’s a wonderful start to the new year. Was just having that thought about TV today. It was SO good not to have to fight that dmon in our house while the kids were growing up! Well done, Tripp!

    To the rest of you – a happy new year. with all the bad news, I’m thrilled to be the bearer of good news to a weary world. At the end of the day, the really wonderful thing is that we win!

  • I am not a blog reader normally. I just came upon yours as I was trying to find the word that means addicted to comfort. I heard that word a few years ago and now I can’t find it. You would think that I would have written it down! Anyway, I agree that we’re addicted to comfort in this country. I realized that when I went to Liberia on a mission trip last Summer and people from my group were shocked that they had to take a bath with a bucket and a faucet in cold water. I was just glad to be able to have a bath so far out in the bush. The thing I missed that I really had to pray about was makeup and hair products. There was no time for any of that, but I look back on pictures of me during that time and as I have shared them with my friends, I can’t tell you the number of comments I received about how good I looked. I can look at those pictures and feel good about being a child of God helping other children of God who are much less comfortable than I am. I am a single person with a 3 bedroom house and 2 1/2 bathrooms and we were working with people who had to share family latrines and carry their water from a well in the center of village. What on earth could I possibly have to complain about? Can’t think of a thing!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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