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The proper role of comfort

The pain of jet lag isn’t bad this morning. Two cups of coffee made the difference. My spirit responds: “Hallelujah!”   The pain of doing the work to write this blog post isn’t bad either. I’m seated on my favorite couch, dogs asleep next to me. You could say I’m comfortable.  …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
The pain of jet lag isn’t bad this morning. Two cups of coffee made the difference. My spirit responds: “Hallelujah!”
 
The pain of doing the work to write this blog post isn’t bad
either. I’m seated on my favorite couch, dogs asleep next to me. You
could say I’m comfortable.
 
Leaving Cambodia yesterday, we faced the pain of a long trip. You
know what I’m talking about – you sit in the same seat and can’t move. There may be a small child behind
you kicking your seat and making a racket the whole way (which in fact
happened to me).
 
If you’re in the window seat, going to the bathroom
means climbing over people, possibly waking them up. So you’re forever
making calculations about how bad you really have to go. That’s a pain.
 
The three flights we had to catch started at midnight. We wouldn’t
be getting home for 24 hours after that. But little comforts along the
way can make a big difference.
 
For example, we had people praying for us to each get three seats
together to lay down on (we got them and slept). In Seoul, we got
complimentary passes to the First Class lounge (think unlimited
cappuccinos). The flight attendants were super polite. I didn’t care so much, but hey, it mattered to Karen.
 
Pain changes us. Too much pain and our bodies respond by going into
shock. Or if it’s the pain of broken relationships, we shut down the
part of us that feels the pain. But then that kind of coping mechanism has
its own consequences – future relationships can go dysfunctional, for instance.
 
Clearly, some level of pain abatement is a good thing. Karen had a headache on the way home – Advil was her friend.
B.F. Skinner, the founder of behaviorism and the most influential psychologist of
the last century, showed us how animals and people adapt their behavior
to avoid pain. It’s at the heart of most motivations.
 
The problem is that we can become addicted to comfort. Deal with
chronic headaches and you may find yourself craving Advil too much or
having to move on to stronger meds.
Comfort and pain exist on a continuum. We need them both to live
happy, productive lives. As Proverbs says, “Give me enough food to live
on, neither too much nor too little. If I’m too full, I might get
independent, saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’ If I’m poor, I might steal
and dishonor the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:8)
In other words, it’s a good thing to be dependent on God, to have
enough need in your life that you don’t just get up and go to the
freezer, but instead pray, “Give us our daily bread.”
 
How are you doing with that balance? Is there enough pain in your
life to keep you dependent on God? In our house, frankly, we tilt toward
complacency. Our freezer is full. The thermostat is set at 77 degrees.
Our car has gas in it. If I pray for anything, it’s not my daily bread,
but “keep me from eating too much today.”
 
If too much comfort is an issue, I need more pain in my life. I
need more dependence on God and a greater awareness of my own mortality.
I really am not a very good representative of Jesus when I’m too
comfortable. I need pain to sharpen me, to get me on my knees.
 
Jesus came to bring comfort to those in too much pain. His beatitudes are a catalog of pains that will be blessed.
 
When they were young, our kids asked us to kiss their “owwies.” Jesus
promises to kiss our brokenness and make it right. In fact, he begins
his ministry by specifically targeting those in the greatest pain – the
poor, the blind, the sick, the oppressed. (Luke 4:18-19)
 
But some folks have been comfortable too long. They’ve become numb
to things of the spirit. They need a change to feel again. And so, the
answer to our prayers for intimacy may be pain. We may be asking “Why
me, Lord?” When that’s his answer.
 
One antidote to too much comfort is to recalibrate our sensitivity with a fast. Whatever it is
that we no longer appreciate, take it away. Karen and I are loving our
home a lot more this morning after having been away for ten days. We
appreciate my 2002 Taurus a lot more after a week of tuk-tuks.
 
We hugged our kids a little tighter because of their absence. The
mattress felt a little softer. The laundry is actually clean. My heart was a little more grateful for
it all.
 
What is it that you need to fast from? Where are you too
comfortable? How dependent on God are you? We all need a wake up call
from time to time.
 
I like what Jesus has to say to us about this: “Wake up! Strengthen what you have left before it dies completely. I have found that what you are doing is less than what my God wants. (Rev. 3:2)


Comments (12)

  • James Eugene Barbush

    Good thoughts to put into practice. I especially like the phrases:

    “His beatitudes are a catalog of pains that will be blessed.”

    ” it’s a good thing to be dependent on God, to have enough need in your life that you don’t just get up and go to the freezer, but instead pray, “Give us our daily bread.”

    And then there the phase……AH YOU GOTTA READ THE WHOLE THING!!! WELL DONE. LOVE IT. I’LL PASS IT ON.

  • We seem to be creatures of comfort and sadly that comfort suffocates us…. we just don’t realize it. Thanks for the reminder Seth.

  • Greetings, and welcome home!
    I am so comfortable in my life in a physical/possession sense that I am increasingly embarassed and uncomfortable… my husband is not yet a believer, but shares many of the pragmatic approaches to spending and directing resources to those in need that I do.

    I have felt called to purge, but I must do so with care that I don’t offend or hurt my husband who is a committed provider to us, his family.

    My dependence has been increased by multiple events over the past two and a half years that I could not possibly cope, adapt to or respond to with love if it were not for dependence on God.

    We live in central PA which has been hard hit by flooding, so I see this as yet another opportunity to share out of our excess.

    I always appreciate your real life real faith posts and appreciate that you take the time to write.

    Peace and welcome home.

  • Great stuff Seth! Thank you for experiencing jet lag again (probably the millionth time) for the sake of the Kingdom! 🙂

  • Thanks Seth for offering snippets again of life outside the bubble of comforts. You mentioned the word “balance” which is important. God isn’t interested in our comfort but is vitally interested in our character. I’ve come to believe that there are two very important variables (at least) in the midst of discussions of this type:

    1. Not all people process pain the same way. For some a splinter is a crisis.

    2. Not all people numb pain the same way. Some roads are socially acceptable.

    3. After all these years I still rarely hear someone say…”I am struggling with…”

    4. Unending and incessant pain in the life of a person changes reality.

    We live in a ministering culture here in America where with radical exceptions many people want to touch the burner with a finger but not crawl into the fire.

    B.F. Skinner was an interesting person to note. Check out his views on faith and Jesus in particular.

    Love you Seth. Your heart is real.

    Shalom….

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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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