“Just remember, it’s ok to be uncomfortable.”
My senior year of high school, I traveled with a group of Foods Resource Bank volunteers to East Africa. I only knew one of the women well, it was the longest period of time I would have been away from home, and I have always had an excessive fear of germs. I was nervous.
As I was about to leave, my dad pulled me aside and spoke to me that important reminder, “Just remember, it’s ok to be uncomfortable.”
I replayed his words over and over in my mind throughout the next two weeks. The first night that I slept enclosed in a mosquito net, it’s ok to be uncomfortable. When I woke up to the Muslim call to prayer, it’s ok to be uncomfortable. When I stepped over manure in a rural family farm, it’s ok to be uncomfortable. When I had to go through intimidating customs procedures traveling between countries, it’s ok to be uncomfortable.
Those words were life changing for me. I had never considered the poison of comfort until I visited Africa and saw the joy and faith that flourished even in massive discomfort. I realized that the majority of my decisions were driven by my own desire to be comfortable.
I started to contemplate the motivations behind my decisions, and I soon realized how prevalent the poison was in my own life: it was silent and sly, but pervasive. So many of my decisions were driven only by comfort. It was a powerful influence, and it had gone completely unnoticed.
As I worked to make a decision about my plans for volunteering this coming summer, I came down to two options. They were both with equally reputable nonprofits, both doing amazing things. However, one of them was far more familiar to me, in fact it was a program with World Missions: I would be connected with people I trusted, people who would make all the arrangements for me. I would be staying in community, learning more about an organization I already loved. Yet, I could not ignore the still, small voice calling me to the other opportunity. I argued with it; it would be far more work to get everything together, work requiring time I didn’t think I had, and the experience would be more challenging for me.
I went to present my opportunities to a committee at my school and at the end I was asked a pointed question: “You say you are leaning towards one program, but you speak of this other one with more ease, more enthusiasm. Why?”
I let the question sink in. Why wasn’t I listening to the still, small voice? Why was I still doubting it? What was still drawing me to the World Missions program? I finally answered in humiliating, difficult honesty: “Because it’s more comfortable. I have less worries about it. And I guess that’s just not a good enough reason. When I ask myself where I feel like God is leading me, it’s not there.”
Ignoring the draw of comfort is one of the hardest things for me. I have been more challenged and humbled as the Lord teaches me to push my need for comfort aside than in almost anything in my walk with Christ. It is a daily struggle for me to prioritize God’s will over my own comfort, but in time I learn more and more how important it is for Christians to understand how poisonous comfort can be.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 gives us encouragement for when we face times of discomfort, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Even our own Heidelberg Catechism reminds us that we must not find comfort in material things or artificial security. We only have one true source of comfort, and it sticks with us in even the most trying of physical circumstances. Lord’s Day 1 asks, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” and answers, “That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” This is the only comfort we should seek: comfort in eternity through Jesus.
Prizing Earthly comfort drives us to selfishness, cowardice, and apathy. When we seek comfort, we fail to trust that God will provide for us even when we personally dislike our circumstances. Rather, let us pursue courage, humility, and ears open to the voice of God.