Is comfort an enemy to your soul?

Photo provided by Kit Tomlinson

Photo provided by Kit Tomlinson

By Kit Tomlinson –

Occasionally I find myself on a Friday night under a log weighing several hundred pounds with 30 or more strangers. Together, we are all wearing heavy backpacks and embarking on an unknown 12 hour journey on foot. The main goal of this exercise, led by a veteran of Special Forces, is to teach us lessons of teamwork and leadership. Some lessons can only be learned when you are soaking wet, hiking long miles with a heavy burden on your back. It’s never easy and all it takes is all you got.

It’s been a long process but I have come to believe that being comfortable (at least in the way that most Americans think of it) is a luxury your soul can not afford.

To put it starkly, Jesus made it clear that the world is going to hate us and that it is going to persecute us (Matthew 10:22). To this end I believe we must practice being uncomfortable. We must make a conscious spiritual decision to go to the desert from time to time, like Jesus did. As Christians, we must face the scary things on our own with nothing to help us but our faith in God and those who are willing to struggle along with us. There will come times when we don’t have a choice, a moment when I won’t be able to simply stop and take a break. On that day I want to be ready. I want a deep spiritual well to draw from. In order to be prepared, I have to be willing to visit the desert. I have to learn to be uncomfortable and be in places where I have to depend on others. This is what I believe Lent was intended to be for all of us.

We stand in the line of The King. Not A king, but THE King. We were only told to rest one day a week, not six. “But I work hard at work six days a week for 15 hours a day,” you could respond. Yes, but are you working for the right things? Work is good, but we must ask what are we working for? What are we chasing? Comfort? Or are we chasing the one true source of happiness and wealth? Jesus said to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and the rest shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33). No, I am not talking about your job, school, or your happiness. Far too many of us have been trying to make our soul comfortable six days a week, chasing luxuries. I am talking about your soul and your body.

Kit Tomlinson

Kit Tomlinson

When I read the scriptures I realize God is not concerned with my happiness. Instead, God is concerned with whether I can find contentment (AKA at peace) with whatever my situation is. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” declared Saint Paul. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phillipians 4:11-12). Are we prepared to be ready to be faithful and administer grace in whatever situation we find ourselves?

One of the best photographs I have ever seen comes from the Ukraine. There was great unrest a couple years ago and three Orthodox priests moved into the “Grey Zone,” the no-man’s land between angry protestors and police in riot gear. They stood there praying, holding high the Cross and the image of our Savior, trying to keep protestors and police alike from hurting each other. I don’t know if they supported one side or the other, but either way that was brave.

That was confidence in the Lord. We don’t get to the place where we can stand content in the “Grey Zone” by always seeking comfort, or by ignoring our health and our Spirit six days of the week. That comes from spending time in the desert. That comes from embracing the uncomfortable in order to stand firm in the Spirit of the Lord wherever I am called to do so.

For every one of those Friday nights I spend walking mile after mile, carrying all sorts of heavy things, doing countless exercises, I remember a couple things: God is good, and the sun will rise on Saturday morning.

As countercultural as it sounds, I hope you have some way of practicing being uncomfortable. God’s intent is not for you to rely on fickle emotions. Instead God wants for you to dwell and rest in joyfulness that comes from abiding in the Lord in all situations.

Kit Tomlinson is the Recreation Evangelist at University United Methodist Church in San Antonio.

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