I wrote this over at Exemplify Online. I hope you'll follow me there.
I love it. I seek it. I strive to maintain it.
I want comfortable shoes. A comfy bed. Comfort-controlled climates. Comfort foods. Cups of comfort. Comfort zones. And comfortable relationships.
Stress? Conflict? Affliction? Suffering? No thanks.
In suburban America we place a high value on things that make us feel safe, secure and contented. We avoid, eliminate, alleviate and medicate that which causes us discomfort. And it’s not just that we want comfortable lives, we feel we’re entitled to them. When our comfort gets breached, we get protective, frustrated or angry.
The problem is that Jesus doesn’t promise circumstantial comfort for His followers—at all. In fact the Good News seems to promotes the opposite.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)Jesus didn’t spend his ministry in the comfy digs of his four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath suburban Jerusalem home and expect folks to come to Him. He didn’t pen volumes to educate His students. He didn’t form committees to debate social reform. He didn’t sit on His throne and order His subjects to serve Him.
“In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33a)
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” (Philippians 1:29)
“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13)
Jesus was a man of action and compassion. He brought His anointed touch, loving spirit and words of truth to where the masses didn’t want to go. To the sick, the lame, the brokenhearted, the cast out, the prisoners, the small, the weak and the marginalized.
And to His disciples He said, “Follow me.”
He says the same to us. When I read between the lines, I hear Jesus asking, “Will you follow Me even if it means leaving the confines of your comfort? Are you willing to step out of your self-made sanctuary and enter into uncomfortable circumstances, places or relationships in my name? Into the dirty, pungent, unknown, unfamiliar, strife-filled, potentially embarrassing and sometimes scary.
For a long while I replied, “Lord, I want to follow you, but can I stay close to the safety and familiarity of my own life?”
This past year God’s answer has been a resounding, “No!” As a result He’s led me off my map big time. He has taken me into a hospice, a prison, a chemotherapy suite, a slum, the mission field and most recently a Haitian refugee camp. Each situation was emotionally and physically far from my comfort, experience and qualifications; yet in each, Jehovah Jirah ("The Lord will provide"), gave me the ability to do what He called me to do. Sometimes doing nothing more than loving in His name.
These experiences leave me awe-filled and thankful because in them I saw God—and His children—far more vividly and powerfully than I ever had in the comfort of my middle-class life.
Jesus says, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) Unleash your fears and trust me.
Our Savior is in dark corners, in the messy, the broken and the ailing. When we follow Him there, He will break us. Fill us. Use us.
And we will never be the same again.
Are you willing to follow Jesus where He calls you—wherever that is? If not, what's holding you back?