This morning I found myself in an admittedly ironic state: sitting in my house while a storm brewed outside, sipping coffee lightened significantly by oat milk, underlining a book, and wondering if there is any idol or vice so insidious to middle-class Americans as comfort and safety.
What I don’t mean, as someone who struggles deeply with anxiety, is God’s comfort or the safety we find in Him as our refuge (see Psalm 62 and 2 Corinthians 1:3-7). The idolatry comes precisely when we look for, expect, or demand comfort and safety outside of God.
Comfort in our social media feeds (where everyone has the same opinions as us).
Comfort and safety in ‘good’ neighborhoods and schools.
Comfort in co-workers, churches, playdates, and happy hours with people who are “like-minded” — who don’t challenge much of our status quo.
We don’t usually see much of a problem with this because our status quo seems “normal” and good and, well, comfortable.
Here’s the thing.
“With Jesus as our model, our goal can never be to avoid pain. Comfort and safety must never be the highest goods for those who follow the crucified Savior whose life was marked by poverty, violence, and persecution.1“
Jesus lived a life marked by discomfort and lack of safety. He befriended people different from Him, purposely traveled in and to “bad” areas, and wasn’t afraid to speak up to the religious elite of His day — folks that you and I would all probably feel obliged to keep on their good sides. His lack of concern for certain religious traditions and rules, His habit of keeping “bad company,” and His gall to call the leaders on their blind spots earned Him so many (important) enemies, He was executed by the State.
If He’d valued comfort and safety as much as we do, He could’ve lived a lot longer — performed more miracles, preached more sermons, gained more followers, and done a lot more good in the world. Makes good sense to us, right? Of course that’s what He should’ve done!
Except that whole planning before the foundation of the world to redeem a people for Himself from every nation, tribe and tongue thing (1 Peter 1:19-20).
If I’m honest, this is really hard for me. So hard that when I stop to think about this, I think maybe I’ve lived almost my whole life wrong. Completely backwards.
Sometimes we refer to Jesus’ kingdom as “upside-down” — referring to the almost exact opposite-ness of Jesus’ kingdom to our own, to the world, to the kingdoms of this world.
How Do We Know If We’re Addicted to Comfort & Safety?
What are ways we know we are valuing comfort and safety — avoidance of pain — above almost everything else?
There’s almost too much to list.
Fearing rejection so much that I threw up almost every morning before middle school.
Spending years locking my doors anytime I saw someone dressed a certain way (usually a different color than me) is within 50 feet of my car.
Living sick-to-my-stomach for months when extended-family conflict arises.
Living sick-to-my-stomach for years when working overseas in ways that weren’t exactly acceptable to a foreign government.
(Noticing a common thread about fear manifesting in my body? It’s super fun🤢.)
Being almost physically unable to bring up conflict between teammates and co-workers.
Not being willing to look at houses in certain neighborhoods.
Choosing to scroll social media instead of engage with my kids (because I deserve a break).
Choosing to watch TV most nights instead of pursuing emotional intimacy with my husband.
This plays out in most every area of my life.
And because avoiding pain and discomfort is such a supreme idol in my life, anytime I do experience pain or discomfort — the experience is compounded (seemingly exponentially) by the angst and anger over my ability to guard myself from pain. What a waste of precious mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual energy!
How To Combat an Addiction to Comfort . . .
A good first step is recognizing how dangerously addicted we are. Identifying the destructive behaviors we turn to (or positive ones we avoid) to keep that part of us ‘fat and happy.’
And we need to replace the mutilated God-given desire — to receive comfort, to have safety — with a bigger, stronger, more beautiful desire. Namely, to live life God’s way.
Jesus was willing to live a life that led Him to the cross. Because He valued God’s will to rescue His beloved (that’s us!) more than we valued worldly comfort and safety. And He coped with His fear, discomfort, and fatigue by seeking comfort and refuge in His Father above all else (see Matthew 26:36-43).
Our vision for “the good life” is just not good enough, friends. God offers us a life that is less “safe” and less “comfortable” — but it is more good, true and beautiful than what we seek.
We have to make a habit of learning about and hungering for the “good life” according to Jesus. Our tastes for the world’s comfort will start to taste like the dust it is.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:10-11
- Rediscipling The White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity, by David W. Swanson