When Soft T-Shirts Are Comfort and Jesus a Last Resort
Comfort is a peculiar concept. Even just this afternoon, I couldn’t wait until I could change into my comfy clothes after a day of travel and work. Comfort in many ways represents rest for us safety and security. Comfort is most often the road that leads to spiritual satisfaction that turns into spiritual complacency and ends up in the dead end of spiritual ineffectiveness. It is a downward spiral crafted by this world to make us crave the temporary and miss the eternal in today. Satan wants us to jump on the comfort bandwagon. There is no thrill, no risk, no extreme life lessons in comfort, just soft t-shirts, cozy bedspreads, hot showers, and bowl full of mac n’ cheese (all the things I run to when I just want to be comfortable).
None of these are inherently bad, but when they are craved more than a life of reckless abandon that follows hard after Christ, they have become a distraction. I remember being so afraid as a single woman that God would call me to Africa before I could get married! But what if God wanted me to leave my comfort to go to Africa to actually meet my husband? The story didn’t go that way, but God did call me to move to a new place where I didn’t know a single person. It was in that act of obedience that I met Greg. The move was uncomfortable, but the reward was knowing Christ more and seeing His plans unfold. And that was worth it. When we get uncomfortable in this world, the only true place to find comfort is in Christ alone. God calls us to a life of discomfort when we follow Jesus. Taking up a cross is not a comfortable thing (Luke 9:23). Discomfort detaches us from the world and makes us crave the joys and beauty of heaven, the loving embrace of Christ, and the hope of eternity in the presence of God.
When my husband and I said our vows to each other, signed our marriage covenant, and went on our honeymoon, we came back to live on a houseboat. Yes, you read that correctly, a houseboat…in December…when it is freezing. We were in a time of transition and opted to live temporarily until our official move that coming February. Temporary meant discomfort. It meant the exact opposite of what I envisioned life would be like as a starry-eyed newlywed. Throughout those first two months of marriage, we hopped from place to place to rest our heads at night. We lived on the houseboat for a month, then on our friends floor in their soon-to-be occupied baby room on an air mattress, then in another friends house. Not exactly the situations that stirs newlywed affections! I rarely was able to cook and we weren’t even able to open up any wedding gifts. We lived out of a suitcase. I remember crying one night as we were trying to figure out our plans and grab a bite to eat. I was playing my tiny violin as loudly as I could for my sweet husband to hear. I told Greg in the most pitiful way as a forlorn wife who just wanted to cook and decorate – “I just want to be comfortable.”
As the words came out of my mouth the tiny violin I was playing hit a really terrible note. That was my problem. I wanted comfort more than I wanted the adventure of trusting and following Christ. Throughout our 2 1/2 years of marriage, that statement has made its way from the recesses of my heart out of my mouth several times. Yet, there is a surprising correlation in the moments I confess my longing for comfort with what my present circumstances are. My desire for comfort often coincides with a lack of dreaming and a lack of obeying Jesus. I run to the things of this world to give my heart peace and satisfaction rather than to the foot of the cross where my Savior suffered and died so I might have new life.
The Comfort of the Cross
The way of the cross is anything but comfortable. Before Jesus was crucified, He called His disciples several times to commit to the way of suffering. Can you imagine what the disciples were thinking when He told them “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Seriously, Jesus? Surely He didn’t mean what He said. They brushed it off without understanding that Jesus meant full well the price that must be paid. Then the day came that the Jews seized Him as He was praying. They mocked Him, beat Him, and placed a crown of thorns that pierced His brow on His holy head. The stripped Him, dressed Him, and stripped Him again. He carried a cross that was too much to bear. He was pinned to that cross by thick metal nails. As the disciples watched, they understood. The way of the cross means death. Death is not comfortable.
Some ran and some stood firm. Peter, the apostle who would deny Jesus three times while He was on His way to the cross, would eventually be hung on a cross himself. However, Peter chose to be hung upside down, because he deemed himself unworthy to die the same way Jesus died. In his denial of Christ, Peter learned that following the world and craving comfort leads to a life of ineffectiveness and distress. Following Jesus, Who is the way, the truth, and the life, brings true eternal comfort. We may forsake a soft bed, a hot meal, and a well-paying job to follow Jesus, but we gain eternity with Him. There is no comparison.
The way of the cross is not comfortable, but it is abundant life.
This past January, my husband and I went to Nicaragua on a mission trip. The week prior to boarding the airplane, I came down with a terrible sinus infection and fever, not to mention I was 20 weeks pregnant at the time! I had been on several mission trips prior to Nicaragua and felt confident that I could handle the bodily stress even being halfway through pregnancy. I was wrong. My body didn’t heal as quickly as I hoped with the antibiotics and my chest cough intensified in the heat and dusty winds. I could barely sleep and by the end of the trip had pulled a muscle from coughing so much. That trip was anything but comfortable. As a matter of fact, it is probably the most uncomfortable I have ever been. And yet, we shared the love of Christ with those who hadn’t heard. I hugged little children who rarely received a bath or a hot meal. I was able to share with teenage girls the treasure of giving your heart fully to the Lord. As much as I was uncomfortable physically, my heart was completely at home doing the work of our Master, Jesus.
Worldly comfort will always fail us. Bigger homes, softer beds, nicer clothing, and overflowing bank accounts will never prove to be true comfort when suffering strikes and all of life is swirling around us. It is a dead end. Jesus came and showed us the way of the cross that leads to eternal comfort. Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs, suffered greatly in this life for the cause of Christ. He spent decades in prison cells where he was in solitary confinement. He was beaten, battered, and worn down by unrelenting guards. And yet, Richard fully understood that though he could be in a prison cell with little food, no light, and no company, he had all he needed in the comforts of Christ. Richard wrote this in his book “The Midnight Bride” –
“When the Messiah comes, many will try to play their own songs on His harp. The results will be tragically dissonant. On the Messiah’s harp, you must play His own song — the song of His eternal glory with God; the song of His humiliation as a babe in a manger; the song of a life in sorrow, opposition and poverty on Earth; the song of His being whipped and crucified and buried; and finally the song of His resurrection, ascension and enthronement in heaven. “Then the harp will give a beautiful sound. His congregation will shine like a sun.”
It’s time we gave up our tiny violins and started playing the melody of our risen Savior, the “song of His being whipped and crucified and buried.” That is the song of comfort. This is the gospel that saved us. We must abandon comfort so that we can live with reckless abandon for the cause of Christ.
I’m hanging up my comfy clothes, letting go of my well-thought out plans for life, and embracing the way of the Cross. Will you join me?