My daily wardrobe frequently utilizes layers. This particular spring has featured cool, wet weather mixed with sunshine, so it’s smart to be versatile. When I climb into my car, I adjust the thermostat to make sure the temperature is just right, frequently adjusting as I drive toward my destination. But first, a quick stop at Starbucks. Will my coffee by hot or iced? This, of course, depends on how warm or cool I feel in the car! We certainly can’t upset the balance.
At work, I turn on the heater. There’s one overhead and a vent at my feet. Later, when I return home, I might open the windows if it’s stuffy or wrap up in a blanket in case of chill (confession, it’s usually both simultaneously). In a month or two, when summer settles on Southern California, my layers will be replaced with tank tops and the office heater will be swapped for air conditioning. My coffee will almost always be iced and a fan will be enlisted into service next to my open window. It’s all about maintaining comfort!
We take such great lengths to control our temperature- and even the temperature of the air around us. If it’s the slightest bit too hot or cold, we quickly adjust. It would be unfathomable to sweat or shiver. But we never stop to think about how slightly ridiculous this is. We are so adverse to discomfort that we practically flee from it, taking great care to control precise degrees Fahrenheit.
Our comfort is considered in our clothing choice, home arrangement, bedding, vehicle interior, and an ergonomically-designed office space. We can now recline at the movie theater and turn a camping trip into a glamping experience. We avoid social awkwardness, conflict, and emotional difficulty. Our comfort is king, and every effort to be in control is necessary.
But what if…. What if for a second we allowed ourselves to bravely venture into the little-known territory of discomfort? What would we find there? Misery? Panic at the lack of control? Chaos careening willy-nilly into despair? Would our world crumble into pieces around us?
Why is discomfort scary?
Perhaps it’s because we aren’t aware of its value. We feverishly avoid being uncomfortable because we are blind to the ways God can shape it into beauty. Discomfort naturally prompts us to growth while developing something greater in us. Exercise at the gym is not comfortable. It’s hot and sweaty; muscles ache and thirst persists. But strength increases and the health rewards are great. This isn’t something that can be achieved from soft couch cushions- fitness requires discomfort.
Sin should make us uncomfortable, yet we’ve found ways to make it cozily fit into our lifestyle. Excuses and comparisons justify the ways we aren’t *quite* in line with God’s Word. We just adjust the spiritual thermostat to our liking and go about our day. However, when the Holy Spirit gently prods us, the discomfort of conviction begins to pervade our souls and it’s not pleasant. Guilt and shame can quickly overtake us if we’re not anchored in faith. We thrash around in the waves of despair, nearly drowning until we reach out and take the hand of our Heavenly Lifeguard. It’s tempting to retreat to the safety of the comfortable set-up we have on the shore of complacency, but eventually that also becomes a place of discomfort when we feel stagnant and stuck.
There is little choice but to relinquish control and allow the Lord to lead us through discomfort. In the face of intimidating unknown territory, will we close our eyes and protest or allow God to lead us into new adventure? In Genesis 12, God told Abram to leave home and travel to a land that He would later reveal. Abram was asked to abandon physical comforts as well as the stability of his family and community. Travel would be literally uncomfortable in addition to difficulties being a foreigner in strange lands. But God didn’t call Abram into these circumstances without reason. This was the route to blessings beyond generations and a spiritual legacy that continues even now with you and me. There’s no way Abram could have truly imagined that his descendants would actually outnumber stars and sand, yet his discomfort was part of the journey to exactly what God promised.
Now comes the part where we look inward. How has our obsession with comfort blinded us to God’s reality? What are we avoiding as we cling to what we decided somewhere along the way was absolutely necessary for happiness? What do we risk in discomfort…. and what do we have to gain?
Here’s our challenge: step out of the comfort zone. Genuinely ask God to reveal something uncomfortable in order to become more like Christ. Then, take a step. Read a book by an author with a different point of view. Visit a new church. Serve a group of people that you don’t know very well who might not be like you at all. Have a conversation with someone you love about a topic you’ve been avoiding. Change your routine and ask the Lord to lead you to something new and fresh. Pursue a new skill that brings you in contact with new people- and go with the heart to learn from them, not to teach them anything. Take a chance with vulnerability before running quickly from it.
Or perhaps embrace small efforts and refrain from touching the thermostat today. You never know what beautiful thing God will craft from the smallest discomfort. Stepping out with Him into the unknown waves is the beginning of a great adventure.