Uncomfortably Conformed

The more I live the more I understand that it is not God’s will for us to be comfortable.

And yet, so many people–including many Christians–think just the opposite. They believe, based on faulty theology, that it is somehow God’s responsibility to keep everything in our lives running smoothly and pain-free, and they spend their lives trying to attain that level of comfort. Accordingly, they find themselves regularly frustrated at all the things that come their way that prevent them from experiencing that perpetual comfort.

Now I am not suggesting that God will not comfort us in our times of trouble. He does, and many who have experienced heartbreak and suffering have come to know His comfort in deep and meaningful ways. It is that comfort that the apostle Paul writes about in his second letter to the church in Corinth, that the “God of all comfort (would) comfort us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are also in affliction with the comfort with which we have been comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

Comforted, yes. Comfortable, not so much, mainly because faith and comfort are rarely compatible.

Vance Havner used to say that he felt that his calling in ministry was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. And I think that it a pretty good description of all New Testament Christianity. Surely we need the comfort of the Spirit in our time of affliction, but just as surely, sometimes God disrupts our comfort by pushing us from our comfort zone so that we have to live by faith. And the reality is, God has not wired any of us just to nestle in to our comfort zones.

You probably remember studying amoebae in high school biology. They are microscopic lifeforms, and basically among the lowest form of life on earth. Sometime ago, researchers at the University of California Berkley did an experiment that involved introducing an amoeba into a perfectly stress-free environment. Ideal temperature, optimal concentration of moisture, constant food supply–the amoeba had an environment to which it had to make no adjustment whatsoever. If ever there was an amoeba who was living the good life, it was this one.

Yet, oddly enough it died.

Apparently there is something about all living creatures, even amoebae, that demand challenge. That’s why in school, when teachers want us to learn and grow they don’t give us answers, they give us problems. “If a train leaves New York travelling 50 miles per hour, and Johnny has six apples and eats three, what time is it in Copenhagen?” Okay, maybe that’s a little mixed up, but that’s the way life is sometimes too. Our problems sometimes have complex answers, if we can even know them at all. And that makes us uncomfortable, and it requires faith.

Which is the whole point, from God’s point of view. As much as we sometimes seem to be doing our best to remove faith from the equation–when we strive for comfort and control–He has another plan altogether. Sometimes His plans are frustrating to us, and challenge us to go and grow where we would have never grown before. But in those times, we draw near to Him and cling to Him like never before. I think for many of us, that has been the lesson through the pandemic of the last year, and if we have learned it, it has been time well spent.

Which brings us back to God’s will. It is not so much to make you comfortable as it is to make you conformed to the image of Jesus. (Romans 8:29)

I pray this week that if you are struggling, hurting and confused, the Lord would bring you comfort. But I also pray that if you are getting too comfortable where you are, wrapped up in the things of this world, that He would shake you and stir you to move you to a new place of faith.

I am grateful for the privilege of serving you, and serving with you, as your pastor. May the Lord bless you as you walk with Him this week, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken