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Christian Living

The God of Discomfort

God doesn’t call us to a life of comfort.

As an overweight, gainfully employed, hyper-educated American Christian– that phrase convicts.

Recently, when I spend time in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit has illuminated in me this truth in a brand new way. God doesn’t call us to live a comfortable life. He calls us to a radically life of discomfort.

I tend to read my culture and my experience into the Bible so much… my life is pretty cushy. I tend to think that since I’m typically comfortable in life, the people God lifted up to me as examples must have lived equally comfortable lives, right?

Wrong.

On and on, the Bible is full of stories of people called to live uncomfortable lives. There are endless examples!

When I hear people talk about what they like or dislike about their church it bothers me to hear so much talk of comfort.

  • We want music we are comfortable with.
  • We want to be around people like us, people who make us feel comfortable.
  • We want the preaching to challenge us, but never to make us uncomfortable.
  • We want a church with a great kids ministry so we can feel comfortable about leaving our children there.
  • We want comfortable seating.
  • We want to serve the church in ways that are convenient and comfortable for us.

When I hear Christians (myself included) talk about the life we want to live, we all desire comfort!

  • We want jobs we are comfortable with.
  • We never want to be sick, that’d be uncomfortable.
  • We want comfortable shoes.
  • We want a comfortable bed.
  • We want a big, cushy Lazy-e-boy recliner to watch football.
  • We want to marry someone who is comfortable to be around, and our friends are comfortable with.
  • We want friends we are comfortable with.
  • When we think of vacation, we want things to be über comfortable!

As I stare at my Bible this morning and ponder this, I’m left with this question:

What if God is calling me to live a life of radical discomfort?

What if following Jesus makes those around me uncomfortable?

What if the church I’m called to be a part of never feels comfortable?

What if steps of faithfulness lead me to great and greater steps of discomfort?

What if my desire to be comfortable is leading me further away from Jesus instead of closer to Him?

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

19 replies on “The God of Discomfort”

i feel like i say this frequently – people in the US have figured out how to create God in their own image of a comfort-giver then get really confused when suffering happens. Good reminder.

Excellent post, per usual.

I’m always concerned when I hear people talk about “God’s blessings” in material/economic terms. I recall a conversation with a pastor in Mexico City who considered wealth a work of the devil. Yikes! His belief, having served wealthy parishes in Philly and impoverished parishes in Mexico, was that wealth (and other “comforts” we seek) is a barrier in our relationship with God.

The struggle, though, is to not play the martyr-card. Sometimes people in this paradigm equate faithfulness with misery, so they go out of their way to be unnecessarily uncomfortable. This is a yucky kind of works-righteousness that completely misses the point.

The other difficulty is the balancing act of want vs. need. This is how many churches have gotten into the “comfort business”…they’re trying to meet the needs of their members so they can pursue a life of faith that is unencumbered by distractions or pitfalls. This is one that I wrestle with constantly. We “need” a screen in worship so that people don’t have to juggle a hymn book and bulletin…we “need” professional nursery services during worship so parents can worship instead of wrestle…we “need” state-of-the-art technology so that we can effectively educate and evangelize…etc. It’s a slippery slope.

My prayers are with you, Adam, as you continue to explore this new frontier of the kind of discomfort that God calls us to.

Shutup Adam, I’m trying to feel comfortable over here this morning and not convicted! That’s a question I ask myself and others often although I’m usually shouted down by all of my modern day idols. Sigh.

I think it’s important to remember a few other biblical examples as well: King David was… well, a King. Solomon as well, and they both lived in splendor! But they got their lives seriously turned upside down and made very uncomfortable at times as well. (The key phrase there being — at times. David in particular had alot of discomfort, but I think his comfort at least balanced out his discomfort). Jesus loved to go to dinner parties and lounge with friends and chat and drink a lot. But, his life was also made very uncomfortable at the very end.

So yes, discomfort is often what happens in life in order to bring us closer to God. BUT, just because discomfort often leads to a major life-lesson or brings about a necessary change does not mean we are called to live in constant discomfort. That’s what the catholic church called asceticism, and there’s lots of reasons why the reformed churches did not keep that tradition going after the Reformation.

I’m curious, Adam, as to how your visits to Haiti resonate with this. There you saw imaginable joy and worship in the lives of people who had nothing. There are plenty of examples of discomfort globally. I honestly think it’s our American/ism that leads us to expect comfort over belief.

trips to Haiti absolutely effected this. As I sit and think about what we expect for church or what we desire in life vs. what I know to be true in Haiti… the two just don’t reconcile.

I read all the stuff about church growth and all and go, “TOTAL B.S.!” Until you worship with people who sit in the dirt for 4-5 hours, piled on top of each other… you don’t know what “can work.”

It’s clear we have a different standard of what is comfortable and expected. And I’m very much wrestling with this. I don’t think God is calling us to an aesthetic life stlye. But I do think we need to lower the bar a bit.

I do think we have a different standard, but what I’m wondering is– is this the essence of the question? Is the question about comfort or is it about belief or surrender or ego?

The reality is that the haitians are in haiti and you are in America. Of course there are different comfort levels–just a fact of life. Some people think God is calling them to abandon everything and become a pauper… others think that to have anything of any worth or luxury is evil (I am not of that thought, by the way).

But we are where we are for a reason. We are lucky to have the comforts we have. Perhaps our calling is to do more with our comforts than wonder whether or not we should have them. ya know, spread the love.

I am honestly not arguing with you on this. I’ve been thinking about this ever since you first posted earlier.

I can also see the whole “comfort” thing turning into a guilt trip; especially for those of us who are more comfortable.

the reality is this, as I said earlier. we are where we are. how can we make a difference in where we are? how can we most acutely serve god where we are? how can we be examples of love where we are?

how can we extinguish some of our guilt over being where we are? should we even feel guilty?

there are many who believe, of all levels of “comfort.” and, imo, unless you feel like God is calling you to “less,” just keep doing what you can where you can.

your obedience is enough.

Well, I don’t have the answer. I used a lot of personal pronouns in this post because I didn’t want anyone to think of it as a guilt trip. It’s really just what I’m wrestling with as i try to reconcile some stuff. (Not just Haiti)

As I’m processing this I wonder if this should really be leading me to spend some time exploring the disciplines of simplicity and content. (Are those even really disciplines, I don’t know)

For me, I’ve lived in enough zip codes to know I have a tendency to complain and be “uncomfortable” in any circumstance.

But, also in my wrestling, is the concept of being comfortable in church. I’m often quite uncomfortable at my church. I’ve had to leave services before because I just couldn’t handle the discomfort. But at the same time I relish in the discomfort if that makes any sense. It feels like I ought to be offended because my culture is so freaking jacked up in my desire for everything to appeal to me. Yeah, probably too much sharing. 🙂 Clearly, I’m wrestling through this.

not too much sharing, adam. please know that I appreciate this conversation. I never meant to indicate that you were implying guilt on anyone or anything like that. I was just wondering if the question was even bigger….

spiritual directors are great for stuff like this! i know a few awesome ones! 😉

After Brigham Young led the Mormons out West, he expressed the worry that prosperity would lead the people away from Jesus Christ.

“The worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution and be true. But my greatest fear is that they cannot stand wealth.”

Seems I need the Lord when I face difficulties, but have a tendency to forget Him when life is easy. Not forget entirely, but I become lax in my prayers, my scripture study, that kind of thing. I’m not as dedicated. Or grateful.

If my belief and worship doesn’t lead me to make some daily effort, some sacrifice of my time, attention, and — because I’m blessed with so much, materially — my physical and financial resources, then I need to change something about what I’m doing.

Thanks for the reminder, Adam.

Maybe that’s what Jesus had in mind when He asked us to take up our crosses and follow Him. (Luke 9:23-25)

I’m totally with you on this. I’ve been thinking this way a while now. (at least the last two years w/o a job, lol).

But we’re called to reach out to the people who nobody else will; love the unlovely so to speak. And American Christians don’t seem to get that.

But here’s my dilemma, the people in the comfortable subdivisions need Jesus too. How do you reach out to them in a way that would entice them away from that? They look and say “If I have to give up my 3 story house and private school for my kids, forget it.”

But thank you, Adam. That’s true. We’re so worried about us we forget the truth.

My thought on this Shannon… as was so powerfully illustrated to all of us in Romeo. A lot of people financed their comforts on credit. What they thought would make them comfortable has ended up being their greatest discomfort! Ultimately, so many who tried to buy comfort discovered stuff was meaningless and fleeting.

I guess the one area that I try to challenge myself and others is to take chances outside of the comfort zone DAILY. I don’t feel guilty for a super comfy mattress at the end of the day if I step out in faith. If an opportunity presents itself, and I think to myself, “I don’t want to do that,” I then realize that’s what I probably need to do and act. What I seem to find is when I do what makes me ‘uncomfortable’, it’s rarely in the ballpark as bad as I’ve built up in my head. I’ve built up this irrational fear simply because too often we try to rationalize it’s better not to act, when that’s virtually never the case. We need to get uncomfortable and act!

“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable.
He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”

Francis Chan

I appreciate the sentiment Adam. What I have to wrestle with is difference between doing everything to orient my life toward comfort and feeling guilty for having more than the average person in the world.

It is not bad to be comfortable. Many of the examples from the Bible have people who were very uncomfortable at times. Abram did enjoy times of great prosperity as well as many of the OT saints. I don’t benefit from the middle-class guilt piled on me by various organizations and causes… usually led by very rich people…

What is a sin is to forfeit God’s calling in order maintain a level of comfort, which is what I so often do.

So, if my comfort is gained by my sinful attitude, thenit is not good. I must then reconcile what I’m called to do with what I actually did. But, if it is a result of hard work, God’s blessing, luck, or a combination of any of those then I am fine with it.

Just my two cents…

Here are some passages I found just doing search at Biblegateway.com for “content:”

John the Baptist says in Luke 3:12-14
12Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13″Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13
11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:17-19
17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Paul says in Hebrews 13:5-6
5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”[a] 6So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”[b]

Later in Hebrews 13:20-21 Paul prays
20May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Money, or comfort—while not to be worshipped or coveted—is not bad as long as one remains faithful and obedient to God.

We do tend to confuse our wants with our actual needs. But I also believe it is not a sin to have a home and a job to pay for it if God has given you the opportunity. If it is a sin to live in a dry home, with clean clothes, and food to eat, then billions of Christians from Charles Spurgeon to Billy Graham to my grandmother are doomed. I don’t believe the sin is in what we have, it is in what we do to God or to others. God has provided for us, we should praise, worship, and thank Him. And then we should help others.

What we can do that moves God is to put our trust in Him and be obedient to Him. Putting God first, living our lives for Him first, is what puts the smile on the Heavenly Father’s face. No matter where we are, who we are, or what our given station in life is, all that matters is if we remain faithful and obedient to God or not. Then the second part is to love our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves.

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