I must admit, I’m a pretty classic human; I don’t like pain, and I prefer comfort. But over the last few years, it’s become clearer and clearer to me that I need to flip that around, and learn to not like comfort and prefer some amount of pain. No, I’m not advocating that I (or anyone else) become a masochist, but there is a truth we’ve lost in modern American culture, and we’ve lost because we’ve gotten comfortable and, frankly, rich!
Our parents, grandparents, and further on knew something many of us have forgotten: the art of contentment. Those who lived through the Great Depression, who made it through WWII, who built an incredible breadth of technological advancements that many, myself included, now build upon, all had a perspective of being grateful for so many little things. And their lack prompted a pursuit that drove them to bigger and better.
“But I’m not rich! I can barely afford my groceries.”
While that is true for some, there are others who have enough to eat and still more. Do you get to eat out? You’re rich! Do you have a full stomach at any or all meals? You’re rich! Now, this isn’t to disparage anyone, and I’m not using the term “rich” like American politicians do (in point of fact, our culture makes it almost assured that a politician while be among the very “rich” many of them rant against) . Still, it is meant to cause you, dear Reader, to pause and take a look at your life from a lens many have not had in a couple decades.
The amount of decadence and luxury we enjoy tends to distort our perspective. Take for example the ability to pick up a plane ticket for $30 or $80 and fly to most any major city in the US on any number of airlines. My grandparents never dreamed of such luxury! To be able to access entertainment from dozens, if not thousands, of options all via a large TV screen? My parents had a 27” TV at the height of my father’s career, and it was the biggest TV I’d ever had. Now, that same cost would buy 60” or more in flat-screened decadence!
Again, this is not about shame. It is about awakening ourselves from the narratives of our culture, breaking out of the news media’s diatribes, to lift us from the moans of those who claim we’re lost to “Corporate America”, and to give us a chance to look out at the landscape and ask, “are we really living in a way that glorifies the Almighty?”
Perhaps you have been wasteful, and you can be more considerate of what you buy, what you throw away, and what you hold on to. Perhaps you’ve been so simplistic that you’ve missed how you can bless others. Or perhaps, you’re somewhere in-between, waking up to nonsense you’ve believed and changing your mind from false ways of thinking.
Either way, the question comes: will you choose to accept the pain or will you cave to the comfort?
Let me spin off into one last point; comfort means “to strengthen” or “to give hope to” someone or a group of folks. It used to connote something that helped a person continue on, to get up and keep moving, or to push onward after a setback. Today, comfort is often used to imply “something restful or relaxing”. Where it once was meant to get us up and going again, it has oft become a destination.
“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” – Philippians 3:13b-14, NLT
What is holding you back? A house? A car? The desire to be married? The desire for a family? Perhaps career goals?
While still holding to the truth of God and living as He has taught us to live, let those things go! Seek Him. It’s not about a city, a building, a particular church congregation, or some career. It’s not even about how many kids you have, whether you homeschool them or not. It is solely about one things and one thing only: Jesus! Are you seeking Him and following His example with everything you’ve got and everything you are?
If you’re doing that, praise God! Keep it up! Keep pressing in, and learn to value the pains He brings, knowing that they always bring blessings either directly (prompting us to remove sin, teaching us something we’ve missed, and/or advancing the Gospel into someone’s life). And if you are not doing that, time to get off the proverbial (or physical) couch and get going! He has plans for you, and they are GOOD!
As a final thought, no one who has ever competed in sports will tell you it was painless. Whether it’s the workouts that build your strength or the actual competition where you give everything you’ve got to bring home that prize, none of it leaves you without pain. Muscles scream, lungs burn, and you sometimes wonder if it’s worth it.
In life, we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that pain is bad. But pain is sometimes, almost always, very good. It alerts us to problems, helps us avoid bad things, and it is often needed to build strength so we can do more and go farther. With Jesus, it is the same; pain helps us remember that sin isn’t worth it. It helps us know when there’s a problem in our lives. And through pain, Jesus often draws us nearer Himself and moves us onward and upward in our life with Him. We may not always understand, but if we know Him, we can trust He has our best at heart and will only do what is absolutely right, best, and necessary (Romans 8:28).
I am learning to embrace the pains He brings into my life; let the tears flow, but press in and through. And in the midst, I find He is moving me and making me accomplish things I never thought possible. But that’s my Jesus, God of the Impossible!
Godspeed! – 1 Corinthians 15:10