Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Isaiah 40:1 (KJV)
I’ve just returned from a mission trip to Uganda and am chuckling over the many ways “newbies” confess to being pushed beyond their comfort zones: eating grasshoppers as a seasonal delicacy; participating in vibrant church services exceeding four hours; navigating treacherous Kampala (the capital) traffic with thousands of vehicles and few road rules; sweating through days of work with no air conditioning; and extravagant demonstrations of Christian faithfulness. These “comfort zones” are usually defined with possessives: my, mine or our.
Yes, more and more we identify comfort as a state of personal entitlement and are disenchanted with those who make us uncomfortable. Think of college campuses where students must have safe zones and where topics that trigger angst among fragile students are to be avoided at all costs. Even in public discourse, we tend to shy away from anything that challenges our status quo or that would cause us to entertain new or unpleasant viewpoints. Political correctness is the order of the day with the exception that PC goes only one way; dissenters are labeled with phobias or worse. So much for comfort…
A cursory glance at a Bible concordance listing God’s view of comfort mostly flips our selfish comfort on its head. God speaks of comfort residing in him (Isa. 61:2), in his forgiveness (Isa. 40:2), in his touch (Luke 8:48), in the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31), in the Word (Romans 15:4), and so on. It’s all about him. Comfort resides in being surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ, his will, and his glory. It’s not about us.
What an excellent opportunity we have during the holidays to enjoy the comfort of our Father as he guides us through the minefields of difficult relations, command performances, mandatory attendance, last-minute shopping, and all the other aspects of Western Christmas traditions. Will we retreat to the need for safe spaces rather than moving into God’s grace as we encounter people and events that are not of our choosing? Will we avoid those annoyances that typically ruffle our feathers or will we see how God’s comfort can stretch us to move in his love and Spirit and out of our egocentricity?
May God’s Spirit constantly provoke us each time we begin to say, “I’m not comfortable with…” or “I’m only comfortable when…” Seems like a great gift this Christmas time would be to get us all out of our comfort zones and into God’s comfort.
Father, thank you for your infinite patience with us. Grace us to trust you in all circumstances. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.