What makes YOU uncomfortable? Public speaking for most people - the potential of making a fool of ourselves in public - rates right up there with root canal. Eating alone in a restaurant, going to a new school, finding a new church, approaching someone about their need for the Savior, seeking a new relationship, walking down front in church and praying aloud in a group can even bring on chest pain!
Being the Bible scholars we are, we know that God's most important work in our lives is to make us feel comfortable and secure in all of life. Isn't that the goal - our purpose here on earth? (II Hezekiah 1:1). If we could hear ourselves praying sometime, we might get a clue to our obsession with avoiding anything negative, let alone painful.
Here's a potent excerpt from a recent interview with Pastor Rick Warren (author of "Purpose Driven Life"):
"Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than he is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on Earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christlikeness...
"You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems. If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, which is MY problem, my issues, my pain. But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others..."
Is it possible to be driven by comfort and avoiding discomfort at all costs? Yes, more common than we realize. It's subtle, and without some serious introspection (now that makes ME uncomfortable) we can live contentedly in our ignorance (bubble of comfort) and accomplish nothing of God's purpose. By getting a glimpse of our real selves and motives, then we'd be responsible to change. Change. What a downright long-term painful process!
[Now I have chest pains, just writing this article. The more I write about this, the more uncomfortable I'm getting. Maybe I should stop now, say that I'm too busy to make the deadline. That "practicing what you preach" thing, people expecting you to "walk your talk" - that involves just too much v-v-vulnerability. I hate that word.]
Acknowledging our problems and admitting to our pain, struggles, brief and troubles is NOT sin. It's humility. We need the prayers of God's people to help us be willing to put ourselves into uncomfortable situations. It's also not wrong to ask God to remove physical or emotional pain in times of distress; but when maintaining our comfort zone rather than seeking God's purpose is our focus, we are off track.
God has not promised us physical safety or emotional security. He has promised his children that he will be with us, will give us grace and mercy to help in time of need and that nothing can separate us from his love. And one thing more that we rarely think about that should cause us to press on - Heaven. Heaven is a promise. There couldn't be a better bottom line.
A final powerful and motivating thought: For the Christian, this world is the WORST it will ever get. For others, it's the BEST it will ever get.
Cathie Canary has worked 25 years in vocational ministry with college students and currently has her own financial and retirement planning business in Reno. She attends Evergreen Bible Church. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Janet Gossett at 376-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer's convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.