Something I've noticed recently that I was not so aware of before, is the desire for comfort among Christians. Books are full of explanations of God's love, grace, and mercy. I read constantly about how God wants to comfort and protect me. About how He has a plan for my life and He wants to make my way as easy as possible. All around me I watch my brothers and sisters in Christ give a hearty "Amen!" when a pastor in the pulpit preaches about suffering with Christ, then they go home to their easy chairs and T.V. remotes and enjoy their comfortable lives. I know this because I have been guilty of the same. The older I get, the more I want to be comfortable - both physically and emotionally. As a Christian, however, is this what I am called to? Is comfort what any of us are called to? Is it even something God wants for us?
"Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." -Hebrews 5:8
Christ Himself suffered, so how can we who follow Him expect any less?
"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin," -1Peter 4:1
As Christians, our purpose should be the same as Christ's. If we are truly emulating Christ and being His ambassadors in this world, then we will be hated as He was hated and we will experience some suffering at some point. It is unlikely that we will be crucified as He was, since that is no longer a common practice, but there are Christians all over the world who are being tortured and martyred for the sake of Christ. "and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." -Romans 8:17 Theirs is not a life of comfort. Christ's life was not one of comfort. I'm not saying that Jesus never experienced comfort in His lifetime or that we shouldn't, but it certainly was not His objective and it should not be ours.
We should never be afraid to step out of our comfort zones for God. His calling surpasses any fleshly needs or desires. The beautiful truth there is that when we drop it all to answer God's call, He will provide all that we need. He comforts us when we need comforting. "For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ." -2 Corinthians 1:5
Our comfort in Christ, however, is not necessarily earthly comfort - creature comforts. While I do believe that God provides for our physical needs when necessary and sometimes our physical wants just to bless us, I do not believe that our physical comfort in this world is His priority. So, what type of comfort are we talking about?
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort," -2 Corinthians 1:3 The word "comfort" in this verse that tells us God is a God of comfort, is from the Greek "paraklesis" which means: "exhortation, admonition, encouragement". (1) God is the God of all "encouragement". When we are depressed He is there for us. "But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus;" -2 Corinthians 7:6. When we are tired and disheartened, He revives us. "This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me." -Psalm 119:50. He encourages us to continue fighting the good fight with the hope of our eternal salvation. "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace," -2 Thessalonians 2:16
Following Christ is an adventure and adventures can be anything but comfortable. They can be fraught with uncertainty and danger. The difference in the Christ adventure is that He is our constant while so many circumstances are uncertain. We are protected from eternal danger by His sacrifice on the cross. We will face many dangers here on earth, and we all will eventually die in the physical sense, but our souls are held in Christ and no danger can befall us there. For the earthly dangers, we are given the Holy Spirit by God to strengthen and encourage us. We are never alone in anything we face, physically or spiritually. That knowledge alone should give us the courage to step out of our comfort zones when we are called to do so. We can all be brave hearts, ready and willing to boldly follow Christ wherever He leads regardless of the outcome. After all, we know the outcome is victory in Jesus.
1. (Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for paraklēsis (Strong's 3874)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 26 Dec 2012.)