When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
People look to God and religion for many, many different reasons. Some want answers, for others it is out of habit or family pressure. Still others desire peace or want to be free of guilt or fear. Some may feel a compulsion within them to move a particular direction. Some folks have had a ‘personal awakening’, or realization as Spirit broke through to their hearts and moved them to foster a relationship with God.
One primary reason I think people seek God is for comfort. Life can be tough at times: death and disease loom ominously near. The economy, climate change, the end of the world and other fears, as well as the conflicts within our lives, nation, and the world rattle our security and sense of calm.
Situations in life can feel like heavy burdens upon us: the passing of loved ones, unemployment, divorce or other traumatic events. At such times we can either seek professional counseling, or we can try to handle it ourselves. We eat particular foods that make us feel warm and secure. Our daughter Becca says her comfort foods are mashed potatoes and sushi…not necessarily at the same time. Both of our kids had blankets that were part of their ‘comfort lives’ for years. We gravitate toward certain people who make us feel comfortable.
At a spiritual level, we can evoke the presence, power, and peace of God through prayer, meditation, repeating positive affirmations, reading the Bible or other inspirational literature…all of which can lift the burden from our souls.
In Isaiah 66:13 we read: As a mother comforts her child, I will comfort you.
This is one of the powerful reasons and benefits of a closer walk with God, to find comfort. Christ told his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to be with them. Various translations of the Bible refer to this aspect of spirit as The Comforter, the Helper, The Advocate, The Counselor, The Companion, The Paraclete, The Friend, El Consolador.
Though the cares of our hearts and the situations we face can be disturbing to our souls, if we attune ourselves to God’s Presence within, we find comfort. We turn to the power of the inner Christ knowing that despite feeling hopeless, we can release our fears and know that we will make it through. All things are possible in God. Each moment, we are given the strength and the courage to live our lives as overcomers.
But for certain, however, our comfort from God will not make us comfortable. God does not intend for us to be relaxed, at ease, or content to the point of uselessness. American humorist, Finley Peter Dunne, was first to write about “…comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.”
When we are comfortable, there is danger in taking things for granted and not pursuing anything that causes the least amount of effort or energy. Alexis de Tocqueville, French historian from the mid-1800’s wrote, “Consider any individual at any period of his life, and you will always find him preoccupied with fresh plans to increase his comfort.”
Not that this is inherently bad, or that there isn’t a time to live in ease. It is certainly one of my personal goals. And yet, there have been times in my life when there was little to keep me occupied. I didn’t like those times. I like my life more when I am doing something that I believe is important, and for which I have passion. Author and priest Charles Kinsley said it best for me: We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.
If we look at the word ‘comfort,’ we see that it comes from two Latin words: ‘com,’ which mean ‘together,’ and ‘fortis,’ which means ‘strong’. Originally, the word comfort meant ‘strong together;’ it didn’t mean that we would be free of pain and dis-ease. When God told us He would comfort us, He meant that in our pain, throughout our challenge, He would be there, and together we would be strong; strong enough to endure whatever the world can throw at us, strong enough to overcome. Jesus came into this world to make our pain his pain. He didn’t say we would escape challenges; he did say he would never leave us.
If we get too comfortable, perhaps we need to be shaken awake. When we are ready to engage life again, God presents new opportunities that draw our attention, and once again we may feel the dynamic activity of life pulling us toward our slightly unbalancing highest good. As Reverend Billy Graham said: “Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.” Sometimes our highest good hides just on the other side of hardship.
When we are too at ease, too comfortable, we can get lazy of mind, action, and attitude. Christ cannot flow productively through an inert Child of God. Just as differing pressures cause the wind to blow and the jet to fly, so too must there be imbalance in our own lives, hearts, and minds to allow Spirit to move through us. This is what we call Divine Discontent.
This is the paradox of comfort, balance, and other higher qualities. We seek those qualities, yet it is through our efforts and journey to attain them that we find them. It is who we become as we seek comfort that we can ultimately be comfortable. It is the virtues we develop as we seek balance that we become balanced. That is the paradox and the power of Christ. The power of Christ appears when there is a difference between what we think now and what we are being drawn to think; between how we live now and how we are being pulled by Christ to live, serve, and behave.
There is a Divine Discontent in those who are fully engaged in God. While here on earth, we can be of service to God, but only if we stay attuned to God’s whispers, which are ever pulling us toward a higher expression and inner awareness of His Presence.
We will be challenged, but never left uncomforted. We will be guided to perform outside our comfort zone, but never beyond anything we cannot do. There may be new skills to learn and knowledge to absorb. We may cry out for comfort along the way -- and it will be provided -- because God still has wonderful things to bring into Creation through us … if we allow it.
Confucius said: The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort.
Is it our destiny to be comfortable, at ease, and aligned with the common man? Or is it our destiny to reject the comfort-craving patterns of this world, and be transformed by the renewing of our minds?
As we allow our minds to renew, often one of the transformations that occur is that of taking our sights off ourselves and focusing squarely on those around us. We stop thinking of our own comfort and start thinking how we can comfort others. II Corinthians 1:4
4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. As we open to the full expression of Christ through us, we begin thinking, acting, and speaking in uplifting and comforting ways. We are drawn to listen to the yearning of our own hearts and to others’ with love.
While acknowledging the present situation, we can move beyond it as we silently turn within and connect with the Christ Presence at the core of our being. While raising our consciousness above sorrow or concern, we allow Christ’s guidance for us to offer inspiring and comforting words and service to others. We may not know the right words to say, but Christ will inspire us when words are necessary.
Often words are not required. Sometimes just our presence is needed. At other times perhaps a hug, or a held hand, or a pat on the shoulder provides comfort. I like the story of a four-year-old child whose next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."
Romans 12:15 teaches us to “…be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”
When we think of others who may need help in responding to life in attentive and effective ways, we can inwardly affirm that God is life within them expressing as them. All good is possible, and we can hold loving thoughts for each person knowing that their good will express. When we see others in this fashion, we are honored to respond when family or friends need love and support. We encourage them and help them remember Psalm 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” We can help them know the true meaning of comfort, that in God we are ‘together strong.’
The promise is not that there will be an absolute absence of difficulty, but that the indwelling spirit of God loves and supports us in each moment. Unless we choose otherwise, we never need to go it alone; the presence of God is our constant companion. Acknowledging the Holy Presence, we are embraced in pure love and caring. When attuning to God’s presence we feel the message: “You are strong. You are confident. You are capable. You are loved just as you are.”
So, it is my prayer that we seek comfort in God and not in the things and the world. I pray that each of us recognizes that the presence of the comforting Christ is forever with us, a mighty strength and support in time of need for ourselves and others. We may not want to spend time with everyone, but we can pray for, and be kind to everyone. A deep sense of peace and consolation comes to us when we absorb and apply the words of Jesus: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.”