"Glad to be uncomfortable"

We all like a bit of comfort, whether it’s comfortable clothes, a comfy chair or being surrounded by familiar, approving faces. Comfort can be good for the soul, bringing reassurance, rest and a sense of belonging. But, can we make the simple equation “comfort=good” or “uncomfortable=bad”? Is feeling comfortable always a good thing?

What makes you feel uncomfortable? Poor-quality fabrics? Badly-built old chairs? Being alone in a sea of unfamiliar faces? The feeling of being uncomfortable is a response to problems or stress-factors. It also alerts us to the fact that we can’t always have things our own way or limit our experiences to the familiar and pleasurable. Perhaps we might say that it is an invitation to engage, to re-think, to act, to change. These feelings present us with a choice - how will we deal with them?

Many people claim that they want to grow, to mature, to become a more rounded person as God intended them to be. Yet, many of us who make these claims make choices that avoid what we claim to seek. How can we grow if we only experience the familiar? How can we mature if we never have to learn new ways of being? Is it possible to become a more rounded person without re-thinking, without change?

When we read the Bible it initially feels quite strange; it is a foreign world that is hard to enter into. After time, it becomes more familiar, we learn “answers” to help us cope with the trickier parts. Then, if we are not careful, we tame the Bible. We seek and see only comfort. We smooth off any rough edges so we don’t catch ourselves on them. We re-explain difficult passages so that they can be read without any sense of awkwardness or trepidation. In so doing, we might justify this to ourselves by claiming that it feels comfy because it is like an old pair of shoes - we’ve been using it regularly and have immersed ourselves in it, so are learning to live with it. This is partly true, of course, yet this half-truth may serve to inoculate us against discovering anything more. If reading Scripture is always comfortable and familiar, where is the opportunity to re-think, engage or change?

It might be that in our drive for comfort we are allowing ourselves to plateau; we are (subconsciously, perhaps) deciding that we’ve changed and grown enough. We bypass difficult people, tricky Bible passages and awkward experiences in favour of familiarity and assurance. When faced with being uncomfortable, we have chosen the path of avoidance. If, however, we are serious about growing and changing, maybe we need to embrace the odd moment of discomfort. Perhaps instead of seeking immediate resolution we can live with the tension and explore what is going on. There may be a lesson to learn about ourselves, others or God. Our worldview might need challenging so that it can be reformed. We might discover that the apprehension we felt was misguided and find ourselves flourishing if only we can push on through.

Life is a mixture between easy and difficult, familiar and unfamiliar, comfort and discomfort. Does God work through them all? Could it be that you can look back on a difficult or awkward time when you carried on regardless and can now say “I’m glad that happened and I grew”? Can we learn to be glad to be uncomfortable?

© Joe Lenton, March 2012