Comfort is a Coffin

it’s just like a coffin’s
inside when you die
pretensious and
shiny and
not too wide
dear god…
e.e. cummings

I recently had the privilege of attending The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference in Indianapolis; a time full of bible-saturated teaching, challenging dialogue, and encouraging testimonies. In the three day span it was easy to nod my head along with Jen Wilkin as she said,

God is not poor, but many of us are walking around with his wealth in our pockets and we think it’s for us.

I was moved to tears by a poetic telling of the plight of the refugee. It cost me nothing to breathe an “amen” in response to John Piper’s powerful call to love God exclusively: above wealth, relationships, and our own life.

The challenge comes in going home, and this challenge greets us every Sunday on our way home for lunch, every time we close our Bibles, or walk away from a convicting conversation. The challenge comes in taking the truth we know and walking in it in the daily battles of our very ordinary lives that are fringed with discontent, entertainment, apathy, compulsive busyness, and greed. As Gloria Furman put it,

New creations live out their ordinary lives with eternal perspective.

That eternal perspective is constantly being silenced by us as we give into the siren songs of comfort that lead us to death. Not physical death, but a much more insidious spiritual death, wherein we spend our whole life in endless pursuit of meaningless efforts and things.

If God exists, and he has made us for himself, and died a ghastly death to unite us with them, then to live our lives fully, completely, and exhaustively for him is the only way to live.

So why do we consume the precious few hours of our finite earthly lives with mindless scrolling, Netflix binges, shopping sprees, and the constant search for the next meal or the perfect latte? Why do we keep looking for fulfillment in an ideal job, a huge salary, relationships, a dream house, or another trip to that exotic location?

We are consumed in pursuing our own comfort and it leads us to constructing our own coffin around our still-breathing bodies, and suddenly we find ourselves cocooned in beautiful tombs full of the decayed flesh of our own hearts because we’ve forgotten how to live, and we wonder why we feel dissatisfied.

Most days we don’t rise up and ask ourselves, “how can I love God?”, we ask, “what do I want?”. Sometimes we don’t even bother asking anything, we just mindlessly pursue, aimless in our consumption and barely keeping our head above the waters of despair. We’re looking for peace and joy in all the places that will give us anxiety and heartache.

Comfort is a coffin, but the Cross gives life. We keep pursuing that which brings death, and it leaves us like grotesque spiritual corpses, when Christ promises us life and calls us as his beautiful bride. How do we, these walking dead, become beautiful? As Lousia May Alcott wrote,

Love is the great beautifier.

We are loved by God and this makes us alive and beautiful, and simultaneously we can love God in return and this beautifies us.

But we cannot love God (or even understand his love for us), and we certainly cannot love people, if we are consumed with the self-love of seeking our own comfort at all costs.

One utilizes self-love to make life as cozy as possible for oneself.
– Soren Kierkegaard

If our whole life centers around our fear of discomfort, that ought to bring us to our knees in repentance.

If we fear discomfort, we won’t face the sin that rests in our heart and hand it over to nail pierced hands to let him kill it. And we cannot be right with the holy God who made us.

If we fear discomfort, we won’t continually ask ourselves how can I use this moment for God’s glory? We won’t take the gifts of food, activities, relationships, homes, and jobs, and use them as a way to love people, instead we will pursue them as an end in themselves. And at the end of the day we will feel the emptiness of worshiping idols.

If we fear discomfort, we won’t shut off our televisions or phones, and we won’t step away from crowds and hobbies in order to be alone with God and enjoy talking with him and hearing from him in his words to us. And we will become a people who talk about God like a pretty theory but we won’t know him.

If we fear discomfort, we won’t be honest within Christ’s body, the Church, we won’t serve in love, we won’t leave room for disagreement, we won’t hold one another accountable, we won’t confess to one another, we won’t apologize in our failings, and we won’t forgive when we are hurt. And we will feel perpetually lonely as we reject the Bride that Christ calls his own.

If we fear discomfort, we won’t enter into the world that Christ commands us to enter. We won’t share him passionately, we won’t enter into conversations with those who are different from us, we won’t look on another’s suffering, we won’t welcome the stranger, we won’t love our enemies, we won’t speak for the vulnerable, and we will hoard the blessings God has given us, blessings he has given us precisely for the purpose of giving them away to show the world who he is. And we will become the lukewarm church that Jesus says he will spit out of his mouth, an image that should terrify us.

Comfort will kill us, but Christ saves us even as he calls us to put our self-love to death. Comfort will keep calling us to dash ourselves on the rocks of apathy, greed, and fear, but Christ will hold us fast. He will change our hearts. He will give us peace and joy that surpasses all understanding, precisely because he meets us in our discomfort. He will fill us as we empty ourselves exhaustively for others in his name, and he will give us purpose in our pursuits as we submit every moment of our time to him.

Hyperlinks within text will take you to the specific sessions and plenaries I mention, if you want to access videos of all seven sessions and many more workshops, you can find them all here.

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