Way back in high school, the church youth group started up a newsletter. Before it went the way of the dodo (two issues in; probably not because of my article), they asked me to contribute something, so I wrote up a couple pages about comfort in the spiritual life and how we’re a little too sucked in by it. It feels like lately God’s been trying to call me back to what I already knew decades ago.
It’s been an especially bothersome week at work, with significantly more chaos than usual, and when I get home, I’ve typically just collapsed onto the couch and ignored things that probably ought to be done. I’ve been tired and irritated and mostly just looking to not deal with things. Facing life after these kinds of days has been completely unappealing, compounded by the fact that my wife is out of town, which makes me already feel out of sorts. Things just don’t feel right, so I instinctively grab at something that feels comfortable.
Yet our small group was looking over Hebrews 12 this week, and much of the talk was centered around verses 5 through 11, which finishes: “All discipline that comes seems, not joyous, but painful. But later, those who have been exercised through it it rewards with the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” I couldn’t help but sit there thinking, perhaps with the Holy Spirit poking me a bit, that I’m trying to avoid dealing with things because they’re a little bit painful. I’m tired of dealing with wearing and frustrating things, but I’m not getting much fruit out of just staying on the couch, trying to make myself comfortable.
And then I thought back to Sunday morning, where the sermon dealt with John 15. Jesus talked about the Father pruning branches, and in the very next verse, he assures the disciples they are clean. What isn’t clear in most translations is that pruning and cleaning are the same word in Greek. To become clean, to become sanctified, requires pruning. I can’t picture being pruned, having bits of myself nipped off, is an especially comfortable process. Yet without it, becoming clean, holy, isn’t possible.
In a society where comfort is so easy to get, I feel like I just slide into it without thinking about it. I go along with the flow. Of course, I don’t allow myself to get pruned much that way. I have to actually move myself into uncomfortable places to let God deal with the parts of my heart that aren’t healthy. Being comfortable isn’t bad, of course; it’s just too easy for me to slide into. I feel like God’s inviting me to intentionally be uncomfortable in certain ways right now. Hopefully with the right discomfort, Jesus will declare me, like the disciples, pruned, clean, and sanctified.