I crave comfort. Unfortunately I am writing this in an airplane on an air sickness bag; the only paper I can find. We are descending and I’m not allowed to use my iPad. There is cold air blowing on me from an undisclosed location and the surly flight attendant is too busy to bring me a blanket. I am cramped and uncomfortable as I try to tuck my appendages under myself, in an effort to warm up, without annoying the other passengers.
I crave comfort. Not just today. And not just the physical kind. Admittedly, my past few years have been difficult ones and it isn’t unusual or unhealthy to seek relief. What is problematic is when I seek comfort the wrong way. I recently read COUNTERFIET GODS by Timothy Keller. According to Keller, our comfort can easily become our idol if we seek it instead of, or apart from God.
This resonates with me. When I am stressed, tired, and especially when I am sad, often I don’t take my neediness to my Father. Instead, I eat chocolate, read fiction, or cocoon in my soft, warm bed. None of these are evil – unless they replace God in my life.
When Jesus promised to send us the Comforter, He wasn’t pledging to send us an ample-bosomed Grandma who would smother us with kisses, cookies and carbs. He was promising an advocate, a counselor, a helper. In fact, the meaning of the word comfort has strayed from its origin. To us it means, more than anything else, ease and well-being; the absence of challenge or conflict. We avoid “uncomfortable” social situations, awkward conversations and confrontation. We enjoy the comfort of our favourite chair. We eat, drink and dress for comfort. But the original Latin portrays something quite different. Something much more in line with God’s definition of comfort. The prefix “com” means what is sounds like: come. The root word “fort” is where we get the contemporary word fortify. So what comfort really means is to come alongside and fortify or strengthen. A meaning suspiciously like the Greek word for the Holy Spirit, our Comforter.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (KJV -Comforter) who will never leave you.” – John 14:16 NLT.
For most of us – at least for me, when I am seeking comfort, I want to disengage in order to protect and provide for myself. It is all about relief and retreat. God’s version of comfort is meant to replenish and restore. My way assumes the role of a victim. God’s way assumes the stance of a warrior.
How do you seek comfort? Do you look for a way to soothe your wounded emotions, overtaxed brain, and exhausted body? Or do you go to God for strength and encouragement so you are prepared to reengage the roles he has assigned you?
You and I will never get rid of our toxic habits unless we replace them with healthy ones. So I am reminding myself often to pay attention to my soul. When I am in need of comfort, I realize that longing is my heart’s expression of homesickness for God. Through this soul-awareness, I am learning to run to the Comforter for hope, strength, courage and restoration through time spent in His presence.