I don’t camp what. so. ever. I don’t stay out in the heat for very long if there isn’t a body of water involved. I certainly don’t go out in the cold unless it is necessary and over quickly (yes, I do live in London and yes I know its cold here…a lot). I also don’t call companies when I have a problem or return, I prefer an email.
Comfort. It’s one of my things. You know what I am talking about – the stuff that’s a part of you that you have to battle hard against sometimes. It’s the stuff that becomes the utmost, the cherry on top, the thing that matters so much you are willing to add to and sacrifice things in life to realize it. It’s the thing (or things in most all of our cases) that take the place we think we want Jesus to have.
My thing sure makes the “health and wealth” idea appealing. It’s the lie that since God loves me and/or I am so awesome for following him (mmm hmmm) that comfort should define my days. But that’s what I want. Comfort in all things. To not have to feel like I am wearing a jacket thats a size or so too small when someone says something that I know could cause an argument. To not have to worry about the scary and dark possibilities of life.
I know better. I know better than to think that Gods love and my obedience result in avoiding things that are uncomfortable or worse – really difficult. But my thing can draw me towards that idea easily – to want it to be true even though I know better. It’s God’s grace that much of the time I know better wins out and even more his grace that when I start to question that he would bring me back to realize what I am missing when I choose comfort over him and cheapen him so much to think that comfort is what he died for. Jesus didn’t die so I wouldn’t have to go camping. I am certain of that. This past week has been chock full of reminders that God does’t cater to my comfort.
Three generations of men that matter to me have been varying degrees of sick or possibly sick over the past ten days. My grandad was in a car accident that resulted in health issues which had us wondering if he was going to make it. My dad had a “questionable” diagnosis from a doctor that had our entire family holding our breath that we wouldn’t get a phone call that could change our world in a matter of seconds. My husband picked up a stomach virus that left him too sick to lift his head to look me in the eyes for more than a few seconds. The difficult seemed palpable. Comfort seemed to have been left behind at the DFW airport when we left for London. How we got on the plane without it I didn’t understand.
All long stories cut super short every single one of these situations was resolved or mostly resolved by Saturday. Breathing seemed easy on Sunday morning and the result was rejoicing in what God had given us – health. My prayers through the week had been marked by petition for these people who matter oh so much to me and proclaiming that in all I know God is good in all situations. My joy through the week was somewhat available but on Saturday it was marked with happiness.
But what if my understanding of God was that he loves me so I get to avoid the difficult. What if I had given into the idea that comfort matters more than Jesus. That wouldn’t match up with my experience much would it? Or what I know of other people’s lives. Or what I know of those biblical figures whose faith is greater than mine and whose lives were very uncomfortable. And my concept of God as steadfast, faithful and loving would have collapsed before this Saturday. Why? Because I would be living an entitled life. One where I believe God owes me much more than my salvation and the promises of walking close with him. And when my entitlements weren’t realized I would have been bitter.
Entitlements with God steal our joy. They steal our ability to praise him, to love him so much that our words can’t help but make much of him. That doesn’t mean that life isn’t difficult. It doesn’t mean that I have to fight to hold onto what is true and battle against my entitlements. It certainly doesn’t mean that difficultly and uncomfortable situations don’t cause sadness or even confusion with our circumstances.
It does mean that through the scary, frustrating, upsetting times we know God is for us. It means even though we cherish our comfort when its gone God hasn’t abandoned us. It means that when things work out we get to rejoice without any bitterness towards God for what we have endured because we know we aren’t entitled to a life of ease and luxury.
It also means that when things look like they might not work out we can praise God for being for us. For knowing more than we do. For never leaving us when it’s the hardest. For his promise that in the end he wins.
A couple we have met a handful of time through church just had twin girls. One little girl is doing great. One little girl is not doing well. It’s hard. It’s confusing. It’s frustrating. It’s certain incredibly uncomfortable. But God hasn’t changed. He is the same. He is steadfast and faithful and loving. And the promise isn’t that we might not have to face horrors here in this world but that we don’t endure them without hope and strength from our God. And its a promise that a day is coming when we will face them no more.
So in the face of a story that isn’t finished, where we pray for miracles, I am grateful that I have been reminded that we who love the Lord and are loved by him are not entitled to ease. I am grateful that God is good in all things and his goodness doesn’t change with my shaky faith and crazy life. Now, I am petitioning him for an outpouring of health and proclaiming his goodness. I am willing to endure even if it’s with sadness and confusion mixed with gratitude and excitement because God’s goodness is not in question evens when I am tempted to entitlement.
May we fight our things. The ones that draw us towards entitlement or coaxed into believing that God owes us something here. The ones that leave us bitter and not joyful and rob us of our ability to rejoice in what God has done and is doing.