Suffering & Comfort

I’m not a Christian because I think it makes me better than others, although I do believe that my faith in Jesus Christ helps me be a better person than I otherwise would be. The problem with being human, regardless of our worldview, is that we seek comfort – the “Goldilocks Principle” not too hot, not too cold – whether the weather suits our personal preference. Unfortunately, this pursuit, is the very thing that we use to excuse or defend our lack of response to any truth that demands a step outside our comfort zone. C.S. Lewis said, “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

I must shamefully admit that until yesterday I had never read the letter that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote while in the Birmingham jail in 1963. The clarity of his argument and the salient summary of the failing of the “Church”, was breathtaking. He recalls Reinhold Niebuhr’s statement that groups are more immoral than individuals, and that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. He speaks of the tranquilizing Thalidomide of inaction that leads to momentary relief but in the end an ill-formed infant of frustration. He takes you inside the world of the oppressed and lays out with vivid clarity the pain of a father trying to explain the obvious abuse and oppression, “forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodyness”. He voices his disappointment that white moderates would accept the myth of time, and the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”

The incarnation of Jesus Christ was a moment that demonstrated God’s supreme patience and simultaneous action. The incarnation has little to say to the self-confident person living safely in their comfort zone. That person’s epiphany will come when the inevitable winds of change begin dismantling the house of cards built on the imaginary foundation of comfort and invincibility. And when death comes and we find ourselves looking over the precipice of the things that mattered most, perhaps then we’ll realize that true value was never contained in the things that we possessed, but in our response to the cross, relationships and the needs around us.
Truth has a name and He has offered that name freely to us. Comfort is the secondary question that may or may not come in this life, but which is ultimately realized when the truth and knowledge of God causes us to act by taking up our cross and following His steps to a place of sacrifice.