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Comfortable with Discomfort

God has a way of stirring things up.

Sometimes He even uses the devil to do so.

God's strength was demonstrated in the weakness of the Apostle Paul. But it was a messenger of Satan that God used to maximize the effectiveness of Paul's ministry.

So strange.

Or maybe not. All things do work together for the good of those who love God; for those who are the called in agreement with God's purpose.

We won't journey through the whole Bible, but think of a few obvious examples.

God pushed Abraham up and out of his country and away from his kin folk. He sent Abraham on a search that would take him the remainder of his life. Abraham had a choice to make. Would he remain where he was on familiar terrain, or would he accept the risk of the unknown? He chose discomfort. He was comfortable with discomfort. His temporary sacrifice was a wise exchange for becoming the icon of paradise; the very patriarch of entering into eternal rest.

In the New Testament we have the man I have already pointed to: the Apostle Paul. His discomfort resulted from more than just demonic oppression. If you read the record of his journeys of faith, it sounds unreasonable. Lost at sea, in the hands of villains, jailed, beaten, whipped, rejected, alone, weary, burdened; this was the life God called him to accept. God sent Ananias to tell Paul specifically of the uncomfortable life He had picked out for him. It's Acts 9:16, "For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake." That prophecy was issued prior to Paul's (Saul's) healing, prior to his baptism, and prior to his spiritual baptism in the Holy Ghost (which is the seal of our salvation).

What a choice!

But, he accepted it. And we read that he learned to be content with being full or with being empty. He was comfortable with rejection; accustomed to being mocked; familiar with pain.

This brings us to 3rd Base: Jesus Christ. He stepped down from His eternal position to a life of human discomfort. He became a man of sorrows. He was acquainted with grief. But He didn't just accept it with resilience and determination. He actually chose it. He chose a life of poverty. He chose a path of difficulty. He chose the cross. He chose to die for unregenerate ingrates. He chose to be the Good Shepherd to a flock of black sheep; lost, wandering, astray. He was comfortable with submission; with humiliation; with weakness.

But wait. Why did I call Jesus "3rd Base" here?

Because you are Home Plate. I am Home Plate.

Jesus came as the Redeemer to literally redeem us. It wasn't just theory or metaphor. It wasn't just an amazing drama for us to admire; not just a story to inspire.

We are called to choose discomfort as well. When we insist on staying in our little circle where we feel safe and confident; where things are familiar and predictable - well, we eliminate the need for faith. The great commission demands sacrifice. It insists that we branch out. It requires us to work with people with whom we often don't agree. More than that, it pushes us to reach out to people that we don't even know. It pulls on us to love our neighbors. What's more, we are even commanded to love our enemies. We have to tear down barriers, cross cultures, learn new languages, and leave loved ones - all with no guarantee that the people we are called to reach will even listen, much less that they will appreciate or conform to the gospel we carry. We are challenged to climb up on the altar and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. We find the gospel compelling us to abandon all earthly pursuits in exchange for only heavenly ones.

This may be exciting, thrilling, invigorating even. But it is also difficult.

This is why Jesus said this: to be His disciples we must take up our cross and follow Him. Take it up. Pick it up. Voluntarily lift it to your own shoulder. Me to my own shoulder.

I don't like that.

I'm not comfortable with discomfort. I love the doctrine of the sweet Comforter that Jesus has sent to live within us. But I recoil from the leading that I find Him repeatedly impressing upon me.

"Step out onto the water." BUT THIS IS A PERFECTLY GOOD BOAT!

"Tell my people to do this." BUT I CAN'T EVEN KEEP MYSELF STRAIGHT!

"Rebuke my children." BUT I HATE CONFRONTATION!

"Feed my sheep. Love my little ones. Be my hands and feet." BUT I'M EXHAUSTED!

The fight goes on and on. He is always calling me into the grace of being completely comfortable and content with discomfort and with unrevealed outcomes. My nature bucks hard. His nature pushes harder. "The Holy Spirit who has come to dwell within you yearns with a jealous envy to possess your entire nature for Himself" (Meyer on James 4:5).

The same Spirit who abides on us drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil for 40 days. He knows how to grant us victory in EVERY circumstance, so He has no qualms with pushing us far beyond the limits of our own experience, intellect, education, positition, and ability.

Some say that God will not give you more than you can carry. Correction: He will not give you or me more than we can carry WITH HIS STRENGTH. He seems to ALWAYS allow our burdens to exceed our natural strength.

Some will say. Ah, you're a 1st world Christian; affluent, spoiled, at ease! Just pipe down! True indeed. I'm spoiled. But the spirit in man adjusts to all of Murphy's laws. Solomon was the wisest, riches, most blessed man of his day; maybe ever. But he was inspired to write the dirge we call Ecclesiastes. So give me a moment more here.

Our Great High Priest is touched by the feelings of our infirmities. So, whatever relative discomfort the Spirit is calling you and me toward, let us embrace it! It might be comparatively worse than anyone else's. Or, it might be embarrassingly petty on the scale of human suffering. But Jesus understands. He understands completely, and He cares. Not that His compassion will deliver us from our call to suffer. To enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is to accept suffering. That's just the way it is. There is no other way.

Are you comfortable with discomfort? I'm not. Pray that I will heed the Spirit's prompting; that I will take the nasty dose of the spiritual syrup of ipecac that He offers me almost daily.

The pain is temporary. The rewards are eternal.

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