Creatures of Comfort
I don’t need an alarm clock anymore. Every morning, between 5:30 and 6:30, my four-year-old daughter comes and wakes me up. Most mornings, I would give anything to have her sleep until 7, but at this stage it remains highly unlikely.
Every morning I wish I could sleep more. I often wake up as I hear the door open down the hall and think about how much money I would give up for another 30 minutes of sleep. Thankfully, for the state of my finances especially, these deals remain hypothetical.
Our culture places a high value on things that make us feel good. Sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix feels good. Eating and drinking feels good. It goes on from there and we need not look far to see the impact that chasing comforts has on our lives and the lives of those around us.
And as good as the short-term pleasures that come from seeking comfort seem in the moment, what does the pursuit of comfort offer in the long run? When I choose the couch and tv over my commitment to exercise, what is the cost? Yes, it feels good when I am lying there, but what about the next morning when I look in the mirror?
We do not grow in comfort. Comfort stagnates and holds us back from becoming more alive.
This is not an argument for sleeping on a wooden plank without blankets or against ever feeling comfortable. Everything has a time and a place. What I am suggesting, is that when comfort is the target of our pursuits, we are missing out on the life we are intended for.
Discovering the path of becoming means accepting that there is work left to be done. There always will be. To keep moving forward on this path means accepting the challenges that come along the way. Not only accepting them but embracing them as opportunities to test ourselves.
Each obstacle we face in life presents us with a choice. Do we turn and hope to find an easier way or push ourselves to work through. Sometimes the obstacles are small and seemingly insignificant. Maybe it is the choice between staying on the couch or going to the gym. It’s easy to rationalize not getting up. But every time we choose comfort over growth, we lose an opportunity to strengthen the foundation of integrity.
Life will always bring big moments; moments when the stakes are significant. When choosing the right thing is genuinely hard and has real consequences. Maybe it’s deciding whether or not to stay in a job when you don’t agree with something your employer is doing. Or an opportunity presents itself that makes your heart come alive, but it requires you to sacrifice the certainty of your present circumstance to pursue.
What we do in these moments will be determined, at least in part, by how we’ve handled the small, insignificant ones. Choosing to get up instead of snoozing or working out over watching tv. As the stakes rise, so does the growth potential. When we put ourselves through tough times by choice, we build up resilience and confidence to know that when it really matters, we will have what it takes to do the right thing.
I have come to appreciate this for myself and for my children. As a father, I see the challenges that each of my kids face, and part of my job is to help them navigate these challenges. There is a temptation to try and shield them from the little troubles they face, but I realize that if I denied them the opportunity to do hard things, that I’d be denying them their own path. It is a fine balance, but if I seek to accompany and guide them through the challenges they face, knowing the right time to step in and the right time to step back, I can help them grow into the people they are created to be.
Understanding this helps me to appreciate how God fathers me. Sometimes I wish that God would take away the challenges in front of me and solve all my problems. I believe He wants me, as He wants all of us, to realize the vision that He has for each of our lives. He is there to guide and protect us, but ultimately, we need to participate in the process and be willing to face difficult moments and come through as better people for it.
Lent is Hard
Tomorrow, the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is the 40-day liturgical season that prepares us for Easter. In Lent, Christians are called to prayer, fasting, and alms giving. It is a quiet time in the Church calendar.
Lent is a time often associated with sacrificially giving something up. For much of my life, I would give up chocolate or coffee, and not think much more about it. But over the last couple of years I have tried to enter more deeply into this season and examine not only what am I doing, but why, and it has shaped the practices I choose to undertake during this season.
Lent’s 40 day duration mirrors the time that Jesus spent fasting in the desert before being tempted by the devil. According to Scripture, Jesus leaves for the desert following his baptism by John the Baptist. In the desert Jesus overcomes the temptations set before Him and shows that He is the Son of God, come to carry out the mission set before Him.
By taking on hard things in Lent, we remember and honour the sacrifice that Jesus made for each of us when He died on the cross. But in doing so, by doing things that are uncomfortable and challenging, we also prepare ourselves. We may not be called into the desert to face down the devil, but we are faced with choices every day that have implications in eternity. They may not often seem like it, but our decisions have ripple effects far beyond what we are able to see. Lent is a season to bring sharper focus into our lives in terms of what and who we are living for. It prepares us to choose the harder thing when the moment comes asking.
Hope Through the Cross
We face difficult choices daily. In these moments we can avoid discomfort and numb the pain, or we can embrace the challenge and battle through.
Anyone who has ever gotten off the couch to go to the gym will agree that once it was over, exercising was the better choice. The pain of working out leads to better health, both mentally and physically. When it comes to pain and sacrifice, our culture views these as plagues to be avoided at all costs. Culture does not recognize the gifts that often come through endurance of pain or the selflessness of sacrifice.
The Cross? We are all called to take up our crosses daily (Mt 16:24), but we live in a world preaches pleasure and comfort over pushing through pain and growing. Lent ends in Holy Week – the week we celebrate Jesus’ death on the Cross and His triumph over death.
Easter marks Jesus’ victory over death and destruction and offers us hope beyond anything the world can offer us. But we cannot get to Easter without the Cross.
This is not a defeatist idea. It is a hopeful one. It means that our struggles, challenges, and pains are not for nothing. When we embrace them, we grow closer to God’s vision of who we are created to be. We join in Jesus’s struggle to the Cross, but we do so in hope, believing that it is through the Cross that we will find life.
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Thank you Sean. This was very helpful on a challenging morning.
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James, you are an inspiration to me in the way you choose to embrace hard things every day.
Thank you very much for your thoughtful writing! It has been a big challenger and encouragement to me. I stumbled across your Instagram and from there your blog. I really appreciate what you’re doing and in keeping things real. Keep it up!
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Thanks for reading and the encouragement Steve. The whole thing has been a challenge for me, but I think the areas I’m interested in exploring are common among many. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it!